Vulnerability isn’t Weakness

Vulnerability – that super scary thing that so many of us shy away from because we think it makes us weak. Or that super scary thing that so many of us don’t fully understand, and if we don’t understand it, why do it?

If you’ve spent some time listening to Brené Brown, either one of her videos or TED talks, you’ve heard a lot on vulnerability, and maybe even experienced a bit of it…maybe even begrudgingly so! You know the feeling: it’s that sense of being exposed which leads to the possibility of being attacked. Risk is exactly that: the chance of an attack, whatever that attack might look like. Do you truly know what vulnerability looks like in you and in other people?

Physical vulnerability is easy to spot.  If you have a dog, you know exactly what it looks like in animals. I remember when we got our rescue, Pickle (he was not named that when we got him). We were driving home from the meeting point after we signed all of the adoption papers, and he started trembling the moment we got in the car. We were convinced this little shaking creature would be terrified of us for weeks, and while he was excited to see our other dog (they had a home visit) he was definitely scared of us. There was little playing and a lot of shying away when we tried to sit with him. Pretty normal for a new pup, really normal for a rescue pup!

Later that night, we were going to bed. Our other dog sleeps on the bed with us, and we weren’t sure what was going to happen with the new guy. Much to our shock, we ended up with two dogs in the bed, and our little shaking Pickle? On his back, belly up, on the very first night. He trusted us not to hurt him.

Take that, and apply it to your emotions, and you’ve got the vulnerability that most of us are afraid of – being hurt, failure – and the thing we shy most away from. Think about the last time you did something that really scared you. Chances are it wasn’t one of those things that might kill you, but you had to expose your emotional “belly” so to speak. Think about why you were afraid and what exactly scared you.

Brené Brown says that vulnerability is “the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy and creativity” and I’m inclined to agree wholeheartedly. This is why it’s scary: because you’re probably trying something new or taking a risk in a way that you haven’t in the past. Think about those areas brought up by Brown. In order to truly experience love, you have to open yourself up to the possibility of getting hurt. Belonging is similar: you’re opening up the possibility of being left out if you don’t “fit in.” Joy falls there, too – you could also have great sadness. Courage, empathy, creativity – all of these offer the chance of amazingness and winning.

Also the chance of failure, heartbreak, and sadness, as well as defeat.

Why be vulnerable then? If we’re constantly trying not to fail, we’ll never succeed.

Think about it! You can play it oh-so-safe and never open yourself up to vulnerability! What does that lead to though? When you are “safe” and playing it safe, sure, you won’t experience hurt, heartbreak, loss, failure. You’re safe, status quo and just “fine.” The little box that you “hide” from failure might be warm and fuzzy…but do you want to stay there forever?

Probably not.

Take the risk and open yourself up to failure, loss, heartache, and sadness. Yes, that chance is there.

And so is greatness.


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