The Power & Magic of Vulnerability: Top 10 Ways You Can Start Increasing Your Ability to be Vulnerable
Everyone wants to feel loved, connected, happy and alive, which are just a few of the amazing benefits of having the ability to be vulnerable with people. Vulnerability is one of the key components to intimate and deeply loving relationships and friendships. It is at the core of LOVE in my opinion. What it means to be vulnerable in real life is to be able to share your heart openly and freely with people that you know or possibly even strangers. It means being able to connect with people at a very deep level. It gives life meaning that is simply not possible without it. Part of vulnerability is openness and authenticity, which are extremely important facets of life to me and are a natural expression of who I am in the world.
When I say the magic of vulnerability what I mean is to be able to walk around in life being your authentic and true self – you as you really are – relating to others and being with people without particularly caring if they like you or not. It means being alive and free of anxiety and constant worry. It gives you an extraordinary sense of peace, joy and love. It is absolutely magical. It is also extremely powerful. Long before concepts like self-esteem and vulnerability were a “thing” some of us were walking through life being vulnerable as a natural expression of who we are. To be able to simply be who you are is beyond freeing. It allows for a childlike wonder. It is the most awesome thing in the world and so necessary for you to feel love.
Back in late 2018, I was looking for some documents and ran across some pictures from high school and college. My thought at that time was, gee I should post these to my private Facebook page because if anything ever happened to me these pictures would never see the light of day. So, over a month or so I posted a few pictures every day and it was a real hoot! Facebook friends of mine saw pictures of themselves from their youth that they had never seen before. It was fun and a very rich walk down memory lane. What started out as the innocent sharing of pictures so that the people could then download the pictures and have them morphed into me sharing personal information – a.k.a. me being vulnerable about what I was dealing with at the time.
As a result of me sharing myself with no shame and no apologies, after all, I did nothing wrong nor am I at fault for what happened, I got richly related to new people. I received tons of fantastic suggestions and advice. I got reconnected to people I used to know back in the day. I made new friends that I see almost weekly. All this happened because I was vulnerable in sharing my life and some (note NOT all) of my circumstances. It became apparent to my Facebook friends that I don’t have this “perfect” life. Haha! It actually became obvious that I have some pretty awful circumstances to deal with on a regular basis. As a result, people started putting themselves on my team – a team that I didn’t even ask for with the hashtag #TeamLisa. It was quite moving to be frank.
Were there criticisms? Of course! Were some people rolling their eyes? For sure! Did I care? No. In the sharing of myself and my circumstances, again not nearly all my circumstances, I was being vulnerable. People could relate to what I was going through. People could identify with me even if their situations were very different. It’s not about being perfect. It’s about being comfortable with who you are and what you are up to. I am completely moved by the prayers and love people have shown me through my private Facebook page. It touches my heart deeply. While most people would never be so vulnerable in a social media format, it has worked for me in so many ways. I would do it all over again.
Prolific writer C.S. Lewis, author of The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe was also known for many of his nonfiction books wrote about vulnerability and love in his The Four Loves book (1960). Here is a quote from his book:
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”- C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves (1960)
Currently, Brenè Brown, a research professor at the University of Huston where she has spent over two decades studying shame, empathy, vulnerability and courage, is the leading author and speaker on vulnerability having many excellent and bestselling books on the market. Her 2010 TEDx talk on vulnerability is one of the most viewed TED talks with over 40 million views. She is bringing subjects like shame and vulnerability into the public arena. And while she has so many phenomenal quotes on vulnerability, this is the one that speaks the loudest to me:
“Vulnerability is not knowing victory or defeat, it’s understanding the necessity of both; it’s engaging. It’s being all in.” -Brenè Brown
I assert that the traits or characteristics that are necessary for being vulnerable or having vulnerability are some of the same characteristics that are required for having a life that you LOVE. And I am all about having a life that you LOVE. I am enthralled with YOU having a LIFE that YOU LOVE. Oh, gee whiz, I am pretty much just an over-the-top fan of LOVE in any capacity. Love your friends, love your family, love what you do, love your life and everything in it. Or at least as much as you can. You might not be able to remove some people or things in your life, but you can still have a pretty happy and joyous life. Trust me. I know. Vulnerability is critical.
