Understanding vulnerability is incredibly useful. Vulnerability is so often framed as a weakness. However, in reality, it is a fabulous tool that can be used to help you improve your self-esteem, mental health and the depth of your relationships/ friendships. If you’ve been considering vulnerability as weak up until now, hopefully this article will make you reconsider that, and encourage you step into behaving vulnerably, allowing you to reap the benefits of doing so.
Brene Brown is a well-known researcher, author and speaker on the topic of vulnerability. She highlights that, when we avoid being vulnerable, we end up numbing our emotions. Given we can’t disconnect from feelings selectively, when we try to numb our uncomfortable emotions, we end up numbing all our emotions (including joy, gratitude, happiness etc). This leaves us prone to misery, disconnection from others (leaving us unfulfilled in our relationships), and left looking for purpose and meaning in our life.
Those who have the courage to be vulnerable don’t numb their emotions. Furthemore, they tend to own their imperfections (instead of trying to hide them from themselves and others). They behave authentically, whilst being kind to both themselves and others. This tends to lead to a healthy sense of self-esteem, benefiting mental health and relationships. At this stage, I imagine you’re thinking about being more vulnerable.
The idea of behaving more vulnerably can be really scary. The great thing is that, even if you have been avoiding behaving vulnerably up until now, you can change that as of today. The first step involves behaving authentically (i.e. allow yourself be truly seen, as opposed to hiding your thoughts, your needs or your feelings). This involves speaking up, and not pretending (either to yourself or to others). Yes, it is likely to trigger feelings of anxiety/ fear. Remember, that these feelings completely normal. Notice when fear/ anxiety (or other uncomfortable feelings get triggered), and instead of trying to shut them out, let yourself feel them. Letting yourself feel them, will allow the feelings to pass in their own time, as opposed to sit in the background. (See our mindfulness blog post for more on permitting emotions)
Feelings of shame lie on the flipside of vulnerability. Shame is the feeling of not being good enough/ worthy. As human beings, we all feel shame at times. It is one of the most uncomfortable emotions we can feel. The things that trigger feelings of shame for one person won’t necessarily trigger feelings of shame for someone else. Furthermore, due to our individual life experiences, some of us are more prone to feeling shame than others. Shame is highly correlated with addiction, suicide, eating disorders, aggression, bullying. Stepping into vulnerability allows you to work through feelings of shame in a healthy way, and makes you less prone to feeling it going forward. As with feelings of anxiety/ fear, if you feel shame, notice the feeling, without attaching to the thought/ belief that goes with it (i.e. ‘I’m not worthy/ enough’).
In summary, being vulnerable means we are alive. Being able to own our vulnerability, as opposed to hide it, tends to lead to inner strength, authenticity and emotional balance. It will help you connect to those around you on a deeper level (therefore improving your relationships). It can even make others more comfortable in exploring their own vulnerability. Hopefully you’re feeling inspired to take your first step toward vulnerability today, even if it is scary.
For more information, check out Brene Brown’s best selling books on vulnerability.