Vulnerability is a terrifying notion to most. Being vulnerable strips us of our perceived defenses, but it gives us a lot more power than we credit it for.
“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy — the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”
― Brené Brown
In writing my book "I Know Why The Cheshire Cat Grins: When ShiFt Happens...27 Lessons on Life, Love and Fear", I had to face my fear of being vulnerable squarely. To connect with my readers, I had to be honest. To be honest, I had to show not just the clean, pristine parts of my life, but also the gritty (read 'embarrassing') parts of my life. I had to let go of my perception of what other people's perception of me was. I had to recognize that my life circumstance is not a summation of my life. But just as pain is the bedfellow of joy, every chapter of the book ended on a good note. The pain was only an enriching part of the process to a new high point and had to be celebrated. The pain was merely a means to an end.
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket - safe, dark, motionless, airless - it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”
― C.S. Lewis
As human beings, our two main motivating forces are love and fear and the strongest kinds of love are arguably motherly love and romantic love. But it is exactly love and fear that threaten to expose our vulnerability. To face fear and to experience love authentically we cannot but give in to vulnerability.
Think of vulnerability as a doorway to life. Surely, opening that door exposes us to pain. But that is the only way joy, love and the full experience of life can come in. So shall we lock out feeling for fear of the possibility of hurt when the only way to experience authenticity and love is through pain? Life is a 'twofer' package deal - you can't have one without the other. It's all or nothing.
The process of writing the book not only provided me perspective and a means of cathartic expression - it actually saved my life. It is a theme that keeps recurring in my writing and in a weird way I think I am slightly behind the curve of my own writing! But that is what I love about vulnerability: I don't have to be perfect and thats ok by me. I might have some pithy observations, but I don't have all the answers - I'm a work in progress myself. It is in some of my most vulnerable moments that I have some of my greatest inspirations. Creativity has a life of its own and cannot be made into what it's not.
Bot for me, the most powerful aspect of vulnerability is that by being vulnerable, we give others the permission to be vulnerable and it is beautiful to see the chain reaction unfold. A couple of friends did something that I thought was hurtful to me and I felt betrayed and was angry. As I tend to do, I had to analyze all of my emotions: what was it exactly that made me upset. Of course I took into consideration what my role in the events had been, questioned if I was being too sensitive, and whittled it down to one major thing and one minor thing about the whole incident that offended me. Then I had a choice to turn my nose down at it all and pretend I was unmoved, or cut them off, or risk vulnerability and express how I felt. Digging in deep, I did the latter, sticking to the main goal of expressing that one thing in a kind, loving and non accusatory way. My friends were surprised at my equanimity and non-judgmental handling of the situation. It was easier for them to accept culpability and they didn't have to be defensive. More importantly the bridges were not burnt and we had a group hug. That's the power of vulnerability.
“We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection...Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows. Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed and rare.”
― Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are