Vulnerability as a strength

I thought I would tackle the issue of vulnerability in this blog and how it can be a source of strength. Vulnerability is something I have struggled with in the past and had to master and continue to do so – particularly in my personal life. And as I meet and coach other people I realise I am not alone here.  Many of us are so used to be in control and planning every aspect of our lives – it’s a tricky skill to master, but master it you can.

We feel vulnerable when we feel we may be at harm, or in some kind of danger – physically and emotionally. There are many different forms of vulnerability. Feeling vulnerable can appear in any walk of life, but in my experience, the fear of vulnerability can particularly play havoc in personal relationships. I don’t believe it’s wise to completely ‘open the kimono’ with someone you barely know, but at some point, they are going to have to see the real you – not a cardboard cut-out, or brick wall.

It’s odd – even as recently as a couple of years ago, I would actually feel my feet burning somewhat and a feeling of wanting to flee what may be an emotionally charged, or sensitive, discussion. But I stayed put as I realised it was important for me to develop the art of the vulnerable in order to open up and be present with someone, as well as owning anything that on my part – that caused situations to turn awry.

My feet don’t burn anymore, I have learnt to sit through the discomfort for the most part – I’m still working on it! Sure sometimes we all need a time out – and if you feel a particular personal interaction is going off the rails – that is often wise. ‘Hey I need x minutes just to think but I will be back by y.’ In that way, you are regaining composure and letting the other person know you will be back.

Brené Brown writes and presents on this subject extensively, and I definitely recommend you look her up. She says,

“Most people believe vulnerability is a weakness. But really vulnerability is a strength. We must ask ourselves are we willing to show up and be seen?”

The desire to protect ourselves, not hear things about ourselves that may be difficult, or to hear where another person is coming from – which may be from a totally different mindset than ours –  can be very intense and painful and much of it depends on the two people’s ability to listen, acknowledge, summarise, reflects and decide what’s best to avoid the situation happening again. (Of course, I am not suggesting you put up with any form of emotional or physical abuse at all)

But if you can listen, acknowledge, agree to disagree where necessary, keep in an adult frame of mind – taking a deep breath and moving forward is possible without too much damage. You really have to leave your ego at the door – be it a business interaction, or a personal one. And be ready to full listen and embrace the views of others.

When you can get to a position of doing this – it’s very liberating. You don’t have to:

  • Constantly think of the next defensive answer
  • Disengage from the person or conversation
  • Worry about being ‘right’ all the time
  • Lose your temper and get stressed
  • End up with both parties in a losing position

What you can do is

  • Deepen relationships
  • Be your authentic self
  • Develop amazing skills for listening and communicating – and develop interpersonal skills to a new level
  • Learn something about yourself or a situation you did not know before
  • Find solutions to problems
  • Come from a win- win position for both parties – not lose-lose

Like everything in life – creativity, planning – it’s a skill and it needs to be practised through active listening. So anytime I feel my feet burning again – I will thank them and do my very best to take what’s happening as a great opportunity to learn.  I don’t always get it right – but the mindset is there to want to try and the more you try the easier it gets!

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3 Comments

  1. Thank you for this post! Fantastically insightful. As a clinician assisting people as they navigate the dating and relationship process, I’ve discovered that those who are able to embody their vulnerability in a truly present fashion tend to be the most resilient and in turn, have the most strength. Great post!

    1. Thanks Cynthia, I am glad you appreciated it. I think vulnerability is such a big challenge for many of us at certain times! Sarah

  2. Nice Write up Sarah I must acknowledge. I do totally also agree that it can become a source of strength but this I must emphasise can only be so if the temptation is resisted. examine things critically and look to up holding the right values. Until this is done it remains weakness.

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