What is vulnerability, exactly?
Similar to sensitivity, many people assume that being vulnerable is a negative trait to carry. They think that being vulnerable coincides with being weak, naive, or even submissive. In the context of relationships, however, vulnerability actually requires quite a bit of strength and bravery. Vulnerability involves an openness that we don’t share with just anybody in our lives. Vulnerability requires letting your guard down and sharing your true, authentic self with someone you love. Essentially, vulnerability is showing up in your relationship with all of your flaws, insecurities, and fears, saying “this is me; I hope you can love me for who I am.”
Why do we fear vulnerability?
Vulnerability sounds great, right? Showing up, letting your guard down, living authentically. What’s not to love? Well, human beings are scared of vulnerability because we have a desire to be liked and to fit in. We worry that if we open up and show somebody we love the “less flattering” side of ourselves, they’ll reject and judge us. This fear provokes us to live inauthentically and hide our true selves. Unfortunately, we begin shying away from the intimacy that we crave.
Why is vulnerability our link to intimacy?
So we know what vulnerability is, and we know why it is we fear it. Ironically though, the very thing we’re scared of is what makes our relationships both successful and intimate. By being vulnerable, we emotionally expose ourselves; this emotional exposure allows our partners to know, understand and love us on a deeper level. The more authentic we are in our relationships, the more the quality of these relationships will improve. Yes, vulnerability is risky and intimidating, but it’s also the most crucial factor in creating an intimate relationship. What is the point to being loved if you’re not being loved for who you are?
How can you be vulnerable?
Embracing vulnerability may take some practice, especially if you were trained from a young age to share only the very “best” side of you. One of the most important ways to practice vulnerability is to state your needs. When we’re hurting, it’s easy to shut down and live the pain on our own. It’s tempting to put on a smile and to claim “I’m fine!”, instead of admitting: “I’m struggling, and here’s how you can help.”
In order to get your needs met and expose this side of yourself, you must first establish how you’re feeling. Get in tune with yourself, be aware of your feelings, and then share them with your partner. It’s okay to feel hurt, sad, irritated, angry, frustrated, etc. Exposing these feelings and sharing them with your loved one will allow you to connect on a deeper level, and help your relationship to flourish.
Practicing vulnerability can feel a lot like walking around naked. You’re exposing parts of yourself you’ve trained to keep hidden for so long. Because of this, there may be times when vulnerability might not seem worth the perks of intimacy. Contact me for help exploring how being vulnerable can positively impact your life and your relationships.