Do You Struggle To Be Vulnerable?
Vulnerable. It’s a word that makes many of us cringe. According to the dictionary, it means you are ‘susceptible to physical or emotional attack.’ While I don’t prefer to begin writing by defining a word, I had to emphasize the meaning of vulnerability because it really sounds just as horrible as it’s perceived to be. The word certainly isn’t synonymous with strength; and as Black women, we’re taught and molded to be strong. So displaying any signs other than those of strength used to seem borderline criminal to me. That is until I realized that by not allowing myself to be vulnerable, I was missing out on a lot. I soon learned that being unguarded sometimes didn’t mean I was weak. In fact, it meant quite the opposite. And once I understood this, things began to change for the better.
To be vulnerable means to let your guard down; and if you’ve lived long enough to feel any type of pain, you have an idea of what exposing yourself can do. I don’t know too many people who are waiting in line to get hurt, ridiculed, judged or rejected. I’m certainly not. This is why for years I kept one foot in and one foot out of every situation, figuring that this was the best way to be protected. As a result, I was shielding myself from great things as well. It took me a while to realize that being vulnerable is a part of growing and evolving, and if I chose not to let my guard down, I couldn’t experience the fullness of my life.
Vulnerability requires you to show yourself to others, knowing that there is a chance that you won’t get a positive response. The reality is that some people will reject you after you’ve put yourself out there, whether professionally or romantically; but the alternative is to shield yourself, hiding behind an imaginary curtain, never getting the chance to fully live and love. If you are going hard to prevent yourself from feeling pain you, could also be stopping yourself from feeling something good (i.e., a romantic relationship, a new job, new opportunities, etc.).
National best-selling author and psychologist Brene Brown said it best: “What makes you vulnerable, makes you beautiful.” Think about it. The things that you don’t openly show everyone are the traits that make you unique. And this is what allows us to stand apart, create personalized relationships, get the job promotion, or simply feel good about authentically being ourselves. It’s because we offer something different.
Even reggae icon Bob Marley got it. He’s quoted as saying that “being vulnerable is the only way to allow your heart to feel true pleasure.” Vulnerability means telling someone how you really feel, even if you’re unsure about whether or not they feel the same way about you. It’s putting your creative work out to the public, knowing that Internet thugs are usually always working and will possibly scrutinize you.
According to Brown, in her book Daring Greatly, because we often associate vulnerability with weakness, we lose sight of the fact that it is also the birthplace of joy, belonging, creativity, authenticity, and love. For years I restricted myself from showing others who I really was because I was afraid of rejection. In relationships, I was too afraid to show too much affection. I’m sure you can probably figure out how all that worked out for me. Here’s a hint: I was single for years. Professionally, I was too nervous to take on new projects in fear of being rejected. I missed out on quite a few opportunities because of my apprehensiveness.
Now I try to live by a vulnerability creed that calls for me to show more of myself even when it’s not comfortable. As a result, my relationships have gotten better. The door has also been opened up to more chances to do great things. And although I’m currently single, since I let down my guard, I’ve been in amazing relationships and my dating life is better. I’ve gotten more opportunities at work, and honestly, I just feel better about myself. It’s the funniest thing: When you put yourself out there for others to judge, you learn to love yourself more, flaws and all.