Vulnerability – Embracing Our Whole Selves

Published On: November 1st, 2023
When you think of the term, “vulnerable,” what comes to mind?

When I looked up the definition of vulnerability, these were the results:

  • The quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.
  • Willingness to show emotion or to allow one’s weaknesses to be seen or known; willingness to risk being emotionally hurt.
  • Capable of being physically or emotionally wounded, open to attack or damage.

Why would we open ourselves up to this?

Vulnerability is a concept that has been popularized by Brené Brown, author, professor, and researcher.

  • Her definitions encourage us to explore healing our minds, bodies, and spirits which can feel vulnerable because we are moving outside our comfort zones.
  • Many survivors of assault and trauma have learned to separate themselves mentally from their bodies as a way of self-protection so this can be particularly hard (be gentle with yourself).
  • To inhabit and own all of ourselves can feel very uncomfortable and unfamiliar, and that is okay. This is a process.

Consider these definitions of vulnerability.

“The definition of vulnerability is uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. But vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our most accurate measure of courage. When the barrier is our belief about vulnerability, the question becomes: ‘Are we willing to show up and be seen when we can’t control the outcome?’ When the barrier to vulnerability is about safety, the question becomes: ‘Are we willing to create courageous spaces so we can be fully seen?”  Brené Brown, Braving the Wilderness

“Vulnerability is not weakness, and the uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure we face every day are not optional. Our only choice is a question of engagement. Our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our purpose; the level to which we protect ourselves from being vulnerable is a measure of our fear and disconnection.” Brené Brown, Daring Greatly

There is no intimacy without vulnerability. Yet another powerful example of vulnerability is courage.” Brené Brown, Daring Greatly

“When you shut down vulnerability, you shut down opportunity.” Brené Brown quoting entrepreneur Gay Gaddis in  Daring Greatly

Now does being Vulnerable seem worthwhile?

Being vulnerable, even to ourselves, can be a stretch, especially in a world where everyone has perfect “Facebook” or “Instagram” lives.

  • Many of us have learned ways to “have it all together” when inside we are exhausted with the façade.
  • My deep sense of unworthiness led me to construct a strong wall of perfection as if all the good grades, degrees, accomplishments, and awards would prove my worth.
  • To vulnerably examine those layers and unearth the authentic, real me was deep work.

My Journey Toward Being Vulnerable

In my book, Awakening the Light, I talk about how being vulnerable was incredibly difficult for me; yet I loved others being vulnerable with their needs and trusting me to be there for them.

On an Outward Bound trip with a senior leadership team, partly due to my role and partly my personality, I felt a responsibility for this experience to go well. Our lead guide decided to scale a rock face even though it was freezing and rainy. When we got the team to the top of the mountain, I was aware that one woman was pale and shaking. I immediately got the guide’s attention, and we had everyone surround her to increase her body temperature. Next, we had to get everyone back down the mountain, and one man was terrified. I got beside him and said, “We are going down together.” Side by side, we rappelled down the rock face with me encouraging this man who was twice my size.

When I got to the ledge where one of the guides was standing, she asked, “Are you OK?” That was when I crumbled. I was grateful for her seeing me and showing concern about my well-being. My pattern has been to be there for everyone else and put my needs at the bottom. I found significance by being there for others, but I couldn’t be “needy” or vulnerable myself. In this moment of being the object of the caring outreach, my heart was touched.

It’s OK not to be OK

As survivors, we often adopt self-sufficiency at a young age. No one asks: “Are you OK?” We learn that, in order to not be disappointed, we must take care of ourselves. This was my experience when I was around age five, but what I didn’t know, and had to learn later, is that relationships are built by leaning on one another and being vulnerable to one another.

The guide at the leadership retreat and others around me were challenging and gently dismantling my wall of self-reliance. I realized that maybe the world and my life would work better if I didn’t just try to be there for everyone around me but actually allowed others to be there for me.

Being vulnerable means being open to new insights, new emotions, and the whole of you.

This doesn’t have to happen all at once.  One of my favorite phrases is: “Be curious.”  If we are curious, we open ourselves up to new expanses to explore.

  • Why is it okay to be available to everyone else but feel we should have no needs?
  • Why is it uncomfortable for others to see the less-than-perfect me?

Our willingness to engage with our vulnerability is a big step in growth.  It is a sign of courage to move into a new way of living.  On November 15th we will explore how to begin to engage with vulnerability.

At Survivors to Thrivers, we are committed to encouraging and supporting you as you seek to embrace your healing and growth.  We would love to hear the steps you have taken to open yourself up to being vulnerable.  Please know we are here to cheer you on– every step of the way!

“I no longer wanted to listen to the negative inner voice that sought to destroy my God-given potential.”                                                                                 ~ Tambry Harris


Quote from Awakening the Light: A Survivors to Thrivers Going-Forward Story available through our book tab or by clicking here:  

Talk To Tambry

I am glad you have taken the time to engage with this blog.  Sometimes it is helpful to process new insights that emerge.  If you would appreciate brief time with a someone who understands, our Talk to Tambry offering is for you.  For 30 minutes, you can receive support from Tambry who is a certified life coach, spiritual director and a survivor who has been on the journey as well.  This is offered at a reduced rate of $50.

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