Imagine your sixteen year old child is sitting next to someone they really like in the bus, feeling nervous. There is this great movie in the cinemas and they have been thinking about inviting this person to go and watch it with them after school. They find themselves hesitating, afraid of receiving a no.
Now, if they had the chance to call you for advice, what would you say?
Most parents would very much encourage vulnerability in their kids. “Just go for it”, “if you don't do it, you will never know” or “If you don't ask it's already a no anyway”. If their child is feeling shy to say hello at a party, parents gently push them to do so. If someone isn't being nice in their class they ask “well, have you talked to them about it?”. We want them to be the kind of student putting their hands up when they have a question. We want them to join choir, volunteer at the school markets and be confident to be themselves. We want them to not be scared of exposing their feelings. And that's because we know being vulnerable takes courage. And courage takes you places!
We want our children to act despite their fear because we love them and want the best for them! So, is it true to say that a person who is avoiding vulnerability may be lacking self-love? Something to think about.
In this conversation, I intend to inspire others to reflect on how often they are letting themselves feel exposed in order to achieve more freedom and joy.
The thing is, vulnerability is often linked with fear and shame and that is why we, as adults, tend to avoid it. Somewhere along growing up we may have experienced a negative result from being vulnerable and we decided to shut it down even though so many other times it has worked in our favour.
According to researcher and professor Brene Brown, inspiration for this blog and author of the book Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, vulnerability is about showing up and being seen. Vulnerability is actually a source of creativity, achievement and meaningful life experiences. But it’s tough to do that when we’re fuelled and terrified by the fear of what other people think or that voice in our head that’s constantly whispering “You’re not good enough”, it’s tough to show up. We end up hustling for our worthiness rather than standing in it. The first step to embrace vulnerability is to understand it as a catapult for real and fulfilling experiences. It's what creates connection between people. What makes them relatable.
Think about your own experiences and the reason why you have been avoiding vulnerability in certain areas of your life. Chances are that if you decide to embrace being vulnerable, you will achieve the very thing you have been wanting around that area. Deep down we know that if only we could act and express in the same way we see possible in your mind, perhaps we would experience more satisfying results. Wether you have feelings to express, a pay-rise to request, a neighbour to be-friend, a business opportunity to take. Whatever it is for you, being vulnerable is the answer. Just like you would advise your child or someone you really care about in a similar situation.
A person who go out there and achieve great things is usually as scared as everyone else. The only difference is what they believe to be true about being vulnerable. For them, to fail and look like an idiot is only part of growth. They aren't attached to the way they are perceived by others, they go back to the arena and start the fight over and over no matter how many times they are seen failing. Even if they fail altogether at the end, they feel true to themselves because they failed daring. They failed giving their absolute best. And people relate to that. Do you rather connect with a person who share their struggles or to those who appear perfect all the time?
By running away from vulnerability we give ourselves very limited chances. If we wait to be perfect to give something a go, chances are we will end up not trying at all. Because even perfection itself, if it actually exists, is achieved through vulnerability. One can only be excellent when they are out there doing it. Any skilled person of any field, learned by exposing themselves to risk and failure. Yes they went to University or did a course of some kind and learned the language and theory of it to prepare themselves but it was only by doing it and risking making mistakes that they actually mastered that particular skill.
This is true in any area of our lives. You are only going to nail that business you've just started or be a better communicator or have greater relationships if you are willing to be vulnerable. By asking for help we are vulnerable. By making mistakes in front of others we are vulnerable. By expressing our feelings we are vulnerable. By going a different direction in life even though others will judge us, we are vulnerable.
By welcoming vulnerability we get closer to who we want to be. It's a commitment to ourselves - doing things that are important to us with no guarantee of success purely because we know we will grow in the process.
Nobody does great by sitting on the sidelines, so I hope we choose to be real and be seen more often. Being vulnerable is not a weakness in any way. Quite the opposite, it's a very precious trait. Just embrace it.