If I were to ask you right now, what does it mean to be vulnerable, what would you say? Is it the idea of sharing an unpopular opinion? Is it opening yourself up to love even though you may have fear of not getting it back? Or how about the thought of starting your own business? Truthfully, being vulnerable is all of those things and more.
Understanding What it is
To really be able to know how to handle vulnerability or just how it impacts our life, we have to understand what it means to be vulnerable.
According to Miriam Webster Dictionary, to be vulnerable means "capable of being physically or emotionally wounded or being open to attack or damage."
To me, I feel that this definition is slightly triggering and does not fully exemplify the true meaning of vulnerability.
Vulnerability is about showing up and being seen. To a lot of people, that can be scary and difficult to just stand up and do. It is a sacrifice of comfort, of the ego, to allow yourself to be seen by the outside world. I get it, that sounds a bit scary. Yet there is a big payoff with vulnerability, as it is the catalyst for true intimacy, the very thing that we all crave and desire.
When we enter into a new relationship, it may be difficult to fully give yourself to the other person, due to the fear of being let down. When we are vulnerable with another person, we are saying "Here I am, this is me. Do you love and accept me?"
The idea of holding onto the power and having a sense of control by volunteering information as opposed to revealing it seems to make sense here. This is more about the sense of having boundaries within your relationships. But it is not enough to just think you're being vulnerable just because you tend to overshare personal information.
Being vulnerable requires a willingness to give access to one's most sacred and sensitive inner spaces.
Vulnerability VS Openness
This is probably one of the most controversial topics I found when researching the depths of being vulnerable. First and foremost it is important to understand that to be vulnerable means to sacrifice your comfort to open yourself up whereas being open is the capacity to be candid with others about work life, hobbies, sexual fetishes, addictions and more. But they might be impenetrable on an emotional level.
When someone carries that "ask me anything" attitude, then puts up walls, not fences, when actually asked those personal questions, this is a prime example of an open yet extremely guarded person.
Vulnerability may be seen a lot in someone who's introverted, yet is willing to connect once trust is earned. It may take some time for them to open up more but when they feel safe, they will be honest and deeply vulnerable.
We all have that friend who is such a social butterfly but doesn't really seem to be able to discuss more personal, heart-to-heart subjects. This person is able to entertain a crowd and even charm those they encounter one-on-one. Yet when they are challenged, they are unable to look someone in the eye and reveal who they really are including their age and real name. This is not being vulnerable. An extroverted, charismatic person may be very open in social settings yet, when it comes to intimate situations, fear can trigger a shut-down response.
How to BE Vulnerable
After all of that information above, you may wonder where you stand on the scale of vulnerability - no that's not a real thing, I just made it up! Learning to be vulnerable takes time and bravery, especially if it is coming after emotional trauma. It's important to note that those who have had difficult childhoods will often be the ones that struggle with safely being vulnerable in the future.
When you want to be vulnerable, it is important to create healthy boundaries for yourself. These will help us differentiate between who are safe and trustworthy and who are not.
Be okay with admitting when you aren't good at something. As crazy as this sounds, people will actually respect you MORE than you trying to brag or pretend you're good at it. Ask for feedback on how to get better. Don't become defensive when approached about the topic.
Take responsibility when you've done something wrong. Don't just constantly complain that your ex is the reason for your current relationship problems; acknowledge that things didn't work out and they were a bad partner at times. Then work to address that.
The reason that taking responsibility is so important is because it puts you in control of the situation. Blaming others just gives them the control of everything around you. You may not be to blame for the shitty situation, but when you step up and say that you're going to take care of it, thats the power move.
What Vulnerability is NOT
If you are still struggling to understand just what vulnerability is, let me explain what it isn't! Vulnerability is NOT a tactic. This means that it is not something that you can use on other people to get them to view you a certain way.
Telling someone something specific to get them to like you, feel bad for you, or want to help you is not being vulnerable, thats using it as a tactic. Being vulnerable is expressing yourself without expecting sympathy in return.
When it comes time to be vulnerable in your own life, take a step back and assess how you feel. Sometimes opening yourself up is like lifting a weight off your shoulders; freeing yourself from the fear of being rejected, of failure and fear of opening yourself up all for nothing.
Let yourself know that it is okay to be scared but don't let that keep you from expressing your true feelings. You truly never know who will be there to relate, listen, and let you know that it is okay.
**All of these opinions are my own mixed in with some research on Vulnerability. I am not a doctor in any capacity and if you are experiencing mental illness, just know there are tons of resources out there. You are not alone.**