Such a complex word and loaded with so many different possibilities of how a person may be experiencing the world around them when they are feeling vulnerable.
Most of us turn our back on the idea of being vulnerable; men and women alike. Note here that of course there is that subset of society who exploit being vulnerable in a negative way. We generally see vulnerability as nothing but a weakness; a place of risk, exposure and incapacity. Simply put, being open to attack. So what do you do when you are feeling vulnerable? Do you run, far away from the feeling as quickly as possible? Do you ignore it, hoping that time will change the situation for you? Do you push it down deep inside you in an attempt to harden yourself to the emotion of being vulnerable?
Brene Brown has reshaped vulnerability since her famous TED talk and her “Daring Greatly” book in 2012. She is truly inspirational in her take on how being vulnerable actually opens us up to deeper relationships, more solid self esteem and being generally more comfortable and accepting of ourselves and in turn others.
Vulnerability has become a higher focus for me in recent weeks not through Brene Brown’s work which I was aware of previously and loved but through the work of an amazing woman called Michelle Loch. I had the privilege of meeting Michelle when I attended a workshop she held called “Why People Do What They Do?” http://michelleloch.com/ There is no way to describe Michelle apart from being an artist of describing human behaviour, weaving examples into her speech and assisting others through her practical application of this information to help people in everyday life both personal and professional.
Now I have talked about other people and their work in the area of being vulnerable here comes my opinion. Michelle has motivated me to embrace vulnerability myself instead of trying to avoid it. What does that mean to me?
Being truly vulnerable and knowing your vulnerable self gives you permission to accept that vulnerability is not an emotion or place to be avoided at all costs but instead a place that enables you to accept you are a human filled to the brim with emotion that is better to be expressed rather than suppressed.
For me, vulnerability is about honesty. Not honesty outwardly but honesty to yourself. What is it that you hide deep inside you and express only to those people who are extremely close to you? What are the masks you put on to suit the situation you are in? Do you honestly feel that you are living authentically and are comfortable with who you are?
What am I finding? It’s both harder and easier to be vulnerable. I am naturally a ‘wear my heart on my sleeve’ type of person but vulnerability is very different to that. We are conditioned to consider vulnerability as a negative state so shifting that long held belief is difficult. I am learning that you cannot embrace vulnerability overnight. It takes some work and mindfulness to be OK with being vulnerable. Does it help?
I think it does. As an LGBTI activist it helps me to be open and have an armour to protect myself from those people who use hateful, uneducated words and actions to influence and promote anti-LGBTI sentiments in our society. As a friend and family member it helps me to know that when I expose my vulnerability it is coming from a place of true honesty and with that I trust I have been authentic and any judgement of that is not my business and it will not effect my ability to be completely true to myself; I will not put on a mask to allow others to be more comfortable. In my professional life it means that I know every decision I make and interaction I have is honest, I trust myself and will stand by my opinions, often wearing the consequences and learning along the way.
In all of these areas it also means I do not have to keep track of what particular persona or mask or agenda I am working from because it is all authentic and true. Therefore to me, vulnerability is about sending out and accepting in yourself and others the aspects of truth, honestly and a distinct lack of ego battles.
This reminds me of a wonderful quote going around at the moment. “I am not interested in competing with anyone. I hope we all make it.”
I genuinely hope we all make it!
Adele Fisher Copyright 2015