Learn How to Be Vulnerable to Expand Your Full Enjoyment of Life
“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” ― Brené Brown
“I was badly hurt once. I’m not letting that happen again! I’m putting up walls to keep people at a safe distance and I’m not revealing my true thoughts or feelings so I’m not betrayed or ridiculed again!” Can you relate to these expressions? Many people I’ve talked with are afraid to be vulnerable to one degree or another. (In this article, I am not talking about the pain from sexual, physical or emotional abuse, as the healing of these often requires the assistance of a mental health professional.)
When we reveal our deepest, most vulnerable selves, we run the risk of being rejected, belittled or made fun of. This engenders resentment, embarrassment or anger. Their comments can be deeply hurtful, because we can internalize what they say, without meaning to do so. The brain says, “if that’s how they see me, it must be true”.
But the choice to dismiss your value is their choice — it needn’t be yours. Perhaps they speak without thinking first…that’s something you may choose to overlook. But if they knowingly disrespect you, you don’t have to take their assessment as your own.
When someone assesses you as unworthy, it’s like someone tossing a dirty, old flower pot around, because they think it’s useless — but those with knowledge and understanding can identify this “useless flower pot” as a priceless Ming vase. Does that first assessment diminish the worth of the vase? In the mind of that one person, and any that listen to him, yes. That’s their choice. However, it doesn’t change the nature of the Ming vase. For the people who value fine porcelain, learning more about the pot is a delight.
Not everyone will like you, nor do you want them to. Realistically, think about all of the people on this earth who don’t even know you exist. And that’s okay, right? It’s important that you don’t change who you are so you fit in or so someone likes you.
Retaliating or holding a grudge reinforces the wall you hide behind. To be vulnerable means letting go of inordinate pride. You don’t have to be right. You don’t have to be the best. You don’t have to be first.
It’s possible to protect yourself, without resorting to avoidance of intimacy. This skill begins with learning how to be vulnerable. Keeping part of you hidden, while you reveal a part of you is creating disharmony within yourself. Vulnerability is being willing to show the totality of who you are as a whole. The pain of vulnerability is not something to be avoided. Rather it’s a message alerting you to become curious about an area of your life that needs attention.
Stepping toward vulnerability, after years of hiding, is a commitment toward your greater mindfulness, self-awareness and claiming your place in this world. It takes strengthening your emotional well-being. When we reveal our deepest, most vulnerable selves, we also run the risk of being accepted, appreciated and loved. This engenders fear, because it requires you to become personally responsible in your relationships.
As you gradually open your heart, you expose the raw, emotional parts that need healing. As each comes to the surface, I urge you to use my Tea Time Exercise to mindfully navigate through the pain — without judgment. With great curiosity about your reactions, consider the following questions:
- How does it feel in your body? (Tightness, can’t breathe, neck pain, nausea.)
- What type of feeling is it? (Fear, self-hatred, embarrassment)
- Where are you feeling it? (Heart, stomach, shoulders)
- What thoughts are flooding through your mind as you feel it?
- What memories are resurfacing?
- What about the experience is fact and how much has been embellished by your mind over time?
- What motivated the other party to act as they did?
- How much did I contribute to the incident?
- How can I own my part responsibly, making amends or letting it go?
It’s a natural tendency to give our Shadow Self or conflicted parts more attention than they deserve so that they eclipse the things about yourself that are strong and beautiful. As you work to integrate your whole being, you’ll be able to open yourself up more fully. The more vulnerable you can become, the more expansive your heart becomes, so that which one bothered you can roll off your back without leaving a mark. And not only that, you’ll open yourself up to see more opportunities. As Brené Brown put it so well…
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.”
To be vulnerable requires courage, honesty, and a sense of humor. So many incidents can be forgotten if we don’t take ourselves too seriously or take slights too personally. Know and manage your emotional triggers so that you respond calmly not defensively.
Today more than ever we need to feel grounded and centered is something that speaks to all of us. Embodiment deepens your awareness of your body to be more present, feel whole, feel connected to yourself and others, and cultivate true self-knowledge. It gives you freedom of choice: how to think, feel and be in the world. To help you accelerate your ability for embodiment, I’ve developed the Embodied Coach School. It’s designed to help coaches help their clients, but it also works for you to coach yourself toward greater freedom. If you’re curious to learn more about embodiment, I encourage you to download my free report, 10 Steps to an Embodied Practice.