Being vulnerable doesn’t mean exposing the soft bits inside you. It doesn’t mean being weak, or delicate. It doesn’t mean blurting out every flaw you have. It means surrendering to a situation while trusting yourself that you can handle what happens.
Some people create judgments and expectations of the world because they are creating a picture of how they think the world should be. By knowing what to expect they gain a feeling of control, and feel a little safer. The trouble is, judgments are often wrong, and expectations are rarely met. So, the ‘safe’ world becomes unpredictable, and not so safe. Anxiety results.
If those people were to drop their judgments, drop their ‘shoulds’, drop their need to protect their image, they might initially feel weak and exposed, and vulnerable. However, they would soon realise the world won’t end, that they could cope. They would discover that they don’t need their judgments and expectations to keep themselves safe, because their resilience keeps them safe.
That’s why many of the keys in this book require us to feel vulnerable. Vulnerability is a gateway towards gaining the feeling that whatever happens, we’ll handle it.
There is a bonus: being vulnerable strengthens the connections we have we others, and helps satisfy that other big innate need: our deep need to belong.
The keys in this section might prompt us feel uncomfortable. But they’re worth it.
‘To practise gratitude and joy in those moments of terror when we wonder, “Can I be this fierce about this? Can I love this much? Can I believe this so passionately?” To be able to stop, and instead of catastrophising about what might happen, say, “I’m just so grateful, because to feel this vulnerable means I’m alive”.’
Brené Brown, from her TED talk, ‘The Power of Vulnerability’.
‘These are whole-hearted people, living from this deep sense of worthiness . . . What they had in common was a sense of courage . . . these folks had, very simply, the courage to be imperfect . . . They fully embraced vulnerability. They believed that what made them vulnerable made them beautiful. They didn’t talk about it being comfortable, nor did they really talk about it being excruciating . . . but it being necessary. They talked about the willingness to say, “I love you” first. The willingness to do something when there are no guarantees . . . The willingness to invest in a relationship that may or may not work out. They thought it was fundamental.’
Brené Brown again.
Examples of vulnerability?
– Expressing affection for someone unsure of how the person will respond, but knowing we can handle their response.
– Expressing fear, or hurt, or embarrassment to someone, but knowing we can handle it.
– Fully expressing emotions knowing we will not be shattered by them. We retain the sense that ‘I will be okay.’
The more vulnerable we allow ourselves to be, while knowing we can handle it, the more resilient we become.