Vulnerability: the quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.
This past Saturday night, I attended an evening of lightly intoxicated conversation with about 20 intellectual millennials whose collective purpose is to change the world for the better. The intent of the evening was to provide an unbiased and nonjudgemental platform for the discussion of controversial topics that exist amongst us. Everyone wrote down a potential topic of discussion, which was later picked out of a bag at random; each with the potential to steer the conversation in a new dynamic way.
I chose to write down 3 topics all related to communication and relationship. As the universe would have it, the one I was most passionate about was picked, resulting in a magnificent shift in the way we developed our thoughts, conversed and interacted for the rest of the night. The topic – the ‘Fear of Vulnerability‘.
“…..he chose to move forward, always choosing vulnerability as his superpower and by choosing himself…..”
From the minute the piece of paper was picked out of the bag, there was an immediate resulting shift in body language and dear I say it – many in the circle seemed to tense up; gearing into a mode of self-preservation or survival. It was as if the paper read ‘Fear of Weakness‘, triggering the mind to cause us to physically show our strength instead. Due to my interest and obsession with observing how humans act & react, I declined to provide clarity and out myself as the author when the moderator called the Post It note “vague.” Instead, I took pleasure in allowing the vagueness to cause deep, uncomfortable thought and acknowledgment of self which contributed immensely to the evolution of the conversation.
Over the next 25 minutes, numerous brave souls shared powerfully about their personal struggles with vulnerability in love, life, and career. We discussed the classification of vulnerability as a weakness, even though in our everyday reality, it can be seen and used as our greatest strength.
One of the most transformational parts of the evening came when a young man shared about his life with Crohn’s – an inflammatory bowel disease, and how it prevented him from living life like a normal child; leading to really low points and failed attempts at suicide. His health had led to the end of relationships because it was too much for his partner to handle embarrassing public moments when he least expected it. Despite this all, he chose to move forward, always choosing vulnerability as his superpower and by choosing himself, he spoke about the way his life changed when he asked himself – “Am I willing to let this illness bring me down or build me up?”.
By his side the entire time was his fiance; she was the evident love, light and the strength that was meant to be his until the end. She supported him with facts about his illness when he was at a loss for words and provided physical touches of support as he told his story. Their story. He proclaimed that he knew she was the one when his vulnerability created a space for her to be open about her own illness; it was an instant bond. In his 5 minutes of sharing he was able to create awareness, encourage others to share and showed us how talking about our issues promotes connection, growth, and accomplishment. Personally, I couldn’t ask for a better real-life example of how being vulnerable creates a safe space for others.
Their love story brought a warmth and familial feeling to the room, it was as if he used his superpower (vulnerability) to disarm us all.
In sharing our personal life experiences regarding romance, employment, health, and family, we learned the value that vulnerability adds to our lives. Although society regards vulnerability as a weakness and something to be fearful of, every day I experience it as our strongest form of armor.
Being vulnerable is a feeling beyond nudity. It is the baring of our souls for those we choose to see. It is the thing that makes us most uncomfortable, scared and unprotected from the vicious world. On the contrary, it is also uber empowering, freeing and creates a limitless opportunity for growth.
What I have found is that the things that make us vulnerable are usually the most beautiful things about us.