Vulnerability is a gift.
Being vulnerable isn’t the same as being scared or admitting defeat. In fact, knowing and accepting it is actually a strength. Why? Because you can get really good at recognizing when those pesky, at times painful vulnerabilities are in action, and how they’re skewing your thinking or your choices.
Think about it. Let’s say you’re building a house, and you know that strong storms and heavy winds are likely to come from the northwest — your house would be “vulnerable” on that side. What would you do? You’d make sure that you did everything you could to ensure that side of the house was tight as a drum, so as to withstand the forces of nature.
The understanding of where you’re vulnerable makes you stronger, if you accept it and work with it.
We all have vulnerabilities — our unique personal storms. Some are specific fears, like a fear of heights, getting sick, or not having enough money. Others are more general: feeling socially awkward, not being able to adequately express emotion, or struggling with organization.
Yet many people fear exposing their weaknesses, as if that admission marks them as less than.
I recognize that if I had an enemy, they would want to take advantage of my vulnerabilities. To use the house metaphor again – if my house were to be attacked, an enemy might pick that northwest side, where wind and rain had weakened it.
There’s risk in being open.
Yet I don’t want to live in fear. What is more important to me is self-acceptance. I listen to people daily who live with secrets, terribly afraid that if anyone knew things they’d done, or problems they have, that no one would care for them, or admire them.
If more people were honest about their own vulnerability, perhaps we could be supportive and loving with one another.
It’s worth it. So I’ll go first.
One of my major vulnerabilities is my anxiety. I fear not living up to the expectations of others. It’s been around a very long time, as I remember it even as a child. I can almost hear its raspy voice, whispering in my ear, “You’re not going to be enough. You’ll be disappointing.”
Another? I’m far too keenly aware of time. This particular vulnerability makes me impatient at times, and I want to rush through things, instead of slowing down, and enjoying the present.
I could name a few more, but then this post would be, “All about Margaret,” and I’d be afraid that would be disappointing. (Reference Vulnerability #1.)
Your vulnerabilities are created in childhood. If you were abused, it’s likely that your vulnerabilities lie in controlling anger, or being overly submissive. If you were adored and spoiled, your vulnerabilities might range toward self-centeredness, lack of empathy, or insecurity (not feeling as if you earned that adoration). If you spend some time thinking about whatever hurt or pain you were trying to manage as a child, you’ll be able to see your vulnerabilities clearly.
They make sense, given what was your life as a child.
What do I find fascinating about vulnerabilities?
Our vulnerabilities often hold within them clues to our strengths.
Let’s take my anxiety about not meeting the expectations of others. What is a strength that vulnerability might imply? It could suggest an ability to tune in easily to others needs, or a sensitivity to how someone else might be feeling — the flip side of worrying about expectations.
Your strengths and your vulnerabilities are intimately connected, one and the same.
It’s like a rock. You see it rooted in the ground, but you can only see one side. Your strength lies on one side of the rock. Pick it up, and the corresponding vulnerability, the darker, mossier side, lies beneath.
The gifts of vulnerability are many.
When you know your vulnerabilities, you can protect them, and honor them. If someone tries to manipulate them, you’ll be prepared.
When you accept your vulnerabilities, you’re no longer afraid of their exposure. You can give and receive support from those with whom you choose to share. You understand their origins, and can have compassion for yourself now, and as a child.
When you reveal your vulnerabilities, they point you to your strengths. Your strengths and your vulnerabilities balance one another, and are intimately connected.
You don’t get one without the other.
April is “Vulnerability” month with Dr. Margaret! Spring is the time for renewal, so let’s take the month to grow by embracing vulnerability in our everyday lives. Maybe try that demanding class at the gym…or perhaps go to a movie alone, call an old friend, try a daunting new recipe.
Embrace vulnerability and show just how strong you are! Dr. Margaret would love to hear your stories, so please share on Facebook or Twitter, and be sure to use the hashtag #VulnerabilityMakesMeStronger.
You can hear more about vulnerability and many other topics by listening to Dr. Margaret’s new podcast, SelfWork with Dr. Margaret Rutherford. Subscribe to this website and receive her weekly posts as well as her podcasts, plus Dr. Margaret’s eBook, “Seven Commandments of Good Therapy.”