Shifting our Perception of Vulnerability

What is the first thing you think of when you hear the word, vulnerability?  The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines vulnerable as, “easily hurt or harmed physically, mentally, or emotionally.”  I can imagine that initially you may perceive feeling vulnerable as a sign of weakness…and certainly, something to avoid!  In the book, “Daring Greatly,” Brene Brown helps to transform our understanding of the word “vulnerability.”   Her contribution is her ability to communicate how we can choose to reach our fullest potential by embracing our vulnerability.

Can you think of a time when you felt uncertain or emotional exposed?  In a survey, people responded to the question, “Vulnerability is _________.”  “Waiting for the biopsy to come back,” “Starting my own business,” “Asking for help,” or “Saying, “I love you,” first and not knowing if I’m going to be loved back.”

Life brings us many opportunities to experience feeling vulnerable.  This is not an “optional” or avoidable emotion for anyone.  To be human is to be vulnerable.  “Vulnerability is the core of all emotions and feelings.  To feel is to be vulnerable.  To believe vulnerability is weakness is to believe that feeling is weakness.”  It is as though, we are turning our back on our human condition, and not accepting ourselves or reality.

Why do we struggle with vulnerability?  Why are we so afraid?  Vulnerability can be traced back to feelings associated with shame and fear.  Fear of disconnection and not belonging.  Our egos attempt to protect us by fighting, blaming, controlling, perfecting, and comparing.  This “armor” created by our egos intends to ward off the threat of the exposure of, “…is there something about me that if people see it I won’t be worthy of connection?”  Reflect…in what ways do I “armor” myself in attempts to a make myself “bulletproof?”

“Leaning in to Discomfort” to Create Connection

We are all “hardwired” for connection and belonging, “Connection is why we are here…it gives purpose and meaning to our lives.”  Our essence, our highest self, knows that we are all connected to each other and the Source of Life.

If we begin to cultivate our awareness, we can recognize these feelings of vulnerability as opportunities to create connection.  “Vulnerability is not weakness, and the uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure we face every day are not optional.  Our choice is a question of engagement.  Our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our purpose; the level to which we protect ourselves from being vulnerable is a measure of our fear and disconnection.”  Will you accept the opportunity to make a conscious choice by, “leaning in to the discomfort?”

Cultivating a “Wholehearted” Life

“Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness.”  The shift in our perception of vulnerability takes place when we understand and accept the purpose of vulnerability.  Vulnerability is the, “birthplace of joy…creativity…belonging…love.”  Through acts of courage and compassion for ourselves and others, we can cultivate a “wholehearted” life.

Imagine that opening up to vulnerability and imperfection is our “ticket to connection,” as well as the key to stepping in to our fullest selves.  When we come from a belief that, “we are enough,” we are able to “stop screaming and start listening.”  This transformation allows us to be, kinder and gentle to the people around us…and gentler with ourselves.  Our awareness of the necessity of vulnerability and its purpose in the healing of our emotional wounds enables us to, “live authentically, lovingly and joyfully in relation to ourselves and others.”  The universe is inviting us all to shift our perception of vulnerabilty to, “I am just so grateful because to feel this vulnerable means I am alive.”

If the thought of being vulnerable is challenging to you, and you would like to use that challenge to find a way to step further into your Fullest Potential, please join me for my next Book Discussion Group.  During this group we will explore how we all may take the risk to be vulnerable and learn to Dare Greatly!


Ashley Allain, LMHC