The best aspect of being human is to be able to connect with other humans. We are hardwired for it. We live in clans and families, work in unions, love as mates and thrive in camaraderies. The urge to connect is in all of us whether we concede it or not.
We are witnessing more loneliness, despairs, broken relationships and disconnections. What is going on?
Susceptibility is the driving force of connection. It is intrepid and tender. It is difficult to connect without it.
However, we have turned it into a drawback.
We have made ourselves ‘strong’. We have toughened up, hardened up and preserved ourselves from being hurt. We have safeguarded ourselves from vulnerability and refused to surrender. Here is the problem. When we close down our vulnerability we are shielded from hurt, but we are also shielded from love, intimacy and connection. They come to us through the same door. When we close it to one, we close it to all.
Without vulnerability, relationships struggle. Vulnerability is, Here I am – my frayed edges, my secrets, my fears, my affection. Be careful – they’re precious. In return, it invites, I see you there. It’s okay, you’re safe. It builds trust, proximity and a sense of belonging. Relationships won’t thrive without it.
Vulnerability is the openness to experiences, people and uncertainty. It’s terrifying at times, and brave enough always.
Occasionally we get hurt. Relationship pain is an unavoidable part of being human. When it happens it can steal you. But we can see this for what it is – a mismatch of people, a redirection, learning, a happening – or we can take it as a warning and protect ourselves from the possibility of being hurt again. In this case, we make the decision to not be vulnerable.
We shut it down. By shutting down to the risks of being vulnerable, we also shut down to the possibilities – the possibility of joy, intimacy, closeness, gratitude and connection.
Listen to and move towards what you really want. It’s that voice that speaks from intuition, experience and things unsaid. It’s the signal, sometimes faint sometimes not, to love openly and honestly and receive it gratefully. And to walk away when it’s gone. Move towards what you want and be vulnerable to the risk – it’s the bravest thing you’ll do. When you live with heart, you’ll feel when there’s something missing, but it doesn’t have to stay that way.
What would you do if you could act without fear of shame? Would you change jobs? Follow your passion? Tell someone you love them? Tell someone you miss them? Expect more for yourself? Get rid of relationships that hurt? Fight harder for the relationship you’re in? You can’t trust that there won’t be rejection and disappointment, but you can trust that you’ll cope with it if it happens – which you will. What’s harder to live with is teetering around the edges of something that feels important, wanting more but never dropping the guard enough – being vulnerable enough – to let it in.
Question your beliefs. Sometimes we believe things for so long they just settle in and stay. Challenge whether or not they’re still working for you. What could happen if you open up, take a chance, let yourself be vulnerable? Too often behaviour is driven by the need to avoid shame – the need to avoid receiving any proof that you’re not worthy of love, connection and receiving what you’ve asked for. The more you think you’re not worthy, the more you’ll act as though it’s true and the more you disconnect. What if you believed you were worth the connection? The risk of not being received is always there, but this is no reflection of any unworthiness in you.
As explained by Brene Brown, people with a strong sense of love and belonging believe that vulnerability is a necessity. They believe that within their vulnerabilities are the things that make them beautiful and they’re right. Vulnerability is the key to correlate because it is the courage to be open to another human. It’s saying the words that are clutching within. It’s opening yourself up to somebody getting closer. It’s letting them know. It’s giving without expectation or agenda and receiving with an open heart.
Increasingly we are living in a fixit world. We have little tolerance for uncertainty or discomfort and tend to move quickly toward resolution. We fix everything – problems, health, feelings, people. Sometimes though, uncertainty or discomfort is exactly where we need to be. It’s here that we often find clarity and insight and a readiness to move forward or pull back. Don’t be too quick to move out of uncomfortable feelings. Sometimes they’re the richest source of growth and information about what’s right.
Vulnerability does not mean oversharing and offering every detail of your life up for consumption by anyone. It is about intention. There are those you hold close or want to, who are worth taking a risk for. You open up, you let them know, you offer some of yourself and hope it will be received. Then there are those who you know, but who may not have earned your vulnerability.
Your vulnerability still has to be earned by others to some extent, but you have to be ready to see when someone deserves it from you.
Offering every detail of your life to the person behind you, can walk dangerously close to a lack of boundaries and can leave you overexposed.
Somewhere along the way, the need to protect ourselves from being vulnerable has trumped the need to connect. Few things hurt as deeply and completely as the heartache that comes from relationships. But heartache and uncertainty is part of being human and its avoidance is getting in our way.
In response to this, we have stopped allowing ourselves to be vulnerable. We have turned vulnerability into weakness and guardedness into a strength.
Of course, there are times to be guarded, but there are also times to be vulnerable. We are protected, but we are disconnected.
Life happens – really happens – in the midst of our vulnerability. It’s here, in strength and with the greatest of courage, that we ask for help, tell someone we miss them, ask where we stand, feel. When we shut down our vulnerability, we shut down the possibility.
There are no guarantees. There never have been. But what is certain is that we deserve more than to have our vulnerability – the greatest vehicle to connection – shut down by fear. We cannot guarantee the outcome, but we can have faith in our ability to cope with it. Living and loving with a vulnerable, open heart will bring its own rewards. There is no daring more honest and more courageous than that which comes with respecting our vulnerability, embracing it and acting from it.