Most people hear the term vulnerable and they shudder, it is a word that has the ability to automatically incite negativity, discomfort, anxiety and fear in many. Clearly the age old nursery rhyme, sticks and stones may break my bones but words could never hurt me did not take this word into account. The term vulnerable by definition means “susceptible to physical and emotional attack or harm”. It’s no surprise that people are not in a rush to put themselves in situations that foster this feeling. Vulnerability prevents many people from showing the world who they are, the talents they possess, their oddities and quirks; but what’s even worse is some are afraid to experience it in an effort to uncover their true and authentic selves. Today, the term authentic has become a household staple, everywhere you turn someone is talking about it. It is tightly woven into every avenue of mainstream media and marketing campaigns have capitalized on its use. Studies show that 90% of consumers indicated that authenticity is an important factor in deciding which brands they like and prefer brands that are real and organic as opposed to those appearing perfect and well-packaged. This word, authentic, is comforting because it is valuable, it is positive, it is the real deal. So how can vulnerability help you uncover your authenticity? Before diving into that let’s take a look into what drives our vulnerability.
Yin-Yang - Victory and Defeat, Strength and Weakness, Shame and Pride, Fear and Courage
This philosophical concept of duality describes how opposite forces are interconnected and may actually be complementary. Meaning if there is joy, there is sadness, if there is love, there is hate and if there is victory, there is defeat. Because life is messy and complicated we all have tasted the sweetness of victory, that feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction; but it hasn’t come without knowing the agony of defeat, of experiencing failure and disappointment, injuring our pride. So why is one harder to process, harder to accept, than the other? Well the answer is simple – shame and fear! No one wants to be known as the ‘loser’ because we have been taught by society that losing is weakness and we should be ashamed of being weak. This shame is fueled by fear, fear of judgment and blame, which in our minds diminishes our value and worthiness replacing them with inadequacies and flaws. Many of us prefer to risk happiness, to risk love, to risk success, to risk authenticity because to achieve those things we must accept that we could be rejected or hurt and that frightens us to our core. Understanding the delicate balance between victory and defeat, strength and weakness, shame and pride, fear and courage; seeing them as the Yin and Yang and accepting there cannot be one without the other is what allows us to drop our guards, be all in, show up and be seen for who we authentically are. This is vulnerability! A person is at their greatest emotional strength when they choose to be vulnerable. This is because deeper, authentic emotional connections are created when we have been kind enough to ourselves to accept our imperfections and have the courage to tell the story of who we are with our whole hearts. Taking off the mask of who we think we should be in order to be who we are. This is authenticity!
How to use your vulnerability to be authentically you?
Vulnerability causes us to falsely view the world around us through divisions and separations rather than relations and connections. There isn’t anyone in the world who has not experienced the seven unpleasant feelings of dealing with life’s challenges, sadness, shame, helplessness, anger, embarrassment, disappointment, and frustration all leaving us vulnerable. The key is to shift the way you view vulnerability from a negative to a positive. Ask yourself how can I use my vulnerability as a strength versus a weakness? In her book, Daring Greatly, Dr. Brené Brown, an author and research professor at the University of Houston who spent the past two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy discusses two powerful principles;
- Vulnerability is the core of shame, fear and struggle for worthiness
- Vulnerability is the birthplace of joy, creativity, belonging and love
In order to convert the fear of vulnerability into the power of authenticity you first must accept those two principles, one cannot exist without the other. Once you have accepted this you can begin to reap the benefits of being vulnerable. These benefits include
- Strengthening your relationships
- Learning and growth
- Expansion of gratitude
- Validation of your worth
Here at the Dismas Home of New Hampshire, we encourage all of our residents and staff to do some soul-searching, to work on turning your vulnerability into a superpower. The rewards outweigh the risks. “Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” – Dr. Brené Brown