Vulnerability. According to researcher Brené Brown, vulnerability is uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. I don’t know about you, but there isn’t much about that definition that makes me want to run toward the experience. However, if we want to truly live and experience a full life rather than just surviving through each day, vulnerability has got to be in the mix.
We all collectively experienced shifts in what we individually perceived as “normal” starting more than a year ago. That experience led to the vulnerability that comes from change that we have not chosen. And vulnerability is the star in situations where we have no control over the outcome. The discomfort of not knowing how it will go can then lead us into patterns of anxiety, avoidance, and numbing out.
So, what qualifies as an experience of vulnerability? Maybe it is how you feel when you walk into a new work situation and you don’t know anyone. It could be waiting on a blind date who never shows up. Perhaps it is the feeling you get when you have something deeply personal that you want to share with someone else. Or even the feeling of being left behind when a loved one or pet passes away. Maybe it is putting yourself out there and releasing what you created into the world. Or it could be related to getting back out there with other people as things are opening back up from the pandemic.
Vulnerability is so woven into the human experience that it is actually difficult to NOT experience vulnerability if you are out there living your life. However, we have gotten pretty damn good at acting like we don’t feel vulnerable, covering it up, and trying to look cool while we play it off. And this reaction of avoidance is just really effective at moving us into more disconnection (which also feels very vulnerable).
What we need to know about vulnerability is that it is the key that unlocks the things that we DO want to feel like joy, ease, authenticity, courage, and connection. Think about times when you allowed yourself to fully feel into joy or love. Those experiences are tied to our being vulnerable enough and open enough to feel them. Vulnerability enables us to show up in courage and it is woven into every moment of trust. So much of the human experience is rooted in vulnerability and we must be willing to give ourselves permission to feel vulnerable in order to grow and to thrive.
Vulnerability is an emotional experience, but it is also a physical one. We can most likely all describe the physical sensations in our own bodies associated with vulnerability if we pay attention. If we can begin to pinpoint our body’s expression of vulnerability, we can know what to expect in those moments rather than being taken by surprise or overcome with anxiety.
So, how do we get to the point of feeling comfortable with vulnerability? I am not sure that we ever really do. Perhaps we just come to a point of expecting to feel it and knowing that when we do, it can lead to some of the most rewarding connection and deep joy that we have experienced. If we can connect with others who are supportive and talk about what we experience, we can feel more secure in putting ourselves out there. And if we can practice self-compassion, recognizing when we are struggling and speaking to ourselves like we would speak to a friend, we can overcome the experience with more ease as well.
So, in the next week, I invite you in the next week to explore your own experience of vulnerability so that you can open to more joy, ease, and courage in your life. And you know I will be practicing right along with you.
Chat again soon.