From quite a young age, we are often vehemently taught by our parents, teachers, coaches, mentors and peers how to NOT be vulnerable: How to protect ourselves from all of the people (out there) that want to take advantage of, hurt, defeat, or steal from us. Of course, a certain amount of awareness and training as to how to protect oneself against those (out there) who are of true ill intent is essential but there can also be negative impacts to an out of balance sense of needing to shield oneself from the whole world.
One of my mentors drilled into my seven-year-old mind to never trust anyone, especially women, that everyone will want to take advantage of me for my money and success, so I must be impenetrable, invincible. For many years, one of the ways this teaching manifested in me was a perceived need to be quite distant and cold in certain relationships, particularly business ones but often personal as well. I always felt that I needed to project the image of ultimate success, strength and independence no matter how I truly felt inside, which was often quite the opposite, dictating that I kept people at a safe distance. Allowing myself to be vulnerable, emotional, and exposed was “not an option” for me: therefore, for many years, I did not engage in complete relationships.
The turning point for me was during my second nervous breakdown just over six years ago, I began to reach out to friends and family in a way I had never before, completely revealing my deepest trauma, pain, fears and anxieties to them in the interest of no longer hiding from life and love. The experience was so incredibly freeing and fulfilling and initiated such a deepening of my relationships that I haven’t looked back since. I now relish the opportunity to be vulnerable with people and equally the opportunity to provide people with a safe space to be vulnerable with me, if they so choose. The awesome power of people simply being able to be vulnerable with each other without judgement is something to behold: the healing, communion, and insight that comes forth is unlike anything else I’ve even seen.
I have learned that one of the key determiners of a successful vulnerability exchange is the receivers ability to quietly yet actively listen and not offer any advice unless it is explicitly asked for. What is most needed by the one who is sharing is simply to be heard and understood, that - is - all.
Ultimately, we must be aware that not everyone has the capability to hear, hold, reflect and respond to our vulnerability in an evolutionary way, so after some experimentation, we develop our intuition as to with who and when our vulnerability can be truly and safely received.
In the past I often felt, as I believe a lot of us do, that if I was to be vulnerable and talk about my pain, fears, hopes, etc, that I would be perceived to be weak, small, a mess, immature, not a man, you name it. In contrast, when someone is able to be vulnerable with me, I see in them nothing but courage, strength, insight and love and am filled with total admiration for them.
In our courage to be vulnerable despite our fear, we find true strength.
Gratefully, I now know, that without the ability to be vulnerable, we miss out on a huge juicy chunk of this beautiful thing called life.