Vulnerability is an area that I struggle with. You see, I grew up in the era of “never let them see you sweat”. I mean, I’m not going to lie about any of my weaknesses but I’m certainly not comfortable with just handing them over to you.
What if people judge me? What if my vulnerability undermines my credibility? What if they figure out that I really don’t have my crap together?
After all, Merriam-Webster defines vulnerable as “being open to attack”. And who wants that? Certainly not me.
I feel compelled to discuss vulnerability in this post because of three conversations that all took place within a week of each other. These conversations have encouraged me to look closer at vulnerability and in particular, my vulnerability.
The first occurred in a group discussion setting. I facilitate a discussion series on a pre-selected book. The book we are currently reading is full of exercises and self-discovery for the purpose of leading our most successful lives. Our very first week we were tasked with identifying areas in our life that need improvement and what we were willing to do to take responsibility for that improvement.
We were encouraged to share our thoughts with the entire group. I went first. And of course, I played it safe by sharing something easy. To be fair, I’m leading the discussion and its with a group of women I’ve never met before. No need for them to question whether or not I know what I’m doing by throwing my biggest area for improvement out on the table.
We went around the table with others playing it safe as well. Then one woman answered in the most honest way a person could answer. She shared something that could have been really easy to pass judgement on. She didn’t down play it. She just said it was a real issue and she needed to take responsibility to fix it. Then she apologized by saying, “maybe that was too personal for the first day.”
But then a beautiful thing happened. The next person looked at her and said, “thank you for being so real. I was going to share something little but it wasn’t what I really wanted to share. Because you just gave us the gift of your vulnerability, I’m going to say what I really want to work on.”
Vulnerability is a gift.
The second conversation was with an entrepreneur who shared that her drive to succeed in her business caused her marriage to fall apart. She was ashamed that she was the one who had caused it because she wasn’t able to balance it all. But she wanted to share her experience just in case someone else was struggling to balance it all as well.
Vulnerability is honest.
The third conversation was with a client who is struggling to present her services to the world because she feels like her life is a mess. She is concerned that people will see her as a fraud because they will see through her and see the mess. But the truth is, we are all messes. And seeing her triumph over her personal mess will encourage others to take on theirs.
Vulnerability is encouragement.
I’ve sat on this topic for a few days not really knowing what to do with it. This morning I was reading my daily devotion before I started writing and I was struck by the message. The biblical passage was 2 Corinthians 12:10. “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” The author of this verse is Paul. Paul is saying that he delights in his weaknesses because they give him opportunities to showcase God’s grace and power.
My additional takeaways from this reading were:
· Being transparent builds trust
· Sharing weakness makes me more approachable and less intimidating
· Being vulnerable encourages vulnerability in others
· That when I am weak, I am strong
While I appreciate and respect the vulnerability in others, I know that I will have to put conscious effort into my willingness to share my own vulnerability simply because it’s a defense mechanism I have used my whole life. But today I found a new definition for vulnerable and I’m going to try to focus on it instead of the old definition.
The Urban Dictionary defines vulnerable as “someone who is completely and rawly open, unguarded with their heart, mind, and soul – being vulnerable happens when you trust completely.”
And that’s the type of vulnerability – that’s the type of strength – I want to shine through me.