How Being Vulnerable Strengthens You
“Vulnerability is the only authentic state. Being vulnerable means being open, for wounding, but also for pleasure…Don’t mask or deny your vulnerability: it is your greatest asset.” – Stephen Russell
Vulnerability is interesting. We admire when someone is vulnerable. We say, “They’re real.” But many of us are uncomfortable being vulnerable ourselves. How is it that we appreciate the humanity in others, but are reluctant to share our humanity? I believe it’s because we still have a view of vulnerability as a weakness. We’re okay if someone else shares their weakness, but we are not okay sharing ours.
If we unpack that a little more, we might find that we’re even magnetized when others reveal they feel “weak, helpless, or powerless,” because then we can step in and offer them support, i.e., because we’re strong. The other person’s weakness somehow makes us feel better about our own weaknesses, those same weaknesses that we hide behind a veil.
How is it that the vulnerable one becomes stronger? Because being vulnerable means being authentic. The person who is vulnerable is not pretending to have their stuff together all the time. They are honest with themselves, and they are honest with others. And that authenticity enables them to know themselves, to accept themselves, and to love themselves.
Pretense is a heavy load to bear. The hard armor used to fortify and protect also keeps out exactly what we’re yearning for – love, support, understanding, compassion, and connection.
The vulnerable person knows their strengths and limitations. They have the freedom to fail and get back up again. They can ask for help when they need it and receive help when it’s offered. There is no façade they must maintain. In their vulnerability lie strength and liberty.
The full quote by Stephen Russell is:
“Vulnerability is the only authentic state. Being vulnerable means being open, for wounding, but also for pleasure. Being open to the wounds of life means also being open to the bounty and beauty. Don’t mask or deny your vulnerability: it is your greatest asset. Be vulnerable: quake and shake in your boots with it. the new goodness that is coming to you, in the form of people, situations, and things can only come to you when you are vulnerable, i.e. open.”
Many of us are afraid of being vulnerable (i.e., open) because we fear being hurt, taken advantage of, or losing something we perceive we’ve gained. But isn’t it true that even if we do not reveal our vulnerability, we can still experience hurt, be taken advantage of, or lose some things we’ve gained? Vulnerability or the lack thereof does not shield us from any of that. What vulnerability does is it gives us the space to learn from a situation, to not harden our hearts, to not carry those wounds as eternal baggage, closing us off from the bounty that comes from those hard-fought lessons. Vulnerability frees us and that freedom grants us even greater opportunities to strengthen ourselves and to inspire and strengthen others.
Recently, I was honored along with fourteen other women leaders for a media industry Wonder Woman award. This award is given to exceptional women leaders who have blazed trails, are changing their companies, and helping to evolve the industry. As each of the honorees took the stage to accept their awards, many shared personal stories of dealing with impostor syndrome, of times they couldn’t do it all, and when they needed to ask for help. They thanked mentors and those who took a chance on them, those who helped them become successful leaders and even recover from mistakes. They revealed their vulnerability.
I shared how I had sat in the audience in previous years, admiring honorees, never imagining that I’d be standing there one day to receive the honor. I thought to myself, there is likely some other person sitting in the audience admiring the women on stage, as I had done. And how sharing our authentic stories could let that person know that vulnerability and imperfection are not to be hidden for they are strengths.
“This is the paradox of vulnerability: When we open our true (and often flawed) selves to others, it is THEN that we can appreciate how vulnerability is, in fact, a commanding act of courage and strength.” – Natalie Stamey
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With love and authenticity,
Learn My Story