Yesterday, as I was leading group therapy, we had a new member join the group. I asked the others to introduce themselves and to share what it was like for them on their first day in order to encourage connection in the group. Several members described feeling nervous, unsure, scared, vulnerable.
Ah, vulnerability. The word alone makes some people uncomfortable. We run from it, deny that we are susceptible to it, and we may even feel avoidance around vulnerability in others. It is a powerful thing. Vulnerability is experienced and described differently by everyone, but the definition Brene’ Brown shares really describes why it is so uncomfortable.
“Well, then, sign me up!” said no one ever. This definition does not exactly promote the warm fuzzies or the desire to feel this on a daily basis. It does, however, shine a light on the reason so many of us struggle with vulnerability.
We are exposed to expectations around how to respond to feeling vulnerable in many different settings. In our families and schools, kids can be ridiculed and redirected for displaying emotion or labeled as a “crybaby”. Ideas and creations can be minimized and critically judged, making it less likely that they will continue to share their ideas.
The leadership and culture of our workplaces sets the tone for what is acceptable there. Employees can experience strong motivation to not display emotion or share what they think and feel for fear of backlash or loss of respect. Men and women can also have very different expectations modeled for each gender, affecting levels of trust overall.
The media teaches us what is acceptable through movies, shows, the actions of celebrities, and social media. Many times, what is modeled and taught is not helpful. The current culture of social media can be quick to attack from a safe and sometimes anonymous distance. If we come to believe that vulnerability is weakness, we will most likely do all we can to avoid this experience altoghether.
The belief that vulnerability is weakness is dangerous to our emotional health. Because vulnerability is at the very core of feeling, it is at the very core of everything that gives our lives meaning. It is intimately intertwined with the emotions that we want to feel and it leads to character strengths that enable purpose.
We cannot love another being, or put our creative endeavors out into the world, or bravely stand up for ourselves without taking a risk, feeling uncertain about how it will all go, or opening ourselves up. These things are born from vulnerability and courage, and they all lead to growth and strength.
If we want to have the rich experience of living into and feeling into our lives, we cannot choose not to be vulnerable. It’s a part of the human experience. The good news is that vulnerability and courage come together and when we can bravely show up in our lives as our authentic selves, we can experience connection, belonging, and meaning.
So, this week, I invite you to explore what vulnerability is like for you. Dig in to your beliefs around vulnerability and think back on times when you were brave to see how vulnerability played a part.
Comment below about your experience. We will share in your growth and bravery. And reach out if you feel you need support. I will be practicing right along with you. This week, I am experiencing vulnerability around caring for a very ill and aging pet. How are you showing up?
Chat again soon,