Vulnerability is the new word on the block. Thanks to Brene Brown and her inspiring TEDtalk, (if you haven’t checked it out yet then jump on board: the word vulnerability is finally being understood and accepted for its authentic meaning rather then the condemning it has received in our culture for so long.
Capable of being physically or emotionally wounded or hurt
To be honest, I experienced a moments hesitation to include the dictionary definition of vulnerability in this article for fear of scaring people off in the first paragraph. But I recognised that to truly honor this article I must include it, because although the fear was trying to shove me back into my little nest of safety, I intuitively felt that it was important to include it. So there it is. And that, right there my friend, is vulnerability.
Recently I was discussing the V word with a dear friend and when I mentioned how practicing it on a daily basis was empowering me, her eyes glazed over with doubt. Finally she said that she had always understood vulnerability to be a weakness therefore it seemed a contradiction that I was feeling stronger through practicing it. Her honesty in that moment was a perfect example of how vulnerability has received such a bad rap over the years, The V word is right up there with the F bomb. People recoil from vulnerability from the understanding that it is showing weakness, therefore as a defence most of us have learnt to armor up to prevent being wounded. But as we know, it is the scars that we learn the most from and which make for the most interesting stories. A cliche ain’t there for no reason – what doesn’t kill us only makes us stronger.
I know this defensiveness this first hand, I wore one hell of a silver-plated-breast-plate over my heart for years. It was impenetrable. I put it on after a relationship break up and this armor represented me as a “strong independent woman, I don’t need no man nah-ah” which kept any and all levels of intimacy in far reach from my heart. I now recognise that this armor of not needing ANYONE was actually my fear of opening myself to being wounded again. Because let me tell you, behind that solid wall that I had built was a heart that longing for connection and intimacy.
It is through practicing vulnerability that I have learnt of the healing power of connection. And it is only through vulnerability that we connect. Truly connect. It does seem like a contradiction that speaking our truth cultivates stronger bonds with people since sometimes there is the risk of hurting the other person, but its seems to be the law of the universe, because it just works, you simply have to try it to believe it. This is why the premise of all Hollywood block busters include the hero’s journey – the protagonist having to face his or her fears – slay the dragon, face the high-school bully, climb to the dark depth of Mordor – they are all opening themselves up to wounding but end up winning the girl, slaying the dragon, saving the world…
So what the heck does practicing vulnerability look like you say? Vulnerability is being honest. Its there in those moments where intuitively you want to say your truth but instead you say nothing either for fear of hurting someone, being ridiculed, misunderstood, or just not being heard. Or you tell a little white lie, a manipulation of your truth, suffocating your authentic voice into the dark depths of doubt and insecurity. Therefore to practice vulnerability you must practice speaking your truth. And this can be really tricky as it is not something that a lot of us have been taught to do in a conservative culture of manners. But what I understand from depression and anxiety (from first hand experience and through my clients) is that it can manifests from repression of truth, holding back on emotions, swallowing down hopes and dreams.
Therefore, practicing vulnerability is good for our health! Why? because it cultivates connection. Humans crave the truth – this is why celebrity mags – stars without make up! – fly off the shelves and rock star autobiographies are so popular – we all crave to know the truth behind the super ego of Hollywood, we drool over pages of photos of celebs at their most vulnerable moments. We resonate with truth as human beings. Truth is the universal language.
You are worth being heard, and the reality is that you might be wounded along the way, although at least you honored yourself in the process and that is where true healing begins.
A wise man once said “do something everyday that scares you”. This is how we grow. This is how we learn. Mine for today was posting this article.
I would love to hear about yours and what came of it.
Be honest. Speak your truth. Challenge yourself to be vulnerable. And welcome the surprising reward of connection that follows. You deserve it.
Written by Laura Griffin
Counselling and Psychology appointments are available at Kundalini House