This is a concept I've been working on the last year or so, but up until this past weekend it wasn't completely clear to me what it meant to be vulnerable.
I thought being vulnerable meant sharing all the parts of you - not just the pretty and polished pieces, but the imperfect ones as well. I imagined being vulnerable looked like me saying how I really felt when someone asked "How are you?" (not always "I'm good!") and letting myself cry in front of my therapist, or my friends. Or filming a Facebook live without doing my hair. Or wearing a bikini even though I felt far from bikini ready.
More than anything else, vulnerability felt like pain. It felt like exposing a wound, or airing dirty laundry, or blindly trusting when you shouldn't have.
At this weekend's Rockstar Coaching Collective retreat, we listened to an interview with vulnerability expert, Dr. Brené Brown, where she shared her definition of vulnerability.
Vulnerability does not necessarily equal pain.
It does not necessarily equal disclosure (ie sharing EVERYTHING).
And expressing vulnerability does not make someone weak.
In fact, in her research Brené found that vulnerability is the "birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy and creativity." And it's essential for true leadership.
Vulnerability is defined as uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure.
So what is the difference between vulnerability that leads us to feeling a sense of joy, creativity, etc, and vulnerability that exposes us to harm?
There is no cut and dry answer here - only YOU can assess when to be vulnerable.
Sometimes sharing something personal, something raw or something real can be the catalyst for deepening a relationship, or moment of enlightenment. And sometimes that very share can be where someone gets in and hurts you, where you feel betrayed or simply embarrassed.
As the definition states with vulnerability there is risk of being hurt. There is uncertainty of the outcome. And almost always you're exposing yourself emotionally, for better or for worse.
Maybe you've heard the saying:
"The cracks are where the light gets in."
Your damage, your fears, your feelings - that's what makes you human. And ultimately as humans we want to feel like we're not in this alone. That the things we feel and fear are not just in our heads - that we share these experiences with others.
If we had none of those things, if we were perfect and whole and without "flaws" we wouldn't be human. We'd be robots. And I don't know about you but I don't want to cuddle up with a robot at night, or call a robot and talk about my day. Or go out dancing with a robot... you get the idea.
Perfection is boring. Sure it may be safe, but it's boring. Twists and turns and complexities make us dynamic, interesting and human, and allow us to connect on a real level.
So back to vulnerability - you get to choose who you're vulnerable with. Choose wisely. You don't need to share all your stuff with everyone. It's okay to say you're okay if you don't feel like telling your grandma about the messy break up you just went through.
But remember all of that good that can come from being vulnerable. The connection. The empathy. The love.
It may be scary, especially if you're used to NOT sharing, but I want to encourage you to feel the fear and do it anyways, within reason that is. You may be surprised at what your grandma knows about messy break ups :)