To what degree do you mask your vulnerabilities? Have you mastered the art of shielding others from knowing the real you? Or have you embraced and fully exposed your vulnerabilities so the authentic you is on display? Vulnerability is defined as the quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally. It is consciously choosing not to hide your emotions or desires from others. In the book, Daring Greatly, Brené Brown describes vulnerability as “uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure.” It is that queasy feeling you get when you step out of your comfort zone and lose control. It is when you freely express your innermost thoughts, feelings, opinions, and desires, regardless of the consequences.
As a young child, did you openly share your thoughts and feelings? Were your actions unharnessed with no boundaries? As you grew older, however, did you learn that the world can be a painful place? A place where you must be cautious about what you say and how you act? If so, you are not alone. Over time, people learn that the best way to protect themselves is pull back, retreat, and build walls so they may create a safe space. They act in a manner that pleases others …an identity that may not be consistent with their authentic self. Let’s take a look at a few examples of actions and thoughts that create a fear of vulnerability:
- Putting yourself out there and taking chances that may lead to rejection.
- Revealing mistakes that you have made.
- Sharing personal information that you normally keep to yourself.
- Reconnecting with someone you have had a falling out with.
- Dealing with the emotions of fear, grief, or shame.
- Being honest about what you want in a relationship, including boundaries and expectations.
To embrace vulnerability as a strength, you should know that there are eight unpleasant feelings that you experience – anger, disappointment, embarrassment, frustration, helplessness, sadness, shame, and vulnerability. Without doubt, vulnerability is the most unique of the eight feelings because of its interplay with the others. It is the sense that you could be hurt. This insecurity is often so strong that you go out of your way to avoid situations that make you feel fragile and out of control. Facing vulnerability takes enormous courage. Why? When you expose your true self without any regard to what others think, you are saying to the world, “This is the authentic me. This is who I am, and I refuse to be anyone else.”