Feeling – no – being vulnerable

Posted by Doc
Feb 11 2009

Vulnerability is a funny thing. I think that the more vulnerable I allow myself to be, the stronger I become.

The challenge for most of us is that when we feel vulnerable, we also feel the need to protect ourselves – to be defensive.

Defensiveness can take on a number of different aspects: classic defensiveness (explaining, justifying), counterattacking, withdrawal, redirecting. Sadly, none of these is effective when it comes to having an effective discussion and maintaining a healthy relationship.

There are two sides to dealing with vulnerability: our own, and others’.

In dealing with my own vulnerability, I have to decide whether I think it is good to expose and accept my vulnerability or not.  After all, we are all truly vulnerable. Whether it’s in work (someone else has control over my fate), romantic relationships (if I reveal my feelings, what if the other person doesn’t reciprocate), family relationships, or elsewhere, we’re always vulnerable.

I suspect that you know some of the same kinds of people I do, those who choose to try never to reveal vulnerability. These are the people who are depriving themselves of the richness and joy (along with some of the pain and sorrow) of fully explored relationships. You know them. You might say “he always seems to have a shell, a barrier” or “no one ever seems to really get to know her”.

I’m mostly at the other end of the spectrum. My barriers are – at best – permeable, where they exist at all.  I’d rather be vulnerable – and honest – than worry about hiding things and protecting myself. I believe that by being willing to share who I really am, I gain a tremendous amount from the community in which I move.

Being vulnerable is frightening. Really. Revealing your inner self, your real feelings, your flaws and foibles – this puts you at risk of having someone use that knowledge to their advantage and to your detriment, right?

So what.

If they try to use what they know about me to their advantage, that’s about them, not me.

If they try to use what they know to my disadvantage, that’s also about them, not me.

Yes, others can cause me trouble by knowing about me. I accept that, because what I’m talking about is what’s really me.

I believe that it’s easier to move about as the real you than as some image you create for your use.  Yeah, I’m talking about me and about you.

Let me not forget about addressing others’ vulnerabilities. It’s simple – if I treat others with respect and honor, if I behave with integrity, if I do NOT use what I know about others to my advantage or to their disadvantage, then vulnerability… isn’t.

In the public speaking community, one of the bits of wisdom is that the most successful speakers are real and vulnerable. They share their own stories, including their own failings and missteps. This is true of public figures in general – we tend to like and trust people whom we think of as real.

How about you? Are you willing to be vulnerable and real?

One Response

  1. mo khan says:

    Wow… I think you were speaking to me.

    I think at a lot of jobs that I have had, I didn’t feel like I fit in, because I was afraid to be vulnerable (read: “me”).

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