Vulnerability: Worth the Risk?Dec 07, 2020
Let’s be honest. Being vulnerable sucks. No one really enjoys being vulnerable. In fact, most of us try to avoid even appearing vulnerable at all costs. Just look at some of the definitions:
- capable of being physically or emotionally wounded
- open to attack or damage
- open to moral attack, criticism, temptation, etc.
Seriously, why would anyone in their right mind want to put themselves at risk for any of that?!
Okay, well, maybe the adventure seeker who’s relying on the scuba, whitewater rafting, or zip-lining equipment to keep them safe. Come to think of it we are actually vulnerable when we drive in a car, cross the street, eat at a restaurant, use an electrical outlet, go shopping, use a knife and dozens of other things we do without thinking on a daily basis.
But those are the vulnerabilities that we’ve accepted in life (I mean... how often are we really going to get food poisoning, accidentally stab ourselves with a knife, or get run over by a bus while crossing the street?! The risk seems to be worth it.) The kind of vulnerabilities that I’m talking about - the ones many of us struggle with - are the emotional ones like asking someone out on a date, saying “I love you” for the first time, sharing a personal story or our true feelings, quoting a price to a potential new client, going in for that first kiss, asking for a raise, launching a new program in your business, publishing a book, sharing a poem you wrote, and so on.
The real stuff that exposes our tender insides to the outside world and sets us up for potential criticism, rejection and more. Of course, no one wants to be hit by a car crossing the street, but it’s these more emotionally risky activities that tend to cause us the most anxiety.
Ponder this for a moment… We start out in this world completely vulnerable - physically and emotionally. When we are babies, we have no choice but to rely on others to feed us, change our diapers and keep us clean, and to love us and keep us safe from harm. Yet we are completely free from any anxiety related to that vulnerability.
Somewhere along the way, often at a pretty early age, we learn the negative and uncomfortable side of being vulnerable. Maybe a parent, intentionally or unintentionally, laughed at something you were proud of. Or you felt unheard and dismissed by a teacher when you raised your hand and gave your answer. Or you shared an idea with a friend and they laughed at you for it. Or you picked out an outfit you loved and got teased about your choice.
We become more aware of when we are making ourselves vulnerable because we can’t always predict if we’ll be supported or rejected and end up feeling embarrassed. The negative reactions lead to us cultivating methods to mask our vulnerability - sarcasm and joking, even making fun at someone else’s expense, lashing out at someone.
But our worst coping method? When we stop allowing ourselves to be vulnerable at all.
When we stop being true to our authentic selves because we are afraid of being vulnerable with others, we stop living. That might sound a tad dramatic... but think about it. What happens to your life if you don’t express your love for someone? Or find the courage start your business or publish your book? Will you ever reach your goals if you’re constantly holding back because of fear of vulnerability, judgment and rejection?
One moment of teasing and rejection can have a significant ripple effect throughout the years and even an entire lifetime. A personal example from my childhood is that I was teased for having lips that were bigger than most kids. This is a seemingly small thing but caused all sorts of vulnerability challenges for me growing up... who the hell wants to talk and be the center of attention when people might be staring directly at your larger-than-average lips?! Those thoughts continued to impact me whenever I had to give a presentation in high school and even college. In retrospect, I’m sure it impacted how often I simply expressed myself in general.
Now there are adults who buy products and have procedures done to plump their lips, but those were not really things when I was a child. And were people REALLY thinking about my lips when I was talking? Probably not. But this just shows how we can all be impacted by vulnerability, “rational” or not. I felt attacked and ashamed at the time and that stuck with me. Fortunately, though, I pushed past those feelings of vulnerability and self-consciousness (or most of them anyways!) Where would I be today if I was still worried about speaking to people, presenting to groups or just expressing myself?!
The things and people that matter most to us also tend to instigate more feelings of vulnerability because they truly matter and are IMPORTANT to us. Choosing to express yourself or act in accordance with your true self, despite the fact that you are making yourself vulnerable to critique and rejection, is so important for creating an authentic life! Vulnerability is an unavoidable piece of personal growth and progress in that journey.
You are special and unique - and because of that - the world truly needs you to be yourself. Each and every one of us have a purpose in this world but in order for you to find that purpose, you have to push past the uncomfortable feelings and fear of vulnerability. When you choose to be vulnerable and share your thoughts, talents, feelings and passions, you are empowering yourself to create an authentic life - and maybe even inspire others to do the same!
Whether it be singing in public, telling someone how much they mean to you, or sharing your true feelings at a personal development event, acting on these things brings you closer to your true self AND opens the door to connecting you with more like-minded people and building stronger, more meaningful relationships.
Rejection and criticism are always going to be a fact of life (and there are healthy ways to deal with those things too!)...but you can’t make everyone happy so why even bother trying? Being authentic - even if it means being vulnerable - is worth the risk! If you finally get the courage to sing in public, maybe you’ll start a friendship with another singer who recommends an a cappella group you can join. Or someone in the audience shares a tip for you to improve your technique.
If you tell someone you love them, you can deepen the relationship to the next level. Or maybe you’ll find out that they don’t feel the same... but then you can make the informed choice to stay or pursue other relationships where feelings are reciprocated.
By sharing your true thoughts at an event, maybe you connect with new similar minded people or steer the conversation in a direction where you come across a new, impactful author or concept or idea that helps you out. Being willing to be vulnerable opens up those channels for growth and connection.
So push past those uncomfortable feelings of rejection and get vulnerable! See what kind of connections develop and growth begins to happen when you start honoring, expressing and acting on your true feelings and ideas. I have a feeling you may be pleasantly surprised at the amazing things that will begin to happen for you.
If you’ve been struggling to find the strength to share your truth - or find clarity around what your truths even are - then check out our upcoming Adventure Retreat for an exhilarating, mind-opening & soul-satisfying retreat adventure to reignite your life in carefree Costa Rica where you will feel safe and supported. We’ve got you! Click here for complete details.
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