Vulnerability: weakness or bravery?
What comes to your mind when you hear the word “vulnerability”?
In my search for an answer, I asked a few friends and it was interesting to hear their completely opposite approaches: they either saw it as weakness or as bravery.
The perception of vulnerability as weakness lies in the origin of the word itself. “Vulnerable” is derived from the Latin word vulnerabilis "wounding" from the Latin verb vulnerare "to wound, hurt, injure, maim.” The Cambridge Dictionary definition of the word is not very encouraging either: “able to be easily hurt, influenced, or attacked.”
With such negative connotations attached to it, how can we then see vulnerability as something positive to foster in ourselves and others?
Well, the modern take on vulnerability is thankfully way more positive, and mostly because of vulnerability advocates like Brené Brown (whose famous TED Talk on vulnerability I can’t recommend enough). As Brené puts it "vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity."
Whether we like it or not, we are all suckers for connection. Connection is what gives our lives meaning and purpose: connection means feeling seen, heard and loved - but how can we truly connect with others if we are not our authentic selves?
Authenticity (the quality of being real or true) is scary. Authenticity confronts us with one of our greatest fears: rejection. Imagine going on a first date and sharing deep, personal stuff about yourself? Or saying you are having a shit day at work because you are going through a breakup? That is vulnerability.
If you had asked me about vulnerability just a couple of years ago, I would have totally been on the it’s a weakness team. But if you ask me now, I am fully convinced that vulnerability equals strength and it is the only way to form meaningful relationships. I have embraced it in my everyday life and in my daily interactions with others, and beautiful things have happened. Of course there have been moments of “why would I share that…?!” or “this is the reason why I got rejected” but I have also noticed how much more meaningful my relationships have become, and how showing my vulnerability has inspired others to be vulnerable with me, which made it all worth it.
After all, we are not here to play a role, live a life that is not ours or hide the things that make us who we are, including all the hurt, fears or self-doubt.
And so, I feel the best way to finish this article is with a quote from a Barbra Streisand’s song:
“People who need people are the luckiest people in the world. We're children, needing other children and yet letting a grown-up pride hide all the need inside.”