Do you have the courage to be vulnerable? A fair share of people don’t. If we dare to say the majority of people don’t, that would still be the correct statement, which is truly sad. Why? Because the vulnerability is the only path to genuine intimacy. But let’s get to that later.
People don’t like being vulnerable for different reasons. Some think that others will take advantage of their feelings and hurt them, while others are too proud to let their guard down and they like to present themselves as perfect, untouchable creatures while they are at the same time scared of losing that status.
The truth is, vulnerability is most commonly perceived as weakness. (1) Which is ironic, because we are all vulnerable, as the vulnerability is the core of all of our emotions. So, if we all have things we are sad for, afraid of, ashamed of and so on, are we then all weak? Or is no one weak? And how do you measure that weakness? By the width of the range of emotions one person experiences, or by the intensity of those feelings, or perhaps by their frequency? If that is so, do we take context into account or do we ignore it?
Do you see now, how ridiculous that sounds?
Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston and leading expert on vulnerability and shame, did a qualitative research where she asked her participants to finish the following sentence: “Vulnerability is ________.”
According to her book, “Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead”, these were some of the answers she got: “starting my own business; calling a friend whose child just passed away; trying something new; getting pregnant after having three miscarriages; admitting I’m afraid; having faith.” As she says, after reading this, “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage.”
So, if the vulnerability is in fact courage, can it be beneficial? Of course, it can.
List of Vulnerability and Shame related Benefits
When we speak about vulnerability, we usually put it in the context of social interaction. So, naturally, you might think that showing your fears, flaws and things you are ashamed of might improve your relationships with other people. You are right; it will. But, did you know it can also develop your relationship with yourself? Keep reading, and you will find out more on that topic soon.
It helps build intimacy in relationships
Opening up in front of your partner and pouring your deepest emotions out might seem scary, but it is necessary for healthy and lasting relationships. According to one of the most significant researchers in the history of psychology, John Bowlby, partners in a romantic relationship have a mutual need to nurture each other. They both switch the roles of caregiver and caretaker, and this can happen only if both of them are ready to show vulnerability and express their needs. (2)
As Dr. Brene Brown says, falling in love is the ultimate risk that tests our vulnerability. This is at the same time place where we will be almost certainly hurt and where we have to be our authentic selves to succeed. However, being vulnerable in romantic relationships allows us to open our heart to our partner, receive love, be accepted for who we are, build thrust, recognize our own needs and openly ask for what we want. (3)
It increases self-worth
Admitting you are vulnerable and you experience shame from time to time, just like anybody else will help you accept yourself for who you truly are. You won’t feel the need to compare yourself to others, and being open about your insecurities will give you a support network that will normalize your experience. When we are open about our vulnerabilities, we learn that other people feel the same way and when we have the confirmation that our needs are valid, we can receive the necessary support and learn how to deal with them.
Results of a recent study had shown that our efforts to verbally express our emotions pay off. Being honest and speaking up about what we feel, may help us overcome those negative feelings faster. (4)
It aids innovation and motivation
Probably the most surprising benefit of vulnerability and shame is the fact that it could help you at your office. Even though we believe that is the place where we should be the toughest, things are not that simple. Every time you bring up a new idea to your boss, at a meeting or propose any changes in firm’s tradition, you are demonstrating the vulnerability. This way, you engage, inspire innovation and show trust.
An organizational climate that supports each employee in a manner they can express their concerns and deal with challenging personal matters, helps them deal with their problems faster and therefore become focused at work again sooner. This can be done merely by encouraging empathy at the workplace. Acceptance is the key to success. Showing vulnerability also boosts the teamwork and helps employees identify with their leaders. (5)
It provokes compassion
Remember, you won’t always be the one demonstrating the vulnerability. From time to time, you will be the one witnessing someone else’s expression of various negative emotions that end in shame. In these moments, it is crucial that you show compassion, understanding and willingness to listen or simply be with the person who is suffering.
If you change the subject, offer a solution or tell the story of a similar experience that happened to you, you are not doing it right. By engaging in this behaviors, you are avoiding vulnerability. Most commonly, people just want you to listen and empathize with them; they are not seeking any advice. This might be uncomfortable, but that is your own courageous vulnerability being demonstrated right there. (6)
It is a call for accountability
Admitting you are vulnerable, demonstrates the fact you are ready to take accountability for your emotions, thoughts, and actions, without placing blame. It means that you are on an excellent path to recognize that the source of your troubles is not in other people but your interpretations of their behavior.
Once you stop being afraid to express yourself, you will take over the control of your life, instead of going where the flow of current events takes you.
Vulnerability means less loneliness
Pretending you are not vulnerable is like a self-fulfilling prophecy. You are pretending to be something you are not, to avoid disappointing people around you, but according to scientific studies, that is precisely what happens. Research done by Paula Niedenthal shows that people can detect our inauthenticity because they sympathize with us too profoundly. In fact, they even have a physiological reaction to fake behavior. A study done by James Gross found that inauthenticity and our efforts to hide our feelings, can cause a spike in other person’s blood pressure. This may explain why we feel inexplicable discomfort around people we consider to be fake.
On the other hand, showing vulnerability relieves our true self, which attracts the people who can understand our problems and concerns and offer support.
What do you think, does vulnerability pay off?
There's one great way to test it. Take our 30 Days of Brave Challenge. It will take you to the edge of your fear and vulnerabilities and then lovingly nudge you to explore what's on the other side. Over 200,000 souls have been brave enough to accept the challenge. Join them today.