Vulnerability comes from the stuff that you’re certain will cost you. It’s a sickening, sinking feeling, one that threatens to slit you open, baring the most delicate insecurities into the open.
The discomfort you feel from vulnerability is excruciating at times. It’s commonly paired during times of growth, when you’re more weak and susceptible. It’s when all the sources of your Kryptonite combine together to attack. It’s when you wonder if the whole world is against you as you try your best to break away from the feelings consuming you.
It’s little wonder why we shy away from vulnerability—to our own detriment.
Because when we avoid vulnerability, we also move away from the good stuff, the stuff like love, belonging, connection, joy and meaning.
There’s no picking and choosing here. To feel the good, we have to feel the whole range.
It’s lonely in the retracted state, never connecting fully, always shielding, protecting, dodging—departing before things get too touchy. It’s holding yourself captive in an icehouse, sheltered from the outside but getting frostbite escalating in to hypothermia the longer you’re inside.
What is meant to protect ultimately numbs and kills. But the potential pain of being disappointed and scathed by unknown, external factors prevents us from stepping outside—even as we’re slowly freezing to death inside.
There is freedom in the openness. In order for us to have connection and meaning, we need to bare our hearts and souls, taking those risks even when we’re legitimately scared.
We need to be vulnerable.
Being vulnerable is the courage to take a stand or try something new when there are no guarantees. It’s accepting yourself just as you are, instead of trying to be someone you think you should be. It’s embracing all of the feelings, even when they hurt. It’s being the first to apologize or admit your part in the wrong.
Vulnerability is essential for love, for growth and for progress.
Only with accepting vulnerability, can you move past the self-doubt and feel worthiness in spite of the imperfection that is part of being human. That self-compassion is what needs to be there before it can extend to others.
We all feel vulnerability. The feelings differ by person but we can all probably agree—they’re no fun. The ways in which we interpret and deal with the discomfort is where it really gets interesting. Some of us deal with it better than others.
Many numb or distract in order to keep the unfavorable feelings at bay. We may use alcohol, cigarettes, food, television or social media to dull the feeling of the abyss inside. We overcommit and over-schedule so we’re not left alone in contemplation for too long. We try our best to control the factors from causing us to feel vulnerable. We strive for perfection, only to be disappointed with the unrealistic standards.
When that fails, we blame others or we look the other way and pretend it never happened. We decide to numb some more with our poison of choice. We distance ourselves from the source, only to entwine it more deeply within us. We get into a repetitive cycle of briefly feeling the pain and reacting by running away, never confronting or escaping it fully. We give up before we let vulnerability take its course to growth and learning.
I’m prone to numbing and distracting behaviors, especially during periods of growth or upcoming change. Resistance begins building up on certain tasks before me. The fear of failure, disappointment or lack of approval from others flits around. These are the things I tell myself intellectually I need to move past—but yet, there’s still a nagging chill in the icehouse.
There is a better way, and it starts with taking a contrary perspective on vulnerability.
Contrary to the common perception of vulnerability as a weakness, there is remarkable inner strength involved in being vulnerable.
It’s shown by following our intuition, taking risks, and trying new things even if there’s no guarantee. It’s a balance of embracing the incompleteness—practicing gratitude, joy and acceptance that you’re enough just as you are—while making strides towards improvement. These actions stem from vulnerability, a brave state often misunderstood for the opposite.
As I work on letting myself be more vulnerable, the walls of the icehouse get thinner. Vulnerability is what allows for the inflow of new growth and exit of staleness. It allows for peace and the intentionality of being happy in the current moment. It allows for acceptance of who you are, what you know and where you are in this moment, while continuously evolving for further growth.