“What makes you vulnerable makes you beautiful.” ~Brene Brown
Vulnerability has never been my strong suit. It’s no wonder. In order to be vulnerable, you have to be okay with all of you. That’s the thing about vulnerability that no one tells you about.
Being vulnerable is not just about showing the parts of you that are shiny and pretty and fun. It’s about revealing what you deny or keep hidden from other people. We all do this to some extent. I bet you’ve never said to a friend, “Oh my god, I just love that I’m insecure.”
But that’s the point, isn’t it? You’ve got to love everything, if you want to be vulnerable by choice.
Most of us have probably experienced vulnerability through default. More often than not, we are either forced into that state through conflict, or we are surprised by it after our circumstances feel more comfortable.
Few of us consciously choose vulnerability. Why? The stakes are too high.
If we reveal our authentic selves, there is the great possibility that we will be misunderstood, labeled, or worst of all, rejected. The fear of rejection can be so powerful that some wear it like armor.
My first real experience with vulnerability came when I was seventeen.
I just had accepted a position as new member of a team in off-campus organization. This was quite possibly the most intimidating situation I had ever gotten myself into thus far. We’re talking professionalism here, this is the place I’ve dream of! And all of the people there are so charismatic.
To make matters worse, I asked my online friends for advice. Being longtime activist when in college, they had a plethora of horror stories to share about hard challenges, unreasonable rejection from other parties, and people in the above level who could not control their projects.
Each story ended with, “And that’s why she quit or ended up as a loss member.”
I wanted neither, so I listened well when they told me that I needed to be strong from the get-go, that I needed to show my teammates who was boss.
In the words of a friend, “You can be a bitch and work your way down to nice, but you can’t be nice and work your way up to being strong.”
I took her advice to heart. In the first week, I dominated seventy-five percent of the whole team discussion and disagreed almost on everyone else’s opinions. I dictated a lot to control the teamwork environment. I was being pig-headed.
And when my teammates would complain about something, I would say to them, “Remember, this is my job to make sure everything work as it planned, not yours. It is MY responsibility.”
When I read those words now, I can’t help but cringe.
But at the time, I believed vulnerability was a liability. I was okay with being the dragon lady. It was safe.
And under that façade, no one knew how terrified I actually was. So I wore that armor as if my life depended on it.
If I had my way, I would have kept my guard up for the rest of that year. But my teammates were much smarter than me. They must have known on some level that, in the presence of true vulnerability, no one could remain closed off.
Perhaps no event demonstrated this better than when the last project was in jeopardy.
When I thought we would have no choice but to abandon the whole thing, I remember telling my teammates that I wanted to quit. For the first time, I was very honest with them about how I was feeling and what I wanted for them.
I was, perhaps, the most vulnerable I had been all year. And that moment of vulnerability paid off big time.
When I finish the project at the end of the year, I received many small notes from my teammates, which is our habit whenever a project is done already. In them, I discovered that they were touched by the fact that I had fought so hard for them, that I was honest with them, and that I believed in them so passionately.
At the time, I probably said to the universe something like, “Ah! You tricked me! This was supposed to be just a temporary challenge until my real battle began. I wasn’t supposed to invest in anyone or be committed to anything or care about anyone.”
But I was very connected to these persons long before I even knew I was. Needless to say, our project was succeed. But I received something so much greater. I learned what vulnerability looked like and felt like. And I was the recipient of all its rewards.
Over the years, I have continued to experience that place of vulnerability. I cannot say that all my experiences have come through choice, but I do try to enter that state as much as I can.
While I am far from being an expert on this subject, I have come to some conclusions that I hope will be meaningful to those who want to choose vulnerability:
1. Vulnerability is so much easier when you love yourself.
Think about it. When you don’t love all of you and are afraid to show people the less than stellar parts, the space between you and vulnerability is like the Grand Canyon. You will need all the courage you can get to make the leap across.
But when you love yourself, and I mean all of you, you don’t worry so much if someone else doesn’t. And when you’re less afraid of rejection, you step right into that place of openness.
2. Vulnerability takes practice.
You don’t just learn it once and then—ta-dah!—you’re easily open to everything and everyone. My experience at the high school was very profound, but even now, many years later, I still have moments where I’m more guarded and less willing to share the real me.
Thank goodness life continues to give me opportunities to consciously choose openness. And most times, I do.
3. The rewards of vulnerability are immeasurable.
When I have chosen to be open, to show my authentic self, my students have met me there. And when they’ve met me there and formed that connection, there’s nothing they can’t accomplish.
With vulnerability, you experience true connection—true love for yourself—and you begin to attract people to you who are inspired by your openness.
While it’s not easy to be vulnerable, you’d be surprised how loving all of you and then sharing it with another can help you to connect with anyone. In my own life, I’m continuing to open up to the person around me, especially to them who work with me.
I’ve been showing them a little more of the complexity that is me. They now know the ugly truth that I always forget putting something somewhere. They know that whenever I will never ask until someone will offer it to me. They understand how perfectionist I was til I don’t really believe on others works. Also that I cannot handle too many tasks without leaving one or two tasks behind.
Shameful? Perhaps. But you know what? I like that girl and in the end, so do they.