“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult
as spending our lives running from it.
Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky
but not nearly as dangerous as giving up
on love and belonging and joy—
the experiences that make us the most vulnerable.
Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness
will we discover the infinite power of our light.”
When I think about the word vulnerable, the first thing that comes to mind is weakness. I associate being vulnerable with being exposed, imperfect, and fragile. Vulnerability is defined as easily hurt or harmed physically, mentally or emotionally and open to attack, harm, and damage. After reading the definition, I can understand why vulnerability is often seen in a negative light.
But is it really that bad to be vulnerable?
A few weeks ago I saw this TED talk by Brene Brown on vulnerability and ended up watching it three times in a row hoping to soak up every ounce of what she was saying. Here I am a few weeks later, finally able to absorb and process what her message.
According to Brown, our go-to reaction to being vulnerable and experiencing pain, sadness, grief, and uncertainty is to numb out. I write about numbing out all the time in this blog. Those of us who struggle with eating disorders avoid difficult emotions and often fear being vulnerable. Being vulnerable means letting go of the false sense of control the eating disorder provides. Being vulnerable means allowing others to see our hurt and imperfections. Being vulnerable means removing the masks we wear to disguise our true feelings.
Being vulnerable also means, however, experiencing joy, love, and compassion. I have met people (including myself not so long ago) who think shutting off all emotions is the only way to avoid being vulnerable and susceptible to hardships. To an extent that is correct, but I think the lack of meaningful relationships and happiness is worse than the risk of getting hurt.
Now that I have had time to process all of this, I no longer believe vulnerability is about weakness. In fact, I think it takes an incredibly brave person to open themselves up to this ugly world we live in. Yes, staying stuck in the numb and lifeless state that is an eating disorder might seem like the best way to avoid life's struggles, but it also eliminates the opportunity to experience anything. Being vulnerable is about taking that leap of faith and accepting myself enough to keep moving forward.
Back to my original question - is it really that bad to be vulnerable? I guess it depends on what you want out of life. If exposing your authentic self and dealing with unwanted emotions is too much to handle, then yes, being vulnerable is a bad thing. By accepting vulnerability, on the other hand, you are given an opportunity to live a much fuller life.
Brown says it best, "Vulnerability is our most accurate measurement of courage." I've had my fair share of troubles and heartaches, but through vulnerability I have also been able to put the pieces of my life back together.