Showing Vulnerability is the New Black

Written for & published by In Her Shoes Foundation (July 2014) 

http://inhershoesfoundation.org/

 

By Melissa Doman, M.A.

 

The nougaty center.

No candy fans, I’m not talking about a Snickers bar.

I’m talking about your nougaty center, where your vulnerabilities hide, and how we’ll often go to great lengths to cover that stuff up.

While it’s important to guard your inner squishy-ness from those who may harm you, the purpose here is when to know and exercise healthfully exposing your vulnerabilities to those you can trust. The major benefit here is major growth in your own personal development and development in your most important relationships (both platonic and romantic). Attempting to be vulnerable in your closest relationships that give you the space for authenticity end up proving to be the most fulfilling connections you can have.

A very knowledgeable person once said to me that, “healthy relationships are about seeing each others’ vulnerabilities, not judging, and loving them anyway while they grow.” Sounds ideal and hopefully easy, right?

Wrong.

Being vulnerable with those who are closest to you can be hard and scary, but the payoff is oh so worth it. 

Before tackling the I wanna be free to be me!  process, you’ll want to pose a few questions to yourself on why being vulnerable could be a struggle for you, which may include:

 

-       Why am I afraid of being vulnerable?

-       How did people react to me in the past when I showed vulnerability (i.e. family members or past romantic relationships)?

-       What do I feel are the risks of being vulnerable?

-       Why is being vulnerable important/not important to me?

 

What’s even harder is finding those opportune moments and people you can be vulnerable with when we unfortunately have to navigate environments of hostility, dishonesty, fear, and stress. While finding these trustworthy people who will take you as you are is like finding a needle in a haystack, it’ll ultimately show the measure of what healthy relationships and self-disclosure can look like. 

For those of you who have emotional armor as thick as steel, I’m aware this may be a hard process for you, especially if you’ve been burned in the past. 

Make no mistake, learning how to be vulnerable in healthy ways is a life long process, so we’ve all got our work cut out for us. More notably, if you grew up in a household where showing vulnerability was a big no-no, then it may be more of an uphill battle and a pretty serious learning curve.

The major lesson to learn during this process is being vulnerable DOES NOT mean something is wrong with you. In fact, showing vulnerability shows courage and means you’re achieving a higher level of emotional intelligence.

Yes, it’s risky, but the juice is worth the squeeze.

For you book-a-holics out there, don’t worry, there are dozens of self-help books available on this topic to your heart’s desire!

For those of you who don’t feel like reading 175 pages on this topic, here are a few summarized pointers on the benefits of being vulnerable in your close relationships and not being afraid to let your imperfect sides show from Psychologytoday.com:

 

-       Try out being vulnerable in increments. Put a toe in the pool, not your whole leg.

-       Use your judgment on who it feels ‘safe’ to be vulnerable with (i.e. who do you know that is genuine and authentic?)

-       Work on not the fearing judgment of others. The people who judge you when you open up may be showing their true colors and ultimately whether or not they belong in your life.

-       Try to give people the benefit of the doubt of a secure nonjudgmental connection (even if you haven’t experienced this in the past).

-       Have the courage and belief in yourself to make these changes and remember it’s a fluid process.

-       Practice reminding yourself that the more comfortable you are with vulnerability, the more likely you are to healthfully attach to people and have positive reciprocal relationships.

 

I leave you with the words of Brene Brown, a famed social worker/researcher who gave an awesome TED talk on vulnerability. 

Waking up every day and loving someone who may or may not love us back, whose safety we can't ensure, who may stay in our lives or may leave without a moment's notice, who may be loyal to the day they die or betray us tomorrow - that's vulnerability.”

Additional resources: 

https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/feeling-it/201209/vulnerability-the-secret-intimacy