There's little doubt that the best relationships arise when you allow yourself to be vulnerable. Vulnerability is the key that unlocks the true self and opens space in relationships to truly understand one another. Without vulnerability we are constantly walking around with a mask that has the potential to perpetuate unhappiness and negative self talk. By not showing our true selves, we are telling ourselves that we are not worthy of love, of kindness, of respect, if we show people what’s really inside us.
I have gradually allowed myself to be more and more vulnerable over the past six years. Before that I really only took safe options. I didn’t go for that career I really wanted while I had my parents’ roof over my head. I had difficulty talking to the girls I was actually interested in. I didn’t tell people what I really thought when it really mattered. Because I was afraid. Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes I’m still afraid. Sometimes I hold back. Maybe because I think tact is always the right thing. Maybe not tact. Kindness. But living authentically and honestly must be underlined by a willingness to be vulnerable.
To me, being vulnerable means to be honest about what you really want. Whether it’s being honest in a relationship or friendship, with your employer or simply being honest with yourself. We hold so many judgements around what people might think of us if we let our true selves show. But in the end, sharing of our true selves is what grows relationships, brings people closer and simply breeds communication. If we’re talking about vulnerability in a physical sense, or an emotional sense, I feel as though the principles are the same. Like with anything we have to overcome in life, taking that first step, that first leap into the unknown is often the hardest. I’m certainly not going to pretend that I woke up one day and was able to take the leap into vulnerability; but once I did make the jump, I knew the most difficult part was complete.
To be truly vulnerable is not a comfortable thing. Like most things in life that hold the greatest rewards, vulnerability is something that requires us to do things that may feel completely uncomfortable and frankly, nervous as hell. So I’ve told you I’ve been trying to be more vulnerable in my own life. I don’t want you to think that I’m all hot air or pixels on a screen. I’m actually, as promised, living this. There are times that I have put myself out there and communicated my truth in order to gain control of my life and my own happiness. In the past twelve months I have made steps towards being vulnerable in my relationship, in the workplace, with my friends, and with my son. There have been some mixed results across the board, but I have experienced deepening relationships with anyone who was able to bring their own vulnerabilities to the table. I’ll write about a couple of these experiences here.
At work, I told my boss my truth. I told him that I was feeling stagnant and that I needed change and a new challenge. I shared with him what I felt are my professional weaknesses and my strengths. And I told him what I felt he could do as my employer to support this. I didn’t get any kind of response that made me feel valued or required as an employee. On the surface this might appear to be a breakdown of my commitment to living and communicating my truth. And initially it felt that way. But after a period of time, I now see it differently. I now know that sharing my needs, showing who I am and what I want meant that I was free to seek a new path. I had felt bound to my job for a very long time. And I’m not at the end of the road with this job. I still work hard at it every day and give it everything I can. But I now have a new path to explore. I am learning about myself and finding out what else I might be able to offer the world as a professional. So while the ultimate proof of the success of my vulnerability in the workplace might still lie in the future, to me there is enough success in the direction I have found as a result to make it completely worthwhile.
The much-feted expert in human connection, Brené Brown, encourages us to ‘love with our whole hearts, even when there’s not guarantee…’ This is exactly the approach I have taken with my relationship, particularly in the last six or seven months. In fact I have come to believe that this is the way to approach every relationship. If I had not begun this pathway all those months ago, I wouldn’t be writing about this now. But it has been the continued willingness of both of us to be vulnerable and authentic that has brought us closer together, again and again. There have been times when it could have been over, maybe should have been over. But we have come to a place where it has become so acceptable to be vulnerable, that we know we can always live our truth. I don’t need to share any details of this here - the journey has had its moments of pain for both of us - but it’s clear to me that the flame still burns because of the way we have opened our souls to one another.
I’m still growing my vulnerability. I don’t think it’s always the time and the place for it. But if we can all take off our masks just a little, show those around us what’s really inside, then I believe it can only open new doors to happiness and opportunity. I’d love to hear what others think about the topic too - feel free to comment below!
If you are interested in exploring the concept of vulnerability further, I strongly encourage you to have a look at Brené Brown’s TedTalk, ‘The Power of Vulnerability’. This incredible talk was given eight years ago, and on the TED website alone, it has had over 33 million views!