Why do we need to embrace vulnerability?

Vulnerability, like most things is on a continuum.  At one end, there are those of us that completely shy away from being vulnerable, and at the other end, those that are naively too vulnerable.  This most often plays out in our personal relationships with partners, family and friends but can spill over into workplace settings and other relationships.  But as with everything in life, there is a balance to be found.

Why does it happen?

We may have been hurt early in our lives by someone that we trusted or relied on. This emotional pain can result in an emotional shutting down.

Or, we may have had positive and reliable relationships. We may never have considered that trust needs to be earned. This may make us too open to emotional exploitation.

If we have reacted to being hurt (often unconsciously) by locking in our feelings, we are protecting ourselves emotionally. But this is not a psychologically healthy approach to take.  As people we need to feel connected to others, to feel heard and to feel a sense of belonging.

Burying emotions and presenting a façade is a coping strategy, yes, but one that puts us at long term risk of isolation. We may feel a bit numb and disconnected from others.  Many of the people that I work with start out in this emotionally detached state.

If we are too emotionally open and vulnerable by default, then we are a great risk of being hurt. Once this has happened, trust can be difficult to find again.  We might respond to this by shutting down.

How to gauge your vulnerability

Try and be aware of your own vulnerability.  Are you at either end of this continuum?  If so, then consider this:  we all need to be vulnerable to a degree.  Without vulnerability we cannot experience deep connection.  But others should earn our trust, so maybe the best approach is to open ourselves up a little bit at a time to others.  See how they handle your fear/shame/love/loyalty.  See whether they are deserving of your vulnerability.  Let them earn your trust, and when they do, be prepared to embrace vulnerability.

Brené Brown talks about the power of vulnerability here.

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