When most people hear the word “vulnerable” they associate it with feelings of fear, uncertainty, or even shame. Why is this?
How many of us have heard someone tell us to “suck it up” when we’ve opened up about something that was genuinely hard for us? Oftentimes, without thinking about it, the people we love will dismiss or reject something without noticing its importance to us.
While this is often just a misunderstanding of the gravity of a situation (however big or small), it can dramatically affect our willingness to be vulnerable in the future. Instead of receiving the support that we were hoping for or expecting, we are told that our struggle isn’t important enough for others to care about—or worse we are ridiculed because of it. This is why we begin to associate the word “vulnerability” with fear and shame.
And when we acknowledge that society raises many of us with this same “suck it up” sentiment, it is no surprise that many of us find the idea of being vulnerable terrifying—why we see it as a weakness. Being vulnerable shows the world who we truly are and sometimes the thought of that is enough to stop us dead in our tracks.
Why Being Vulnerable Can Be Tough
Being vulnerable can be incredibly scary—even more so if you have been hurt before in a time where you were vulnerable. This can be especially true if you were hurt by someone important to you, such as a family member or a significant other.
Rejecting vulnerability, whether in relationships with significant others or something as trivial as walking into a new classroom or gym, is something that many of us do without even thinking. Oftentimes the unconscious armor we create for ourselves is due to past experiences of hurt due to vulnerability. And over time, we connect “vulnerability” with “hurt” and bury it behind the illusion of being in control.
But while we may feel safer when we reject vulnerability, we are not allowing ourselves to be genuinely ourselves. Being vulnerable allows us to be 100% ourselves. No shields, no armor, just us. Because of this, being vulnerable can be incredibly beneficial to our mental health. It can not only help us to work through our emotions but also create more intimate and authentic connections with others.
The Benefits Of Vulnerability
In a talk Dr. Brené Brown gave at the University of Minnesota, she shared that her research found the practice of disrupting a joyful moment by imagining the worst-case scenario is incredibly common for people. That in order to avoid the possibility of harm from a moment of happiness, we imagine everything that could go wrong.
If that sounds familiar, you are not alone. Many of us would rather spare ourselves future pain than just allow ourselves to enjoy the moment. But we can make the conscious choice to allow ourselves that vulnerability. To embrace it. While it might be hard at first, giving ourselves the ability to enjoy moments of vulnerability rather than rejecting them can be incredibly beneficial to your life—personally, interpersonally, and emotionally.
Helps Loved Ones Understand You
When you allow yourself to be vulnerable you are allowing yourself to be open to those around you—you are allowing your loved ones in which can help them to love you more effectively.
It is extremely difficult for your loved ones to give you the love and care that you want from them if you do not help them to understand what it is that you need. When you are open with them about your feelings and emotions you can help them understand the support that you need from them.
It Gets Easier Over Time
While being vulnerable may start off being incredibly difficult, like all things, the longer you do it, the easier it will get. The more you open up to people, the easier it will be for you to be vulnerable with people in general. Your first steps don’t have to be enormous, you can begin with something as small as asking someone what they are thinking.
Making the choice to undo all of the years of rejecting vulnerability takes incredible courage to do. So no matter how big or small the steps you are taking are, be proud of them and be proud of yourself.
Opening up to people can also help to attract more empathetic people into your life—which can help you to perpetuate the process of being vulnerable with others and yourself.
You Can Be More In Touch With Yourself
Many of us unconsciously adapt ourselves to better fit into certain crowds as we go through life. This could be something as “harmless” as hiding your foreign accent to avoid judgment or exclusion or something as dramatic as pretending to have certain opinions in order to fit into a group. And while these things do not seem harmful because you know who you are inside, over time it can become harder and harder to distinguish yourself from these masks you have put up.
When we allow ourselves to be genuinely ourselves—to be vulnerable to judgment and rejection because we don’t “fit in”—we don’t lose sight of the things that are important to us. And the more you are genuinely yourself no matter the surroundings, the less you’ll care about other people’s perceptions of you and the more you can focus on the things that make you happy.
Ways To Get Comfortable Being Vulnerable
While there is no sure-fire way to go from associating vulnerability with weakness and embracing it as an essential part of life, there are some ways to make the process a little less intimidating.
Because rejecting vulnerability is so prominent in our society, the process of embracing it can be incredibly difficult at first, but here are some tips to help you.
Practice Makes Perfect
Remember the first time you did something you’re really good at now? You probably weren’t amazing at first, but the more you practiced the better you got at it, right? Maybe the first time you tried to bake a cake it was a disaster but now your friends and family know you’re the one to go to for any sweet treats.
So why would being vulnerable be any different? The more you stick with it, the more small steps you can take to allow yourself to feel vulnerable, the easier it will get for you. Eventually, you will get just as comfortable being vulnerable with yourself and others as you are with baking a cake.
Therapy can really help you get comfortable. There has been an increasing normalization of therapy—and for good reason. Your therapist can help you find ways that work for you at your own pace. Therapy is also an amazing place for you to practice being vulnerable. Group therapy is also a great way to practice accepting vulnerability as it makes you learn vulnerability alongside other people.
Do It With Friends Or Loved Ones
You don’t have to do this alone. Friends and family are oftentimes the people who influence us the most, and because of this, including them can be incredibly useful in helping you to become comfortable with vulnerability.
Try discussing your wishes to be more open with loved ones and asking for their support as you work to embrace vulnerability.
Just because you are learning how to accept and embrace your genuine self through vulnerability does not mean that you need to do it alone. Allowing other people into your life as you allow yourself to be vulnerable can be incredibly helpful to your overall goal of accepting vulnerability as an essential part of life.
Therapy can really help you to explore your feelings around vulnerability and help you in your journey to embrace it. Being vulnerable can be incredibly scary, but without vulnerability, there can be no joy or love. So if you are ready to begin that journey of embracing vulnerability, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Love Heal Grow for support.