• H. M. L. Swann


Updated: Oct 28, 2020

Anyone’s who’s looked into vulnerability has probably heard of Brené Brown. She’s written books, she’s been quoted in psych articles smattered across the internet, and she gave an amazing TED talk.

“Vulnerability is the core of shame and fear and our struggle for worthiness, but it appears to be the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love.” - Brené Brown

I love that quote. It feels real, honest, and true. To me, it means that being vulnerable has the potential for rejection or acceptance. It’s opening up and knowing that we can’t control the outcome.

Something I’ve found about myself while living abroad is I hate losing control. I like being in control of where I go, what I eat, or being able to communicate for myself. That is my comfort zone, yet some of my best memories are when this wasn’t the case. The time I was whisked away to the river or the time I ate heart for breakfast. These were all moments I had to relinquish control. I had to be vulnerable. Sometimes they were great... sometimes they lead to food poisoning. It’s a balancing act.

A quick google search can reveal the connotation of vulnerability in our society. It tells us that vulnerability can lead to pain, both physically or mentally.

Why is that?

Because being vulnerable in a relationship could lead to heartbreak; being vulnerable with a parent could lead to exclusion from your family; being vulnerable with friends could lead to growing apart. None of that is guaranteed, but is scary to consider.

To me, it leads to the fear of being alone. As an introvert (INFJ for those into Myers-Briggs) I relish a good night in: to write, to read, or to play guitar. Most of my hobbies are solitary activities. Avoiding vulnerability with others is enticing, but I also know I need people.

“Connection is why we’re here. It’s what gives purpose and meaning in our lives.”- Brené Brown

Think about the last time you truly connected with someone. Think about the nature of the conversation you had. Maybe it was a chance to discuss your belief systems, your thoughts on life or the environment. Maybe it was silly; full belly laughing, eye watering, happiness.

I want that. I want it in my relationships and being vulnerable is preached as the one stop shop that brings this. That doesn’t make it any less scary, at least not for me.\

So, here are my three tips to overcoming the fear of vulnerability and steps to being open with others.

1. validate yourself without blaming

I first used this in conflict resolution with my students. Let each party know that their feelings were real and valid, but that didn’t dictate the motivation of the other party. You may feel hurt, but that doesn’t mean they wanted to hurt you.

So when opening up with others, being vulnerable, and connecting with them, tell them your feelings. Tell them you’re not assuming their motivation, or blaming them for the outcome but still share your feelings. This will help create a safe space for all parties involved.

2. communicate, communicate, communicate

No one, no matter how close you are or for how long you’ve known them, can read your mind. They will never know what you want or how you feel if you don’t tell them. That’s why it’s crucial to talk. Now, this doesn’t mean you word vomit on you S.O. I think it’s still important to make your intentions clear. What do you want to get out of the conversation? What are your expectations? Are they reasonable? Basically, think before you speak and always speak when it’s important to you.

3. ASK for help

If you don’t know about Amanda F****ing Palmer then look up the Dresden Dolls and work from there. Once you get through her music, you’ll find her killer book: The Art of Asking.

This memoir dives deep into the importance of asking and being vulnerable and the beauty of connecting with people. A must read.



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