Just recently I chose to get vulnerable with someone I don’t know that well. I want to build a relationship with this person, and last week something happened which annoyed me. I could have said nothing, and stewed about it or I could have said nothing and tried to let it go, while staying resentful. Or I could have told them all about it, blamed them, and made them wrong.
All great choices if I was still governed by my dysfunctional patterning from my past.
Instead I chose to try another route. I chose vulnerability and told them how I felt about it, and what I liked instead.
Was it uncomfortable? Yes! Was it awkward? A little bit! Was I worried it could have ruined things for any potential friendship or relationship in the future? Oh yes, all these things went through my mind!
But I decided it was worth getting vulnerable to try to build this relationship into something worth having. I received a positive response, and I breathed a sigh of relief.
So just what is vulnerability? The dictionary describes it as being “capable of being open to moral attack, criticism or assault”. If this is what it is, why on earth would anyone want to expose themselves to the possibility of this kind of treatment?
Being vulnerable shows that you have the capacity to be true to yourself, share yourself, and hold your own. In my experience, most people don’t know themselves well enough to be able to handle being truly vulnerable. It takes a serious amount of self-awareness, self-esteem and self-trust to show others who we really are, knowing that we could be hit by their attack, assault or criticism.
So how do we show our vulnerability, and survive to tell the tale?
- Firstly, know yourself. Know who you are, what you are feeling, and why. This is often not so easy to do. Our world is structured to blame, project and point the finger. When someone annoys you it’s easy to think the problem is them, and instead of getting vulnerable and sharing what’s really going on for you, we make it about them and what they did or said. But what if it is nothing to do with them? What if it is all about you? When you can look at the situation, get real with yourself, and ask inside “why do I so feel annoyed?”, “what am I really feeling?”, then you’ve made a start on self-awareness.
- Know that you are a valuable human being with a right to how you feel. And you also have the right to tell someone how you are feeling. There’s no pointing the finger when you use an “I” statement. Most people say “you did this or that” or even worse “you made me …”. This is not effective.
- Grab a hold of your self-trust and speak up. Know deep down inside that to expose yourself, your feelings, and what is important to you, means you can handle it. No matter what comes back at you, feel secure in what you know and believe about yourself and how it impacted you. No one can argue with your feelings.
- Tell them what you really like instead. Or, make a request if you want something different. They may say no, but you’ll never know if you don’t ask.
Vulnerability is a skill, and a tool, that heals and builds intimate and trusting relationships. When we own what is true for us, and describe that to someone else we build confidence. You are also building your self-esteem. If you are faced with criticism, assault or attack, don’t take it personally. Most people are not used to this level of honesty. Instead, you can be a model for them, and you’ll be surprised how others will respond kindly and with love, instead of attack.
I have found in my life that when I get underneath my annoyance about a certain situation, and really look at what I’m feeling, open up and express it, it is met with gentleness and compassion. When I am vulnerable, something different from what I expect, always shows up.
So, take a chance, step into your vulnerability, and see what happens.