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What does being vulnerable mean?

A woman with a child in the beach as an image of what does being vulnerable mean

Vulnerability is not winning or losing. It’s having the courage to show up when you can’t control the outcome
Brené Brown.

Vulnerability is often associated with weakness. Is that right? Perhaps, this conception comes from the idea that being physically or emotionally capable of or susceptible to being attacked, damaged, or hurt is the same as being weak. At this point, it is only natural that we ask what being vulnerable means.

If vulnerability is not weakness, what is it? A simple example might help us introduce the concept and define it. Let’s use imagination for this. You go to the park, sit on a bench and start to observe people around you.

While you are at it, your attention is placed on two children who are playing together. It seems like they want to test the trust they have in each other. So, they start a little game. 

This game consists of letting yourself fall backward knowing for sure that your partner will hold you. They are being vulnerable to each other! How? Well, they are risking their physical and emotional well-being at the hands of each other.

Does it mean they are weak? No! Weakness refers to the lack of force, potency, efficacy, strength, authority, and so on. Vulnerability, in contrast, has more to do with trusting and accepting ourselves.

In the example, these children are laying open to the possibility of getting hurt (risk). Also, they don’t know whether their partner will be there to prevent hitting the floor (uncertainty).

They are trusting each other, and more likely this trust was built in a sacred place. One where they can be who they are and feel secure. So, being vulnerable has more to do with courage, awareness, and trust.

Then, what is the meaning of being vulnerable?

A short and straightforward definition for this concept might be the resolution to trust yourself, become self-aware, aware of the outer, make a decision, and trust. We can’t know beforehand whether we will be accepted. So, we choose to accept ourselves. 

Vulnerability from this perspective of openness is a paradox. In reality, it starts with being open to accepting oneself in front of others. Being smart and balanced holding a sacred space for ourselves too. It also begins with managing safety through self and outer awareness. This leads to trust in oneself and other human beings.

Why would anyone want to do that? When you make vulnerability part of your life, you can reap the rewards:

  • More confidence: Facing challenging situations will increase trust in yourself and make you stronger to handle different life situations.
  • True relationships: Vulnerability brings the chance to let others know that we trust them and that we believe they won’t hurt us.
  • Increased authenticity: Being vulnerable makes us explore different aspects of ourselves and accept them.

Now, it doesn’t mean that you have to open your emotions to anyone in whatever place. Before you start to be vulnerable, you need to grow stronger, know yourself and accept who you are. 

Again, vulnerability is a paradox because when you have your back you aren’t vulnerable, you are open.  Actually, this word needs a “rebrand”.

Being vulnerable: an inside-out process

As we said earlier, vulnerability has more to do with courage than weakness. Also, it has to do with building self-trust and outer trust. Someone who isn’t strong, or identifies themselves as weak, needs to build their strength before they can trust themselves to others. 

This inner strength can function as a backup. If we are rejected, mocked, or criticized for what we believe and stand for, we can count on our fortitude. The goal is to understand we are not what they say about us, but our inner essence.

Usually, we protect ourselves against those by trying to fit in, please people, overworking, overachieving, overgiving, perfectionism, or procrastination. That is, we look for security in the outside world, we engage in an outside-in process, to satisfy our need for belonging.

It is not until we realize that we are better doing the contrary, an inside-out process, that we can handle the fear of rejection and everything else that comes with it. Yet, it is not good to do this suddenly.

It is wise to learn the level of sacred space you need to take care of yourself and your essence. This helps to set boundaries and teach others to treat you respectfully. In addition, it’s useful to manage your interactions with others and what they mean about you.

The sacred place

First, you will want to change your old habits of protecting yourself with new healthy ones, those that come from getting in touch with your true self. So, instead of being vulnerable for the sake of it, we are better at creating a safe space where you can be your authentic self.

Not all places are safe to be vulnerable, and not all vulnerabilities are equal. The children from our example can play like that because they trust each other. Each of us also needs such a place where our inner child can play without fearing rejection or the sting of criticism. 

Within this safe place, you can explore your inner gifts, create with them and share them with the world. You won’t be worried about being attacked, damaged, or hurt because now you have a refuge to go to whenever that happens.

So, before getting vulnerable outside, create a safe space inside yourself, and create a practice for self-love, self-dialogue, and connection. Only through building a relationship with yourself you can create this inner safety. Sometimes you need the support of helpful professionals to heal what is in the way of a healthy relationship within yourself.

A final thought 

As an entrepreneur, changemaker, trailblazer, personal brand, company, or someone who is looking for personal development, you will want to create such a sacred and secure space where you can express yourself. Also, a sacred safety to know and respect your own limits and grow in a way that is healthy for you.

As you discover yourself, you will have in your hands the tools to build a strong message rooted in your inner gifts and be vulnerable at the same time. Expressing who you are and knowing how and where you can do this can be critical for your success in the market.

Dare yourself to be stronger, create deep relationships, and grow in self-acceptance. Dare to be compassionate about your own journey and the challenges to be vulnerable that may come from different life experiences you have had to overcome. Reflect that in your business and you will be able to create a tribe that accepts you as you are, one that shares your values.

What’s the first step to this journey? We can do a complimentary short call to explore reliable strategies to create that safe space that begins with connecting with your true self and finish with you sharing your vision to the world.