Thanks to author and vulnerability ambassador Brené Brown, we know vulnerability can enrich our lives. But what does it really mean to be vulnerable?
In the last couple of years, a lot of attention has been drawn to the concept vulnerability. The word used to be linked to weakness and shame, but Brené Brown changed all that. According to her, vulnerability wasn’t something that should be avoided. On the contrary: it was something to aim for. Vulnerability, Brown said, can enrich your life.
No more shame
The radical notion that it’s okay – or even desirable – to be vulnerable, was hopeful for many people. For too long, we had been listening to our inner critic telling us we should be ashamed after being vulnerable. That’s while shame is the biggest obstacle when it comes to connecting to people. It stops us from telling things, sometimes even from feeling things.
What is vulnerability?
Brown’s message was clear: no more shame, let’s make room for vulnerability. But what is vulnerability? Many people think they’re vulnerable, but they’re not. Telling people all about your problems may seem vulnerable, but it can be a distraction from what it’s really about. It’s talking about vulnerable, instead of actually being vulnerable. Telling someone about the sadness you felt when you’re already feeling better, seems vulnerable, but true vulnerability means reaching out to someone while you’re actually still feeling it. And that’s not easy.
Vulnerability isn’t easy. It’s simple to hear Brown’s message and accept it, without really walking the talk. Theoretically, you totally agree with her, but it’s hard to actually practice it. Especially if you’ve taught yourself not to be vulnerable for years. Vulnerability is hard work. It means pushing yourself to reach out every day. To choose to show both your beautiful and your ugly features. To accept being imperfect and making mistakes.
Dare to take risks
Vulnerability also means taking risks. It’s saying ‘I love you’ without knowing what the answer will be. It’s apologizing without knowing whether the other person will accept it, it’s admitting you’ve made a big mistake at work, even if you have no idea how your boss may respond.
Four ways of being more vulnerable
* Don’t judge. Accept yourself the way you are. Speak in friendly, positive terms about and to yourself.
* Allow all emotions to exist. Oppressing shame, fear or anger makes it difficult to open up to love and happiness, too.
* Failure is an option. No person ever lived without making mistakes. Imperfection is beautiful.
* Be daring. Dare to open up to others, to love, to take risks. Even (or especially) if there are no certainties.
Text: Joanne Wienen - Photo: Natalia Figueredo