I had the immense pleasure of co-facilitating a workshop this weekend with a wonderful group of people. The focus of the workshop was to review 2016 and set a powerful intention for 2017. The participants were asked 10 questions to help them reflect and gauge their experiences, accomplishments and results for the past year and time and time again I was completely blown away by what they shared as we progressed through the work. There was one thing that everyone that decided to share possessed this weekend: vulnerability. They were willing to lay down the barriers and embrace the opportunity to share a piece of their hearts and be truly seen and heard by an entire group of people. There was power in their vulnerability and I am blown away by their bravery.
What stands in the way of us truly owning and embodying our vulnerability? The definition of vulnerability is: “the quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.” WHOA! That is terrifying! Being exposed? If that doesn’t trigger some intense fears, then I don’t know what will, but there is power in our vulnerability and it holds the key to experiencing real change and growth.
Why Is It So Hard?
Why is it so hard to welcome a sense of vulnerability into our hearts and minds? Maybe the answer lies in the antonyms of the word: strong, protected, guarded, safe, secure, closed. Those words immediately imply a much more comfortable and accepted way of navigating the world around us. We are taught as young children to keep ourselves safe. Who doesn’t want to feel safe but there are limits to what safety can allow us to experience. We are conditioned as we age that being strong is a virtue worth embodying and while I celebrate the virtue of strength, I believe in the power of vulnerability.
What is the Risk of Choosing Strength Over Vulnerability?
There is likely no real risk of choosing strength over vulnerability. In fact, I am certain that there are highly successful people that have displayed immense amounts of strength and fortitude and almost little-to-no vulnerability and are living highly successful lives.
The other antonyms for vulnerability provide clues to the potential risks of not embracing the chance to be vulnerable: guarded, protected, closed. There is power in those words. What do they mean to you?
I was a master at spending all my time being strong. I used to wear that strength as a badge of honour because I needed it to survive a less-than-happy childhood and adolescence. I needed to employ that strength in order to take care of myself and I was good at it. I know that there are people reading this that have also had to employ strength over vulnerability and I am sending you the biggest hug. I get it. It worked for me, until it didn’t work for me.
My strength served me until it created space between myself and the world around me. It allowed me to muscle through a lot of darkness and survive, but it did not allow me to flourish. Vulnerability is the secret to flourishing and I have learned that it is far more powerful to be open in the face of uncertainty and potential attack than it is to remain protected.
How to Embrace Vulnerability and Change Your Life
- Share Your Story – There is immense power in sharing your story. The participants this weekend shared their experiences and I could see how it helped the other people in the room immensely. When we share the dark and difficult parts of our story, we embody vulnerability. This heals. It heals not only ourselves for sharing the story, but I guarantee there is someone out in the big wide world that will benefit from that story and experience and feel that they are not alone with their own troubles and struggles.
- Ask for Help – There is a great deal of vulnerability in asking for help. When we ask for help, we open ourselves up to another person. It takes great strength to admit you need help and allow someone in. We are not meant to carry our burdens alone and when you ask for help from the right people you can begin to make massive change in your life.
- Offer Help to Someone Else – This can also be very scary. When you offer help to someone you are opening yourself up to rejection and that can be terrifying. What if your help or assistance goes unaccepted? Do it anyway, because the offer may be enough for the other person to know that they are not alone and may just eventually open them up to their own vulnerability to accept that help one day. When we offer help to another human, we are changing the formula that society has constructed around going at it alone. I believe in the power of helping others because it instantly improves your outlook, mood and energetic frequency and that can create real and lasting change in your life.
- Peal Away the Armour – Have you ever been in the middle of an argument with a loved one and been steadfastly holding onto your anger or hurt far past the point of it even making sense? Why do you think that is? It is because we believe we must win to keep ourselves safe. Armour is strong and powerful, but it restricts us. Embracing your vulnerability and speaking from that place of being open and unprotected may mean you don’t win the disagreement. Laying down your sword in the interest of growth and peace is far stronger than holding it. There are some things that can only be forgiven but never really forgotten.
- Pursue Your Dreams – Extreme vulnerability alert. For as long as I can remember, I have been in love with words. When I was a kid and there was turmoil and pain, I could disappear into a book, regardless of what was going on around me. I love the emotions that words stir when I read them and I love the way words find me when I write. It has taken me 34 years to get the place where I call myself a writer. There is intense vulnerability in even typing that sentence for me but it is vital that I don’t backspace over it. I love to write. It is no accident that I feel connected to source and spirit when I am writing. And it doesn’t matter what the end result of my putting fingers to keyboard is. I am called to do it and that is all that matters and despite second guessing myself and doubting I know that I feel joy when I write and that is all that matters.
How Does Vulnerability Change Your Life?
The point of this life is to flourish and bloom. Maybe you have been taught that you are meant to struggle and be strong and maybe you have had some success. Congratulations on being able to employ those admirable traits. Maybe you are terrified (read more about fear here). Ask yourself if you have reached the richest experience of your life yet? If you feel like you might be missing something, ask yourself if you are open to having a different experience? The openness is key and that is the heart of vulnerability. If you can crack yourself open just enough to be willing to have a new experience you will change your life. You can thrive and experience joy on a daily basis but you may have to jackhammer some of the layers that you have built around your heart and ask your mind to bear with you as you try to make the change. Vulnerability is the key to that. Crack your heart wide open, you may be surprised at what you find.
How can you embrace vulnerability? Have you experienced both the fear and joy that comes when you open your heart?