What is vulnerability? According to the dictionary…
“the quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.”
No wonder we are afraid of being emotionally vulnerable; that definition is concerning. But we must change our view of vulnerability. I think many people would be willing to admit that the practice of being vulnerable can be both challenging and uncomfortable. While this may be true, vulnerability can be one of the most prominent teachers we encounter in life if we are open to what it has to teach us.
What is emotional vulnerability? According to the PH&S Clinic…
“It’s the ability or willingness to acknowledge (and potentially express) one’s emotions. Particularly those emotions that are difficult or painful. Emotions such as shame, sadness, anxiety, insecurity, etc.”
By shifting our vulnerability perspective, we can learn lessons about life and ourselves that help us become better people and experience growth.
- Face Your Fears: One of the biggest lessons that vulnerability teaches us is how to face our fears. Being vulnerable is an uncomfortable experience; most of us want to run from it to avoid that negative feeling.
However, being vulnerable teaches us how to lean into the discomfort, understanding that doing so has more significant benefits and leads to meaningful growth in our lives.
When we can handle the fear and discomfort of being vulnerable, it shows us that we can handle other scenarios that might also prove to be scary. Thus, we become empowered to face our fears in all things.
- Empathy and Understanding: The art of empathising with and understanding other people is another thing that can be learned from vulnerability. Sharing about ourselves in real and meaningful ways allows us to understand better people who’ve gone through similar journeys. This creates a pathway for us to be more compassionate and kind to all we encounter.
- Authenticity: Vulnerability or exposing yourself in some shape or form requires deep honesty. You must be willing to showcase parts of yourself that you may desire to hide or feel self-conscious about.
This act of raw sharing teaches you to present your true self even when it is less than favourable. Though challenging, this can prevent you from building walls and enacting barriers in your relationships with others, thus helping you connect better with those around you.
- Take Risks: Risk-taking is another lesson that can be learned when we are vulnerable. It takes courage to be vulnerable, and it can be a scary experience because you are never sure how others may respond to your sharing. However, more often than not, being vulnerable results in positives, such as connection with others which make it worthwhile.
- Self-Worth: Being vulnerable can also teach you a lot about self-worth. Too often, we connect our worth to our achievement and other things we portray as being positive about ourselves. However, true worth is not linked solely to the things we do. It is a function of who we are.
When we can present an authentic and flawed version of ourselves and embrace our imperfections and mistakes, we can find the worth we possess despite those things. Thus, we learn how to develop true self-worth that can stand in the face of mishaps and mistakes.
- Self-Awareness: When you allow yourself to be vulnerable, you can also gain high levels of self-awareness. Vulnerability requires you to be honest with yourself about who you are. When you can be honest, you can see the things about yourself that are good and the things that are less than favourable.
You can also gain a deeper understanding of why you are the person you are and why you do what you do. As you learn these things, you can improve in the areas you need to improve in and use those things that work well for you to your advantage, both of which will facilitate growth.
- Connection: Connection is another thing that can be learned when you allow yourself to be vulnerable. As you grow in levels of self-awareness, empathy, and understanding, you can better connect with other people. Knowing yourself and having compassion helps you relate to people on a deeper and more authentic level, enabling you to establish more profound and meaningful connections with others.
- Resilience: There is a link between vulnerability and strength as well. Pushing through the challenge and discomfort of being transparent and open with others shows you that you can bounce back from other difficulties in life. The resilience you gain from being vulnerable helps you apply that to different scenarios and develop a belief in your ability to overcome other hardships.
- Innovation: It may be hard to tell, but there is a connection between being vulnerable and being innovative. Each time you propose a new idea or come up with a new strategy, you are weak.
Presenting something fresh without knowing how others will receive it or respond to it requires you to be vulnerable. Therefore, the more comfortable you get with being weak, the more freedom you experience to come up with new ideas.
- Accountability: When you are willing to be vulnerable, you also learn to be accountable. It requires vulnerability to say when you’ve made a mistake or are lacking in a particular area. Making those acknowledgements allows you to own and change those things for the better. Thus, the more vulnerable you are, the better prepared you are to take responsibility for your actions and make meaningful changes where needed.
The next time you are vulnerable, pause and reflect on what you can learn from that moment or situation. Chances are you’ll uncover more than you expected, and you’ll be able to experience development as a result.