“Vulnerability: Exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.”
The Oxford Dictionary
I once saw being vulnerable as the ability to open up to others about the things going on in our lives. That we ‘exposed’ a part of ourselves which was emotionally fragile and at times shameful. That’s all true, but lately I’ve seen another expression of vulnerability, one that empowers connection between people.
I watched an old Ted Talk not long ago (you’ve probably heard of it!) by Brene Brown on ‘The power of vulnerability’. She spent six years researching what it was that gave people a sense of love and belonging. The one variable she found “…was, the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging believe they’re worthy of love and belonging. That’s it. They believe they’re worthy…the one thing that keeps us out of connection is our fear that we’re not worthy of connection.” These people had two traits in common, courage and vulnerability.
People who were vulnerable “talked about the willingness to say, “I love you” first … the willingness to do something where there are no guarantees … the willingness to breathe through waiting for the doctor to call after your mammogram. They’re willing to invest in a relationship that may or may not work out. They thought this was fundamental.”
This ‘willingness’ to say I love you first has meant so much to me the past few weeks. You see, I made myself vulnerable to friends and family through disclosing what felt so overwhelming and impossible. I found many people willing to surround me with words of support and encouragement – but they took a risk doing so, it took courage and vulnerability.
They risked saying the ‘wrong’ thing, they risked my rejection of their comfort or empathy. They chose not to tip toe or dance around the issue. And I’m grateful, maybe they didn’t say the best thing for the situation…but they said something and ultimately I value that reaching out more than the words themselves.