Finding Strength in Vulnerability

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Putting yourself in a place of vulnerability is not easy; it is courageous and brave. It’s time to challenge the definition of vulnerability that focuses on being exposed to attack or harm. It’s one that encourages us to dwell on negative consequences, on the wounds and shame we fear, rather than to embrace the strength that vulnerability can lead us to.

I used to fear vulnerability, without even realising it. I thought I was strong and independent by keeping my emotions close to my chest, but looking back I now know that I was weaker for being afraid of expressing my inner challenges. Putting on a brave face isn’t the same as being brave; keeping feelings locked away isn’t a way to stay strong, it’s a way to mask shame. There’s still room for me to grow, but I am now stronger, braver and more confident than I have ever been. I’m also more open and I know when to be vulnerable. I want to share with you how vulnerability doesn’t expose weakness, but instead creates strength.

Why we fear vulnerability

Being vulnerable can hurt because, at first, we need to expose the wound. We naturally defend ourselves against our fears. Renowned psychotherapist Joseph Burgo has identified four types of shame, which he says influence these defenses. These are:

  1. Unrequited love
  2. Unwanted exposure
  3. Disappointed expectation
  4. Exclusion

Have you ever felt like a failure because you didn’t achieve what you set out to do? That’s #3. Or felt rejected because you weren’t invited to a social event? #4. Perhaps you know what it is like to love someone who doesn’t love you back (#1), or have been humiliated when a mistake you made was shared at work (#2). We don’t like how these feel, so we do what we can to avoid them. We avoid shame, so we avoid vulnerability.

Where those fears come from

Feelings of shame often begin in childhood. Something as simple as hearing “don’t be silly” or “stop crying” when you’re upset can have a significant lasting effect if repeated frequently. Having emotions belittled or punished can create shame and this often comes from a place where the adults you spent time with when you were younger struggled to talk about or process emotions themselves. There is a need to break this shame cycle, to address these fears. The way to do it is to allow ourselves to be vulnerable.

it’s time to break the shame cycle

What we gain from vulnerability

“Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.”

Brene Brown

In the past, I’ve blogged about what depression, perfectionism and epilepsy have all meant to me. Earlier this year, I took vulnerability a step further by sharing with a group of people I had met that day my insecurities and hopes for personal growth (it was a coaching demo and I was the client!). These moments have taken me far outside of my comfort zone, but that liberated feeling I get from stretching myself has been far more fulfilling than staying in my own head.

From what I understand about vulnerability, this is what we have to gain from being vulnerable in the right moments:

  • greater self-confidence
  • reduced anxiety
  • deeper connections with others
  • improved self-awareness
  • renewed focus on goals
  • increased resilience

Embracing vulnerability

step outside of your comfort zone

Finding strength through vulnerability takes time and practice. It is not something that will happen in a single event, but through opportunity, habit and openness, you will continue to gain from the experiences.

There is no right or wrong way forward, but these are 4 steps that will take you toward embracing vulnerability:

  1. Recognise what vulnerability looks like for you
  2. Accept that shame is a normal emotion
  3. Challenge yourself not to give into the fear
  4. Know when the time is right

We don’t need to be vulnerable all the time and with everyone to find strength from it. Choose to be open with those closest to you, those who can provide confidential support, or those you want to build closer relationships with. These steps are not straightforward, so take time to understand what vulnerability means to you. It can help to talk to a friend, relative, coach or therapist. We need to be able to trust and that doesn’t just mean in others.

Remember, it’s not weak to ask for help, to struggle, to not know where you’re going or to not understand your emotions. Feeling weak doesn’t mean we can’t use our strengths, nor is it something to be ashamed of. Being able to express what is going on for you and accepting what you’re going through are signs of strength.

If there is one thing you do, switch the words “weak” and “vulnerable” for “strong”, “courageous” and “brave”. Change the way you think about yourself… and change the way you experience the world.

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8 thoughts on “Finding Strength in Vulnerability

  1. I really should start finding the strength in vulnerability.
    Thank you for sharing your personal insights! Not many bloggers are able to do it nowadays.
    I also loved how well you are able to express your opinions- so clear and effective.
    I wouldn’t wanna miss your future articles so I have decided to follow your blog. 🙂

    1. Thank you for both your comment and follow! I am really pleased that you have found this useful and that you would like to stay connected. I will of course continue to share some of my own personal journey alongside insights and advice 🙂

      1. It’s my pleasure, Stevie! 🙂
        I would be eagerly waiting for your future posts!
        Since you have such beautiful writing, would you mind checking out my blog once? Your feedback will be invaluable to me. Thank you!

  2. Very interesting observations.
    I’d like to add that at the base of these positive views, has to be our choice to stay present to our (vulnerable) experience first. If we are in an experience, I feel the first step is to fully experience it. When we do it dissolves and we are free to positively orient.

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