29. Strong Enough to be Vulnerable

Good morning and welcome to your twenty-ninth meditation. When you hear the word vulnerability, what do you think? Does it have a negative connotation attached to it? Do you associate it with weakness? If so, you would not be alone. And it makes sense to think that, doesn’t it. To be vulnerable is to leave yourself exposed to potential harm – harm that can indeed compromise your strength. However, harm and weakness are merely possible outcomes of being vulnerable, not vulnerability itself. On the contrary, vulnerability is an expression of strength and courage, and can also lead to growth in those very faculties.To use an example borrowed from vulnerability expert and scholar Brene Brown, imagine you are telling the person you’re in love with that you love them for the first time. This can be a terrifying experience. You are revealing the sincerest, most feeling part of yourself and exposing it to the possibility of utter rejection. This is a huge risk for many people, and to take such a risk unquestionably requires massive amounts of courage and resolve. If you weren’t making yourself vulnerable then it wouldn’t be scary and so wouldn’t require courage. Thus, no vulnerability, no courage. Now you may be saying to yourself, “who cares about being courageous? Why would I take a risk and make myself uncomfortable and scared?” But scary as the risk you take by being vulnerable may be, the potential for reward usually far outweighs whatever you stand to lose. Let’s imagine a variety of scenarios using our earlier example. First, you say “I love you” and the other party is thrilled and professes their love in perfect reciprocity. Obviously the ecstasy of this moment is scarcely up for debate. Many would and have risked a lot to experience it. This prospect alone is perhaps a compelling enough argument for vulnerability. But let’s consider a couple others. Second, you say “I love you” and they say “that’s so sweet, but I think we should stop seeing each other”. This can be crushing, certainly. But you have to consider, would you prefer to be in a relationship with someone you loved who didn’t want to be with you, or would you rather risk the discomfort in order to find out the truth? Even through utter rejection, you will have gained something. Third, you say “I love you” and you are met with a “let’s not rush into anything”, or a “I’m not there yet. Give me time”. What have you lost? Perhaps your confidence is shaken; perhaps you feel embarrassed; but you’ve gained insight into the other person’s heart, and you’ve communicated to the person you care about most something that is extremely important to you. And by opening up like this you have let that person know that they can do the same. You have effectively invited them into a new stage of elevated intimacy and candour in your relationship. Even if they are not ready for it right away, you have let them know that it’s on the table, thus increasing the odds that they may meet you there eventually. And let’s face it, vulnerability is attractive. Not only is it an expression of courage, which in itself is attractive; being vulnerable shows people that you trust them and tells them that they can probably trust you. It makes them feel safe, and reassures them that it’s ok to be whoever they are. And creating this atmosphere of trust and acceptance naturally paves the way to closer, more mutually supportive relationships. So go ahead and be vulnerable! It’s terrifying, it’s uncomfortable, and it’s the key to a richer, happier emotional life. Keep it up. You’re doing great. Have a wonderful day.

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