The Art of Being Vulnerable

Being vulnerable is a bitch.

Oh wait, let me refine that. Vulnerability is a bitch, and the act of allowing oneself to be vulnerable is probably the single most challenging emotional process a human being must endure*. Because everything else – mommy issues, daddy issues, codependency, insecurity, blah blah blah – depend on a person allowing him- or herself to be vulnerable enough to get to the heart of the matter and uncover them. Being vulnerable is the beginning of the everything – and lack thereof can be the end.

*SHOULD endure. I mean you don’t HAVE to do it, but you’re doing yourself – and those who love you – a great disservice by building walls. Or maintaining them. Or whatever.

vul-ner-able [vuhl ner uh buh l] capable or susceptible to being wounded or hurt, as by a weapon

The very definition of “vulnerable” explains why it’s so hard to be just that. I mean, “susceptible to being wounded or hurt”? Forget it. I don’t want to be wounded or hurt. Especially not by a weapon, and as someone who has been prone on occasion* to a rapid-fire response with an acid tongue, I am well aware of how just how weapon-like and painful mere words can be.

*Maybe more than on occasion. Which I am working on.

You might ask, “Why do I need to be vulnerable?” Or you might say, “I AM vulnerable! I talk about my feelings!” And you’re really self-righteous in the work you think you’re doing, and you dismiss this post entirely, and stop reading. Because you feel really comfortable and safe in the space you’re in, and you don’t need anyone and no one needs you and you’re totally fine on your own*.

*You’re not.

Alternatively you might say, “I don’t WANT to be vulnerable!”* and keep reading anyway, because you’re curious.

*Sort of petulantly, because it takes work, and you’re not sure you’re really ready to work, but you kind of want to see what happens.

But what would happen if you were? What would it be like if you let someone in, and just showed them who you were* and decided that whatever they thought and however they reacted would just BE what it is – good, bad or otherwise – and just went for it anyway?

*Likely with both a touch of defiance and more than a little trepidation, as if to DARE someone to challenge or question what you’ve kept so carefully tucked away in the recesses of your heart for so long and have finally, selectively, chosen to share.

A sample list of Things That Might Happen follows:

1. You could be rejected. I mean, like straight up run away rejected, guy-gets-up-from-table-mid-bite-of-burger-claiming-E-coli-and-leaves rejected*. That could sort of suck.

*And I’m not suggesting that be “being vulnerable” you lay all your cards out on the table on the first date**.

**Which I have done. Like sort of inadvertently and unfortunately, but it’s true. Learn from my mistakes, kids, and save it for a while. No need to emotionally vomit all over prospective partners immediately.

2. You could be judged, with a look or a snort or a word. However mildly or harshly doesn’t matter – being judged doesn’t feel good, and it might make you gunshy to being vulnerable in the future*.

*That’s the thing about vulnerability, and why it’s a bitch: It’s not like you open your heart and emotions once and you’re done. You have to be willing to do it over…and over…and over…and then again, when you think you’ve given your all, because you are never done growing and giving.

3. You could have that feeling/emotion/situation/thought process reciprocated and validated. Someone might tell you they are oh-my-God-so-glad-you-told-me-so-I’m-not-the-only-one* grateful that they talked to you and appreciate you saying it first.

*This tends to be me, because I think it’s important to validate others AND I am always so grateful when someone else is willing to work on their shit, too.

4. You could be given a supportive ear. Not empathy, not sympathy, not pity, but just…an ear. Someone could simply say, “I hear you.” And that could be enough.

5. (And this is a big one…) You could be loved. Unconditionally loved. Heard, supported, validated, and loved. Someone could say, “I already know you. I knew you when we met. I was just waiting for you to tell me. And I’m glad you did.”

So yeah, some of the options are kinda bleak. But the thing is, when you run out the options, wouldn’t you rather try, and hope for the best, than stay within your little walls and assume the worst? Your walls are safe, but they are not kind. Your walls keep you carefully contained, but they do not allow you to grow. They protect your heart and mind from everyone outside of you, including those who would – and want to – love you.

Are those walls worth the maintenance required to keep everyone out – or would it be worth a little energy to let them in?

The Art of Being Vulnerable is this: It takes a little intention, a lot of emotion, and a huge amount of humility to accept whatever might come of it. The recipient of vulnerability who isn’t accepting either isn’t ready or isn’t right. Either of those is equally as acceptable as the other, and must be acknowledged as a part of this process.

But when it is right…the rewards are huge. When you meet someone who says they love you as you are, you are free to just be. Because someone will say it, and you’ll sink into that person as easily as anything you’ve ever experienced, and your fears will dissipate, and you will know the true meaning of acceptance, and love.

It won’t always be right, but it might be, and that’s a risk I’m willing to take.

At the end of the day, is there much more that we can offer other than our willingness be vulnerable?

I think not.

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