Vulnerable. What do you think when you read that word? Take a moment and see what comes to you, how it feels in your body, how you perceive that word. Vulnerable stimulates a world of thoughts and ideas. Most of us don’t give ourselves permission to be vulnerable. We view it as weakness and work very hard not to appear vulnerable.
But when you ponder further, isn’t everyone vulnerable? Isn’t vulnerability an inescapable reality of being human? Its like we hold a deep dark secret and yet it’s a secret that everyone shares, because every living being is vulnerable. So why do we act as if we aren’t human? Why is being human painful?
“Vulnerability is our most accurate measurement of courage.” Brene Brown
The great Leaders of humanity chose to expose their vulnerability. Jesus, Buddha, Harriet Tubman, Susan B. Anthony, Ghandi, Martin Luther King and many, many more. Their vulnerability was their strength. Willing to expose themselves, they were able to influence millions of others. They were willing to expose their vulnerability to further their work.
If you research qualities of great leaders, Vulnerability doesn’t show up as a quality. Words like “Fearlessness,” “Humility,” and “Empowering” but no where do this lists include being vulnerable. Vulnerable is imbedded within these qualities. “Being willing to make mistakes,” exposes possible vulnerability.
Merriam-Websters definition of vulnerability:
1: capable of being physically or emotionally wounded
2: open to attack or damage : assailable
Why would I encourage you to embrace your vulnerability? Why would anyone want to acknowledge that you are capable of being “physically or emotionally wounded?” Staying in the dark, doesn’t mean that you can’t be harmed. You must know your challenges to discover creative solutions. If you stay in the dark, the harm comes as shock. Your ability to respond to the situation with grace lessens. When you fully embrace the possibility of vulnerability, then you enable your ability to seek creative and perhaps loving solutions.
Let’s think for a moment about people who appear too vulnerable. Is that possible? Can one be “over-vulnerable?” My mother could revel in “over-vulnerability.”
I have know people who seem to be in a vulnerable state most of the time. They are so identified with their vulnerability and they seem to want others to be drawn in with their emotions. There is a victim-like quality and a resigning of oneself that their situation is there “lot in life” so to speak. And while they are vulnerable, that state of victimization isn’t the vulnerability we speak of. These individuals don’t feel worthy and of value. They use this unconscious state as their tool to get acknowledgement and attention. And because of this unconscious state, they tend to have difficulty finding creative and loving solutions.
“They believed that what made them vulnerable made them beautiful.” Brene Brown reflecting on her research of those individuals who felt “worthy.”
Will everyone like me when I expose my vulnerability? No. Some will be critical. For many people, being vulnerable scares them. Showing vulnerability can feel like a threat. Being vulnerable takes faith. It takes finding some part of yourself that is willing to be very brave. It takes knowing that everyone feels vulnerable and you are just shining a bit of light into darkness. It is our shared humanity. It is our strength.