Vulnerability in this world is avoided like plague. We so detest revealing ourselves to the world and more so to our partners. The idea of holding back hinges on a primal fear of getting hurt in the process of baring oneself. Fear of judgment and perception makes us create cocoons of our inner secrets, original thoughts, honest opinions, strengths and weakness. Baring oneself flesh, bones and soul is not something many can conjure up to for they always fear how if someone saw them for who they are might wreak havoc in their lives.
When it comes to relationships, it is especially important to be vulnerable. Vulnerability has proven to increase attraction and has proven to strengthen the bonds between people. Meaningful relationships stem out of our ability to open up and be completely honest with ourselves and be vulnerable with our significant others. Yes, wearing our hearts on our sleeves seems pretty unsettling and think about exposing ourselves to that extent to our loved ones and letting them know how they mean to us while constantly feeling repressed with the anxiety of uncertainties – anxiety of losing the loved one, being rejected, betrayed and what not. We might wonder how to share our thoughts, open up the windows to our souls without being laughed at, dismissed as silly or being countered or misunderstood.
A surprising psychological fact, not recognized by many, is the ability for people to pick on other people’s “essence” and act accordingly. If we pay close attention to two people and the way they interact, it is easy to note that one will pick on the other’s fears, sensitivities, opinions, values etc., and will behave likewise. If we are comfortable in our skin with something about ourselves, people generally get comfortable with it too. And will actually see perfection in our ability to bare ourselves and yet be so in tune with our own inner angels and demons. Being vulnerable doesn’t give others powers over us. It rather gives others an insight into the light of our soul. They have a choice to take that light or wander away. And many times, we hold back and withdraw for the fear of giving others power. We think vulnerability is weakness! This is one of the biggest myths. Not letting our inside bloom and being who we are truly is a sad lonely affair. If we can’t let our walls down and open up our hearts, we can never empower the togetherness with our partners in the truest sense. Vulnerability is courage and strength. It takes a lot of guts to tell our partners what they mean to us. Perhaps even admit that our worlds revolve around them. Think of the guts we need to let our partners know what we think of them, how we feel about ourselves and the relationship. Many of us will shudder at the thought of even expressing affections out loud let alone showcase the inner plumbing of our heart and soul. But being vulnerable takes us closer to our partners, connects us in a unique manner that is only fortified by truth, openness, honesty and most importantly the idea of ourselves in our most original form. The most important element to long lasting intimate relationship is our ability to expose ourselves to experiences that bring joy and meaning to our lives and being able to not give in to the prospect of fears.
Will vulnerable people get hurt? Yes. As much as people who are not vulnerable get hurt. The same amount. But if we are truly open and embrace our complexities, we also gain strength of mind, the virtue of being kind and compassionate, be empathetic to others and thereby always helps us get a perspective around the situation that causes us hurt. We can then move on embracing the ugly truth and the sweet lies alike.
“Take any emotion—love for a woman, or grief for a loved one, or what I’m going through, fear and pain from a deadly illness. If you hold back on the emotions—if you don’t allow yourself to go all the way through them—you can never get to being detached, you’re too busy being afraid. You’re afraid of the pain, you’re afraid of the grief. You’re afraid of the vulnerability that loving entails. But by throwing yourself into these emotions, by allowing yourself to dive in, all the way, over your head even, you experience them fully and completely. You know what pain is. You know what love is. You know what grief is. And only then can you say, ‘All right. I have experienced that emotion. I recognize that emotion. Now I need to detach from that emotion for a moment’.”
― Mitch Albom, Tuesdays With Morrie
In order to be vulnerable, we need to first fall in love with ourselves. If we love ourselves, then there is a very thin line of difference between who we are and what we could be. Being in love with our own selves means we are then guided by our truest selves. Once we love everything about us, we become the true authentic version of ourselves and we always tend to give that to our partners and the rest of the world. Once we are aware of the power of the true connections, we continue to seek more and more opportunities to be open and we begin to attract people and the ability to connect with anyone and everyone
Vulnerability doesn’t require us to share our deepest secrets with just about anyone. It is about being open to the extent the other person deserves that openness. If we open ourselves to any Tom, Dick and Harry we come across, the chances of us becoming victims are pretty high. We need to show our deepest core to the ones who have earned that privilege. Like our family and our best friends, close neighbors and trusted colleagues, we can be a good judge as to whom deserves what level of openness. We can also be vulnerable to some extent to strangers, acquaintances and extended family. That helps build courage to traverse unexplored waters. It helps become more and more in tune with ourselves and give up on fears of judgment and getting resented.
I recommend reading the book Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead by Brené Brown, Ph.D, LMSW and to quote her:
“And, without question, putting ourselves out there means there’s a far greater risk of feeling hurt. But as I look back on my own life and what Daring Greatly has meant to me, I can honestly say that nothing is as uncomfortable, dangerous, and hurtful as believing that I’m standing on the outside of my life looking in and wondering what it would be like if I had the courage to show up and let myself be seen.”
And another to sum it all up:
“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light. We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection. Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them – we can only love others as much as we love ourselves. Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows. Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed and rare.”