What is the first thought that pops up to your mind when you hear the word ‘vulnerable’?
Some people think about being defenseless. Some people’s stomach churn.
Some cringe. Some feel exposed.
Whatever it is, most people associate a negative emotion with it.
And I was no different. I wore an armor, a shield to ‘protect myself’ until a few years ago.
That’s why we all resist to be vulnerable, isn’t it? So that we can “protect” ourselves.
Then I found out how vulnerability can be a positive thing. And since I’ve started living by being vulnerable, my life has significantly changed — for the better.
And I want to do the same for you.
Lets start by busting the most common myth, shall we?
1. Vulnerability ≠Weakness
I know you’ve associated vulnerability with weakness since years.
Vulnerability does mean exposing your weaknesses. It requires letting everyone see your flaws out in the open.
It requires to be real. It takes courage to be so authentic.
And it might feel uncomfortable, icky and weak.
But allow me tell you something: Being vulnerable does not mean you’re weak. Period.
I don’t deny that being vulnerable opens doors for us to easily get hurt, heartbroken and disappointed.
But it also makes us more joyous, open and free.
I used to ponder for hours over something someone had said to me that hurt. I started overthinking. But I never even thought of saying it out loud.
Soon, when I found this to be harmful, I started giving myself a choice:
A. Shut up and put it all inside
B. Share, communicate and feel exposed
At first, I was petrified of choosing the second option. But when I did it, I could not have felt better.
I thought vulnerability feels like weakness, but it felt like courage.
When I simply put my feelings out in the open, my mental health improved. My relationships became better. And I started to feel happiness.
This is how exposing yourself to be heartbroken also actually makes you free.
To be human is to have insecurities, weaknesses, sensitivity and flaws.
Being vulnerable requires more strength than resisting vulnerability. Having a wall up is easier than freeing yourself of cages.
And guess what? Vulnerability has a sly unexpected advantage to it apart from liberating you…
2. Vulnerability makes you attractive
In dating, in friendships, in relationships, vulnerability makes you likable. It makes you connect.
In the book “Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People” , Vanessa Van Edwards mentions several experiments that prove vulnerability is attractive.
One of those was a study conducted by Richard Wiseman where two actresses were supposed to sell smoothies to mall-goers.
The first actress was perfect. Flawless. She gave a yummy blender to the audience without a single mistake. On the other hand, the second actress “accidentally” forgets to tighten the lid and spills the entire smoothie over her.
A total loss of likability, right?
She sold more. She was also rated better by the viewers.
Mistakes humanized her. It increased her influence over the audience. Admitting to your weakness can do more harm than good.
So instead of trying to be perfect, just be yourself.
And I know it’s hard to embrace your flaws and laugh at your mistakes. It’s not easy to love your insecurities.
The problem isn’t that you don’t love your flaws, or don’t love your insecurities, the problem is you don’t accept them.
You don’t need to love that you’re anxious. You just need to accept it.
When you’re honest in your flaws, people meet you halfway. And that’s how you build relationships…
3. Vulnerability improves your relationships
In this TED Talk, The Power of Vulnerability, Brene Brown, a social worker who studies human connections, tells her story of finding the importance of being vulnerable.
She made two groups: first one had a really strong sense of love and belonging while the second one struggled with the mindset.
What was the difference she found? She found that those who had a strong sense of love and belonging believed that they are worthy of love and belonging.
Yes, it’s that simple.
But, they also demonstrated connection, compassion and courage. They let go of “what they should be” and instead became “what they were” . In this sense, they were authentic- to others and to themselves.
This group also embraced that what made them vulnerable made them beautiful.
They believed in the importance of saying “I love you” first, about doing something willingly even when there are no guarantees.
By letting others in, you’ll feel more connected, more confident and more cheerful.
You make deeper connections with someone when you tell them about your sorrows. You will feel more close to someone when you listen to what makes them cry.
It is through these little things, through these little vulnerable moments that you feel connected, these are the things that truly nourish your relationship.
And if you think that vulnerability only gives you a boost to your personal life, you cannot be farther from the truth…
4. Vulnerability makes you a better leader
People misunderstand that being a great leader is to have all the answers. But one of the critical components of leadership is the ability to be vulnerable with others.
I know it is easier said than done. Being vulnerable is not crying in the middle of a meeting. It is asking questions rather than always being the expert. It is accepting that you don’t know something. It’s taking feedback.
Even as simple as asking for help can do wonders to your professional life. You might always be reluctant to ask for advice from someone –they’ve got their own problems to solve– and it might make others think less of you.
But actually, asking for help makes you look smarter.
Yes, that’s correct. When you ask for advice, you boost the advisory’s ego and he might think, “This guy is smart for asking advice from me.”
Just like in life, there is no guarantee for success in work. Instead of hiding behind perfectionism, allow yourself to be truly seen.
5. Vulnerability makes you say “yes”
It’s important to say “no”. It’s important to set boundaries. It’s important to spend your time wisely.
But it’s also necessary to say “yes” more often. Especially to the things you’ve never said yes to.
And you all know where the amazing stuff takes place, outside your comfort zone.
Saying “yes” to an opportunity is saying “yes” to vulnerability and saying “yes” to vulnerability is saying yes to stepping out of your comfort zone.
When you let yourself be yourself, you learn that you’re not indestructible. When you become vulnerable, you take the risk, instead of wondering.
Those thoughts that make you say no do still arise. What if I fail? What if I’m no good at it? What if I embarrass myself and others laugh at me?
But you take a deep breath, and you say yes anyway.
Vulnerability does not make you fearless.
It requires practice. It takes courage, every single time. You will still fear. But, that fear won’t hold you back.
When you do something scary, towards the end, you realize that it wasn’t that hard. It was the energy consumed in not being vulnerable that made it so hard.
How do you inculcate vulnerability in your life?
Don’t hold yourself back. Ask questions, express your opinion, confess what hurts you.
Say “yes” more often. Don’t let the fear in you stop you from going at something you know you should do.
Is it easy? No, of course not. It requires uncomfortable moments, rejections, courage, patience and practice.
For the split of a second, it’ll seem like the hardest thing to do.
Like the scariest thing you’ve ever done. Like a terrifying nightmare.
But after that, everything will become simplified.
You will make better connections. Your relationships will be more meaningful. You will accept yourself and will truly embrace your imperfections.
There’ll be no “What if?”
What if you dropped the need to protect yourself? What if you accepted that all of us go through struggle, learning and growth? What if you believed that regardless of your imperfections, you are worthy to be respected, valued and loved?
Drop that shiny, sparkly facade of who you are. You’ll be glad you did.
Start here. Start now.
Answer in the comment section below, share, what holds you back from being vulnerable in front of others?