What is Vulnerability?

JT - What makes you vulnerable, make you beautiful - Brené Brown

I am not sure about you, however vulnerability is one thing I have tried to avoid in my life! To be honest, I didn’t know what it was or what I was avoiding, pushing away or protecting, however I knew it was something deep down inside me that was uncomfortable, and well, showed my vulnerability (or feeling naked or exposed)…

It wasn’t until mindfulness found me, that I started peeling back my own layers of protection (i.e. armor) and then later the work of Dr Brené Brown, that the dots started connecting.

What Is This Thing Called Vulnerability?

To get some clarity on vulnerability, I discovered the following definitions –

  • the quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.” ~ Google
  • “the quality of being vulnerable (= able to be easily hurt, influenced, or attacked)” ~ Cambridge Dictionary

In the book Daring Greatly, Dr Brené Brown, writes that vulnerability is defined as –

“uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure” and “the core, the heart, the centre, of meaningful human experience.”

And goes on to write that –

“vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper or meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.” It is also indicated that “Vulnerability is the core of all emotions and feelings” (p.33).

As I read those sentences on vulnerability it brings home how courageous a journey it is to show up, be seen and truly be yourself. How about you? Also, there are some great vulnerability quotes here 🙂

Some Examples of Vulnerability…

Before I share some examples of vulnerability, I want to point out we are all unique and are on our own adventure or pilgrimage of life. Subsequently, what is challenging or vulnerable for one person is not for another and vice versa, as there are so many variables between us all including age, gender, cultural, environmental etc. Subsequently, it’s important to have a safe space around us – one that is supportive, open and non-judgmental around these vulnerabilities.

A few examples of vulnerability Brené refers to in Daring Greatly, include –

  • “Saying no”
  • Asking for help
  • “Standing up for myself”
  • “Calling a friend whose child has just died”
  • “The first date after my divorce”
  • “Getting fired”
  • “Falling in love”
  • “Getting pregnant after three miscarriages”
  • “Exercising in public, especially when I don’t know what I am doing and I’m out of shape”
  • “Admitting I’m afraid”
  • Being accountable” 
  • “Laying off employees” (p.36).

I don’t know about you, however I can relate to a number of those! Currently, the couple of areas I feel most vulnerable about are – starting to date again, this business and sharing in this journal (I can’t believe I just shared those). Trust me, it is a big deal and I feel it…

Vulnerability Feels Like…

As I stated above, we are all unique and therefore many of the feelings we feel in relation to vulnerability, are also unique to us as well. What do vulnerability feel like for you? For me, as I am currently writing about my vulnerabilities I feel my heart opening, a variety of sensations in my stomach and fear and relief. What is it for you?

A couple of examples of feelings of vulnerability Brené refers to in her book Daring Greatly, include –

  • “Not sucking it in anymore”
  • “Sweaty palms and a racing heart” 
  • “Taking off a straightjacket”
  • “It’s where courage and fear meet”
  • “Taking a the first step to what you fear the most”
  • “The terrifying point on a roller coaster when you’re about to tip over the edge and take the plunge”
  • “It feels so awkward and scary, but it makes me feel human and alive” (p.36).

Can you relate to any of those? I have come to realise that when learning to embody vulnerabilty, it’s important to be aware of vulnerability when it arises in the present moment, accept it wholly and be kind to your self (i.e. have self-compassion).

An Important Reminder on Vulnerability…

One thing I also enjoyed reading about in Daring Greatly about is Brené’s reference to vulnerability is the difference between “letting it all hang out” and true vulnerability. Brené talks about vulnerability being –

“…based on mutuality and requires boundaries and trust. It’s not oversharing, it’s not purging, it’s not indiscriminate disclosure and it’s not celebrity-style social media information dumps. Vulnerability is about sharing our feelings and our experiences with people who have earned the right to hear them. Being vulnerable and open is mutual and an integral part of the trust-building process” (p.45)

Have you read the book? If so, feel free to share any comments in the comments section below and remember to take care of yourself 🙂

Over to You…

If you would like to read any more about vulnerability, feel free to have a look at Dr Brené Brown’s book Daring Greatly. Also, if you require support around your mental health and wellbeing, please get the appropriate support.

If you are ready to reclaim your courage and take the next step towards freedom and opening your heart, why not join our Toolkit?

Reference –

Brown, B. (2012). Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. New York, USA: Penguin.

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