And for the majority of human beings we are simply not wired to be vulnerable. We have had too many hurts, wounds and bad experiences to walk around with our hearts wide open to life. To be vulnerable does mean taking a risk that you will be rejected for who you are. I understand that all too well. I just don’t happen to live like that. I am okay with rejection. I want to be around people who love me for who I am – with all of my imperfections, unconventional, and quirky as I am. And I want to know my peeps for who they are. Not what they do. Not what they have. Just who they are as human beings. I am crystal clear about the benefits of being able to be vulnerable with people as well as the risks.
In this post I will share the top reasons why people avoid being vulnerable, the benefits to vulnerability, the main components or traits necessary to be vulnerable, and what you can do to be more vulnerable as well as what I will call a cautionary tale. Let’s start on a positive note. This is my list of benefits to vulnerability from my own perspective. It makes life so much richer.
Benefits to Vulnerability or Being Vulnerable
When I looked up the definition for vulnerability and vulnerable – I would run too if I wasn’t so clear about the absolutely compelling benefits of vulnerability and the gifts it gives me in my everyday life.
The definition of vulnerable as an adjective is to be susceptible to physical or emotional attack or harm. Is it any wonder that people flee the scene when it comes to being vulnerable? The definition of vulnerability, a noun, is the quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed either physically or emotionally. I would add financially, a component that I address in a moment.
Top Reasons Why We Avoid Being Vulnerable
There is no question if you open your heart that you might get hurt, used or exploited. It’s possible you could be rejected, judged, laughed at or ridiculed. Some people are not who they say they are – even if you meet them through someone you know and even sometimes if they are highly recommended by someone you know. Some people just never let you know who they really are, which is one of the risks you take. You have to weigh the benefits of vulnerability with the risks. You have to consider what you want in your life. If you want love and friendships then that involves some risk. You have to consider the benefits of being vulnerable that I listed above.
It’s even possible that you could lose your money or assets. However, in this day in age pre-nuptial agreements and other legally binding contracts are the way to prevent you from losing your money and assets. I just happen to be of the opinion that this fear is extremely reasonable and is one that can and should be handled by a pre-nuptial, legally binding agreement. I know that some of you can and will disagree with my stance on this, which is fine. It happens all the time that both men and women lose significant amounts of money and assets due to relationships gone bad and for that reason alone it’s reasonable to handle that fear with a legal document. I would have serious questions about anyone unwilling to sign a pre-nuptial or other legally binding document handing the protections of either party’s assets. Why would you not want to protect someone else’s money or assets? I say that having lost significant money in prior relationships so I might be biased.
I can’t write about being vulnerable without making some mention of con men and women, predators, narcissists and psychopaths. They exist in decent numbers in our society as in 1 out of 100 people fit the bill for psychopaths with many more being con artists, predators and narcissists. Even when you do your due diligence and meet people through friends or business contacts, you might have the great misfortune of getting involved with a con artist, a predator, a narcissist or God forbid – a full blown psychopath. It happens to people of all professions and walks of life. Full blown psychopaths can be dangerous. And I believe it behooves all of us in the world to have a tad bit more understanding about psychopaths because I believe that education is power.
The premier expert in psychopaths is Dr. Robert Hare, a Canadian psychologist who developed what is called “The Psychopath Checklist” (PCL). The Psychopath Checklist was later refined into the Psychopath Checklist-Revised (PCL-R) and sometime later a screening version was released known as the Psychopath Checklist-Screening Version (PCL-SV). Dr. Hare’s PCL-R and PCL-SV are the gold standard as a diagnostic tool for psychopaths according to the research I looked at. I found the PCL-R and PCL-SV online when I was researching psychopaths a few years ago. I found it extremely helpful as a layperson to see a copy of these tools. I used the PCL-SV to score a person I was dealing with. That person got just below a perfect score on the test. Above a certain test score means an increased likelihood of violence.
