“It’s about discovering a middle path that allows us to stay engaged and finding the emotional courage to respond in a way that aligns with our values.” Brene Brown
Vulnerability is a very interesting and much-discussed topic. It’s only recently that we started to think of it as a trait with a powerful potential. This is partly thanks to the work of the social psychologist Brene Brown (1).
When we look at the official definition of vulnerability it states the following:
-vulnerable: “capable of being physically or emotionally wounded or being open to attack or damage.’’
Now let’s look closely at the meaning of that sentence. Basically, it means that when you are vulnerable you are in a position where, when somebody or something tries to hurt you, there is nothing you can do about it.
Doesn’t sound very desirable, does it? Well, of course there are many situations in which it’s good to avoid vulnerability if we can. That’s why we take loads of safety measures all the time. It’s the reason why we wear seatbelts in cars or why we try to stay away from other dangerous situations. We are wired to avoid physical and psychological vulnerability, and by doing so, sometimes we close up to the benefits that it offers.
One tell-tale sign that someone is afraid is that they wear a hard shell around them for protection. Imagine a little dog whose bark is bigger than his bite. He barks because he’s afraid, not because he’s as tough as he’d like you to think.
Same goes for people. The more fear and weakness we have within us, the more defensive, strong-willed, and fierce we may be on the outside. This outer shell serves as a barrier, a boundary to protect us from the world. We think that if we can hide our fears and weaknesses from the world, we will become as strong as we desire- that others’ perception of us and our outer shell is what makes us brave.
But the problem is, the more we wear a shield of armor around our hearts and our true feelings, the more we lose touch with that part of ourselves, too. We become so busy blocking others from seeing the tenderness inside us that we start to deny it and forget it’s there.
We think that if we ignore fear it will disappear.
But it builds under the surface and lashes out in unexpected ways. We unknowingly create obstacles around opportunities and relationships because fear is secretly running the show from our shadows. We become disempowered. We sabotage our own success. (2)
The only way to get our true power back is to be vulnerable.
We’ve got to own our emotions before we can really start to steer the wheel on our journey. We have to get clear on what we feel so that we no longer block the path to our own success.
Vulnerability is the key to self-awareness and unlimited power.
The more we hide from and deny our feelings, the more uncomfortable they become. We create resistance to the flow of emotions, which slows them down.
Imagine a hose with water passing through. The more open and smooth the hose, the easier it is for water to flow through. But if the hose gets a kink in it, the water gets stuck and the pressure starts to build. With enough pressure, the hose just might burst!
That’s how we are with emotions. We are like the hose; emotions are like water.
If we open ourselves to experiencing the emotion, allowing it to flow through us without resistance, it passes as easily as it came.
But if we start to deny, fight, or resist the emotion, we create many kinks in the hose. After awhile, all of this blocked up emotion causes us to burst. Yikes!
So how do we stay open and let emotion pass through us effortlessly? Being vulnerable.
When you start to feel a fear or strong emotion coming on, sit with it. Breathe into it. Write it down and journal about it. Imagine opening yourself like a big, wide channel so that the emotion can pass through swiftly.
Once we stop denying how we feel inside, we start to get to know the true authentic Self that lies within us. We learn about our fears and pain, but also our desires and dreams, our greatest assets and gifts.
Vulnerability allows us to dig deep within and discover the true essence that we are. We get to take a really good look at our inner workings and decipher what our strengths and weaknesses are.
We start to hear the voice of our hearts speaking clearly. And we follow it. (3)
This authenticity and purity of spirit is like a great, big energy magnet. People feel attracted to a powerful person who is REAL. And all our power lies in being real: in being who we truly are.
So vulnerability brings out our true selves, our soul power, and the world can feel it. This leads us to our life purpose, our greatest success, and our unlimited potential.
This is the paradox I was talking about earlier. We are taught to believe that strength precedes vulnerability, that we have to be strong before we are safe enough to be soft. But this is a backwards way of seeing it.
It’s as if we are waiting for the world to approve of us before we let down our guard.
But if we wait for someone else to make us feel safe and accepted before we open up and be our true selves, we’ll be waiting forever.
No one else knows our fear. No one knows our pain. Only we know what we need to hear in order to feel safe. We have to provide that comfort for ourselves.
The only thing we are truly afraid of is our own fear, our own emotions. We are afraid that the world could break us, so we wear more armor.
But if we just go within and confront all of that emotion inside, all of those fears, there is nothing left to be afraid of. We’ve already dealt with the fear of rejection, and failure, and uncertainty. We’ve looked as these fears head on and allowed them to pass through us. And this is how we KNOW how strong we truly are.
After we have faced the fear and pain within us, we know that we can get through anything the world tosses our way. This is true strength and courage.
Author: Amy Leo