I saw an Instagram post this past week where someone who knows these things was showing that socks and sandals, worn together, are back in vogue. For reals. I kid you not. You heard it from me……..Now while I’m no major fashion follower, and I for one, will not be following this new (old) trend, it always amazes me how many trends for so many different things come and go. All. The. Time.
I have two jobs and in both those jobs I have a husband and wife team who are my bosses. If I’m ever feeling a tiny bit bratty, then sometimes I’ll throw a couple of trendy words into conversation that one of these teams really don’t like……one of those words is ‘journey’. And I’m not talking about a physical trip with a start point and a destination, an end point. ‘Journey’ has become a trendy word though. So has ‘vulnerability’.
‘Vulnerability’ can be defined as uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure.
Spend any amount of time reading or listening to any kind of self-help/ leadership/ emotional growth type of articles/ blog posts/ podcasts or books and you will hear the word ‘vulnerability’. You will. It’s now a trendy word. And it’s a word that carries a lot of punch.
Now I happen to love Brené Brown whose work on vulnerability has been hugely significant and her TED talk on vulnerability is one of the five most watched, with over 30 million views. I love her books, I love her instagram posts, I love what she stands for and who she fights for and the fact that she is so well educated and is leading in her field, and she’s prepared to put the spotlight on the tricky and complicated topics of courage, shame, empathy and vulnerability. If you haven’t already, read her stuff. She makes so much sense.
But here’s the thing.
In reality, when the rubber hits the road, when you actually start to live out these things that you’re told are good for you and are going to be worth it, and when vulnerability is one of these things, sooner or later you’ll find that it’s actually a crock.
Vulnerability is a crock. It’s hard. It’s laying your heart and soul open to inspection. It’s dumb. It’s painful. It’s allowing others a glimpse of what you’re rather keep dark and hidden and private. It’s not sheltering your loved ones from that which you know may hurt them. Which goes against the grain of what comes naturally and easily to most.
Vulnerability is a crock. It means that others may say inappropriate things back to you. Or say nothing in response to you. So you’re left in limbo wondering if whatever that thing that made you feel so vulnerable in the first place was too much for them, was too big for them or too messy for them.
Vulnerability is a crock. I know of people who have had very physical responses to the emotional work involved in opening up to others – breathing problems, insomnia, wakefulness, panic attacks, weight loss, weight gain – all these are very normal somatic responses to adversity, and for many, becoming vulnerable is also becoming open to adversity.
Vulnerability is a crock. It makes you feel like an idiot. It reminds you of all the things you haven’t worked out yet, that you haven’t mastered yet, and that we’re all works in progress. It highlights all the things you’d really rather have control over and be in charge of and manage very carefully and well.
But here’s the thing. As much as I think vulnerability is a crock, here’s what I know even more, it’s actually totally worth it.
Becoming vulnerable is worth it.
Being vulnerable is worth it.
Yes it’s hard. But nothing worthwhile was ever easy. Ever.
Yes it’s laying your heart and soul open to inspection – but only to those who you trust. Those you respect.
Yes it’s dumb. But so is pride.
Yes it’s painful. But wounds left to fester cause more harm than good.
Yes it’s exposing. But only negatives grow in the dark.
Yes it’s showing your muck to those who love you most. But as my favourite artist Charlie Mackesy says and illustrates:
When you’re vulnerable with someone, when you’re sharing the good, the bad, the beautiful, the joyful, and the downright ugly, then you’re allowing them to step into that situation with you. You’re allowing them to be Jesus with skin on. They may not necessarily be able to change anything, but sometimes outside eyes can see things you can’t. Sometimes outside ears can hear other sides of the story, that you can’t. Sometimes more hands than just yours can help shift burdens and barriers. And that’s worth it. That’s worth the pain and the reminders of what you’re still working on.
It’s been proven time and time again that simply sharing a painful experience with someone will help to ease the pain. Brené says ‘an experience of collective pain does not deliver us from grief or sadness; it is a ministry of presence. These moments remind us that we are not alone in our darkness and that our broken heart is connected to every heart that has known pain since the beginning of time’.
We build walls around our hearts and our souls for very valid reasons, but there’s so much to be gained from overcoming the pain, the pride and the powerlessness to truly share your life with someone.To truly be vulnerable.
Becoming vulnerable is worth it. Being vulnerable is so very worth it. I get the feeling that all the noise and rumble that has come along when dealing with ‘vulnerability’ means that this isn’t some passing fad, and not just a trendy word. It’s here to stay because we now recognize that it’s worth it. It’s really worth it.
I’m hoping that the socks and sandals thing doesn’t stick around though.
“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.” – Brené Brown