In fact, I found it so helpful that I will probably drop Dr. Hare a personal note soon letting him know how helpful his tools are to a layperson and asking him to make a PDF available of the tests. If you are dealing with a person who you suspect could be or might be a psychopath, look up the PCL-SV or PCL-R online. Hopefully you can find a printable version of the PCL-SV, which is what I would look for first or the PCL-R. It is a very helpful tool that I believe every domestic violence organization and every law enforcement organization should be trained in, which is not the case presently. I further believe that the contents of the PCL-SV should be fodder for public conversations. We should all understand the criteria of what makes up a psychopath. Just my opinion. Maybe I’ll include that in my note to Dr. Hare. Doing your due diligence doesn’t mean you won’t end up dealing with someone with ill intent so this is my word to the wise.
What is important is that when you do the work on yourself – the growth and development work that I write about – you do not have to end up with your spirit crushed. You do not have to end up balled up in a corner unable to function. Often times men and women who have the unfortunate circumstance to be in a relationship with a con artist, predator, narcissist or psychopath come out of the relationship badly damaged. They have experienced a trauma for which they are not equipped to deal with. I am here to say that you can heal from any trauma or painful experience or event. It takes work. It won’t happen overnight. I can say with authority and experience that bad people, events or circumstances don’t have to damage you or take away your ability to function or have happiness. While that is more often the case than not – it simply does not have to go that way.
Everything I write about is how to function in life – at a powerful level. When you have the habits, practices, attitudes and beliefs for a powerful life no one can take that away from you. In my mind, my spirit is not crushable because it belongs to God. Completely and fully. People who are in the narcissist or psychopath genre intend to crush the spirit or soul of another by their actions. You don’t have to end up in a bad state. Do the work on yourself. Some of the people who are con artists, predators, narcissists or psychopaths are exceptionally good at fooling people. And, if you don’t really know about those personality types you could fall prey to their actions. You shouldn’t fault yourself if you do. You just pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and move forward powerfully. I recommend laughing as you do that. As in “Haha! You tried to crush my spirit, but I WIN!” At least that has worked for me. I am not kidding about the laughing part.
Even though what I have been through is horrific in every way and was of course extremely painful, I am a better person for what I have been through. I STILL choose to be vulnerable. Why? Because the benefits to feeling love, being able to give and receive love are too extraordinary for me to pass up. I am the embodiment of love. I will never give up LOVE in any form. That’s way too valuable to give up. So, work on having a functional life. Work on yourself. You can survive anything with the right coping mechanisms, attitude, work ethic, habits and practices. That is what this blog is about. Having a happy and joyful life even when times are difficult.
Requirements to be Vulnerable
This is just my take on what I believe vulnerability requires. I don’t know how or if this matches up with what the psychology books say, so do take it with a grain or perhaps a pound of salt.
What You Can Do to Become More Vulnerable
You want a life filled with love, joy, happiness and freedom. You want to feel alive and connected. You want to have an easier time in life. Vulnerability can help you get there. How guarded or vulnerable are you as you go through life? Are you willing to take a chance in life – take a calculated risk – for all of the benefits that feeling love, having friends or a romantic relationship has to offer you?
I assert that if you did the work to have self-confidence, be open to life, drop the need for perfection, be able to laugh at yourself, be present, and have compassion for yourself and others that you would find being vulnerable not as difficult. If you did the work to have those traits or characteristics, perhaps being vulnerable would come easy. It could become a natural expression of who you are in the world. Where are you with being vulnerable? Can you do it? Are you willing to be vulnerable? What is stopping you? How can I help you? Let me know!
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