I’d like to chat with you about vulnerability. Usually when we hear about being vulnerable we hear/see it in a negative fashion – someone naked standing in the cold, swimming in the ocean surrounded by sharks, perhaps down to your last penny, with nowhere to go, no one to turn to. Perhaps you have been in vulnerable positions – and these places hurt. These are scary places to be, and we don’t want to be in those situations where we are that vulnerable, that exposed to the unknown or the uncomfortable. We see being vulnerable as being weak – “Be strong, don’t be weak.” We marginalize vulnerability – it’s a weakness. Particularly for men. Not that we know better, but that we don’t know better. What does vulnerability ask of us? However, vulnerability is the admission price for intimacy.
Brene Brown, "The Price of Invulnerability"
Honoring and Working with Male Vulnerability
Intimacy requires vulnerability? I say, vulnerability strengthens intimacy (into me see).
I want to suggest that we look at vulnerability as a strength. Why? Because when we’re vulnerable, when we expose our weakest points, share our fears, or our hopes and dreams, the level of intimacy rises at the same amount as our level of vulnerability. Of course, we have to know how to be intimate with ourselves (see this as being brutally honest with ourselves) before we can be intimate with someone else. And we search outside of ourselves to find that intimacy – and we shut down, because we can’t find it outside of ourselves. Yet to feel truly loved we need to let others (beginning with ourselves) who we really are inside.
Now I’m not suggesting that we bare our souls to the first person we come in contact with! Or to share everything, with everyone, all the time. We need places where we can safely heal – these are called boundaries and defenses. And as we heal and soften and loosen, we can shed those boundaries and defense – and we can make that conscious decision to become vulnerable, to shed our defenses and broaden our boundaries.
So then, trust, comes into place. Who do we trust, how much can we trust, who do we trust with what, and biggest – HOW do we trust? And more than that, how do we trust ourselves? How do we be vulnerable to ourselves, become intimate with ourselves?
Being vulnerable is often the easiest with strangers or when we are in intense situations – not with our own, not in our own space. Why?
When we are free from the need to judge or condemn, we then can share with those we trust; we develop trust – in ourselves and in others, which in turn strengthens our bonds with each other. When I tell you my story of divorce, of cancer, of my long journey to a college degree – when I share with you my weaknesses, my triggers, we begin to see similarities in our lives; it’s no longer you and me. We see that we have similar stories, we begin to draw connections between us, and we are no longer the other but “we,” and that is when we can travel together. If I can trust myself to share, and I can trust that you will carry my sharing gently, then you and I have a bond, and gentle reciprocity develops, trust strengthens, and being vulnerable is no longer a weakness – it may be a risk, but most likely taking that risk is worth the risk. When I trust you trusting my story, then I can be free to be my imperfect self – and I know you can be my support. And help comes in being willing to admit I need help.
Have you ever worn the “freak flag”? You know – the physical sign that says you are not in control of your life, that your life is going in a direction you don’t want it to be going, that not all is well? What if we could all wear a sign that said what WE REALLY MEANT? What if we could go straight past the small talk or the masks, and we could actually go straight to the heart of the matter. What if our friends and family wore signs like this?
…we would treat each other differently.
I think we should just try to imagine it. That when a friend is quiet…or not showing up to stuff she usually shows up to, or acting a little “off”, or a family member is wearing pajamas to the grocery store for weeks on end, or not answering the phone, or the lawn is not mowed…
whatever it is…
IT IS A SIGN. It is not a sign that can be read in words and letters, but it is a sign that someone needs to be treated gently. That they need help. Most of all, that they need love, understanding, and that they DEFINITELY DO NOT need to be judged.
It’s amazing how people open up, themselves, when you choose to trust and be vulnerable; when you show them that you do not want/need a superficial interaction with them. We highlight ourselves without fear of being judged. Try it, try it once, and see what it does to your relationship.
As important as it is to tell our stories, let’s learn to listen, and let’s be gentle with each other, let’s learn how to read each other’s stories. (Melody Ross)
“Live your life from your heart. Share from your heart. And your story will touch and heal people's souls.” (Melody Beattie)
Do you wear a Coat of Arms to share or carry a Shield to protect? What do you want to share/hide with/from others?