If you ask someone what vulnerability means, you could get a multitude of answers. Most people I know grew up with the impression “vulnerability” was a weakness. The dictionary will tell you it’s “the quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.” I see how that definition could be translated into a weakness. However, it’s anything but a weakness.
The world we live in certainly has portrayed feelings or hurt as something that makes you less than when the whole time it’s been the other way around. Society has positioned us to not come off too strong to people we like or we shouldn't express ourselves out of fear of being a burden. This view truly rears its head in the emotional gender roles displayed in professional and personal relationships, especially in the dating world.
Brene Brown (who we love) defines vulnerability as “uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.” If you haven't seen her TED Talk, you should. Vulnerability isn’t when you just make yourself open to an attack. It’s what you have when you decide to finally ask someone out, ask for a raise at work, confront someone about how they hurt you, ask for help when you need it, tell anyone how you feel when it’s scary, or to have any of those necessary but uncomfortable conversations life throws at us that we want to run away from. At the end of the day, it’s our greatest strength.
Before I came out five years ago, I was moved by a scene in the film, Jenny’s Wedding. It’s about a woman who’s been openly gay in life except to her parents and has to tell her family after getting engaged. At one point her brother says, “Has it ever occurred to you that, if you spend your life lying to people about who you are, you never get to know who they are?” It hit me like a brick wall but it’s true. If we continue to hide our authentic selves or struggle without asking for help, we don’t give people close to us the chance to show us how much they really love us. It was true. When coming out to people, I was reminded of that moment in the movie. Every time someone responded well when I thought they wouldn’t, I truly learned more about who they were. I felt more connected and more love from them in those moments. If I hadn’t stepped out, I never would’ve had the opportunity to see it or feel it. I would’ve carried around a perception of them that isn’t true and isn’t fair to them. It applies to all kinds of situations whether it be coming to your partner with feelings you’ve had about something, wanting to go a new direction in life, not knowing what your next step is, etc.
If I’m honest, every time I’ve felt the most loved is when I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone and ultimately received such a warm response in return. It’s when I finally admitted I was struggling that my friends stepped up to do everything they could to help. It’s been when I had hard conversations with people but then our relationship became better on the other side. It’s having a friend answer the phone as you have a breakdown. It’s truly freeing to be open and honest as much as you can so you don’t carry those burdens, or at least carry them alone. It truly leads to being able to live lighter and have closer, healthier relationships. Let’s celebrate the light and uplift the dark in all of us. If you’ve ever been told or conditioned differently, don’t listen. Vulnerability is in.