“To share your weakness is to make yourself vulnerable; to make yourself vulnerable is to show your strength.” ~ Criss Jami
Last week’s article examined why so many people, who begin to perceive themselves in positions of power, often go through a harrowing transition and become almost tyrannical in their behaviors. Their attitudes changed so dramatically it’s almost difficult to believe you knew who they were in the first place.
Those who’ve fallen victim to their own false sense of authority often made this change without even realizing it. Their once-close friends could have even tried pointing out how shocked they were by their thoughtless actions and still that wasn’t enough to awaken them from their self-inflicted nightmare. Thankfully, anyone who may have fallen into this trap is not destined to continue down its hostile path.
One of the remedies for this situation is a willingness to become vulnerable. Vulnerability has become a huge topic of late, but what precisely does that mean? More importantly, what does vulnerability mean to you?
The State of Vulnerability
Typically, a reliable place to find a description is the dictionary. The online Cambridge Dictionary gave this definition: “able to be easily physically, emotionally, or mentally hurt, influenced, or attacked,” which was nearly word for word with Google’s and Bing’s description, as well as other online sources. However, I believe this characterization neglects important distinctions; revealing a positive, constructive, and reflective aspect to the important attributes of Vulnerability.
The origin of this word was derived from the Latin Vulnerare meaning “to wound.” Granted, that explanation would complement the dictionary’s version; however, it’s time to amend its definition to encompass a broader and more significant meaning.
Emotionally speaking, becoming vulnerable is a cognitive act; one which we choose rather than passively allow to happen to us. It is a surrender of the ego or at least getting out of the way of our own stubbornness, obstinance, or selfishness. It’s a willful act mainly intended for our personal growth and development. Rather than putting ourselves in a position of attack, being vulnerable is proclaiming there are flaws or perhaps something we don’t see, understand, or comprehend about ourselves. It’s an invitation and deliberate action – not a mistake or oversight.
Choosing to become vulnerable is an act of kindness to ourselves, as well as an invitation to be more mindful and considerate toward others. There is no award for this decision; the reward is felt in your soul. It doesn’t require tears, but it doesn’t hide them either. Despite what we may think, others will respect or admire us when we are open to admitting to mistakes or other faults.
For countless generations, many of the social “norms” passed along were contrary to being vulnerable. Men were taught that showing feelings was a sign of weakness. Tears were for the feeble, “sissies,” or the pathetic. Hugging your children was giving them the wrong sign and most definitely, crying was reserved for women and children. When these kinds of teachings are closely scrutinized, their fallacies are easily exposed. How many times have we heard stories of adults who tearfully wished their parents had shown them even the littlest bit of affection?
Show Your Strength
The second half of the opening quote states: “to make yourself vulnerable is to show your strength.” For those who ask how being vulnerable shows strength, anyone willing to admit to a mistake or some type of fault shows great courage and strength.
Those who continually must pat themselves on the back for doing a good job are essentially demonstrating and exposing a true weakness. A person of character seeks to improve and become a better leader. Having a yearning to always be validated is not assuredness but rather reveals a lack of self-confidence. This mindset rarely involves self-examination, and is more concerned with finding fault or blame in others.
Author and psychotherapist Harper West coined the term “Other-blamer.” This caption nearly requires no additional explanation and is generally tied to narcissistic personalities because it’s nearly impossible for them to believe they’ve made a mistake. The other-blamer would be the first one to tell you vulnerability is ridiculous, futile, or a huge waste of time. Their idea of strength is to hide mistakes, shift blame, and take credit even when they weren’t the ones to deserve it.
Once a decision to be vulnerable is made, it helps to embrace it. Be proud it has become part of who you are. If someone ridicules you, it’s because they can’t grasp the idea of your growth and you can answer them by accepting it as a badge of honor. It may be difficult at first but any change in behavior takes effort. Find an ally who welcomes your decision and possibly is willing to embrace it along with you.
Becoming vulnerable never entitles us to expect sympathy or help from others. It does, though, generate a whole new level of gratitude, appreciation, and awareness. Recently, I met someone on the other side of the globe who specifically began engaging with me after reading my articles. He happened also to review my newly-published website and out of the kindness of his heart, willingly offered professional advice, spending several hours helping me. Never would I ever have expected this, but it is also something for which I will always be grateful and thankful.
The Fruits of Vulnerability
One of the positive results of choosing to be vulnerable is the impact it has on others. People will notice the change in your attitude sometimes even complimenting you on your new outlook and attitude. Think of others in whom you’ve seen these types of traits and you’ll no doubt feel blessed to know them.
Vulnerability also promotes unity and cooperation. It has no capacity to create division nor drag others down. Interestingly, vulnerability yields the same beneficial qualities one would expect from a great leader. There are so many positive attributes to vulnerability it’s nearly impossible to understand why anyone would not choose to be in A Vulnerable Situation.