The best part of being human is being able to connect with other humans. We’re hardwired for it. We live in tribes and families, work in groups, love as couples and thrive in friendships. The drive to connect is in all of us whether we acknowledge it or not. Yet, we’re seeing more loneliness, more depression, more broken relationships, more disconnection. What’s happening?
Vulnerability is the driving force of connection. It’s brave. It’s tender. It’s impossible to connect without it. But we’ve turned it into a form of weakness.
It’s hard for me to be vulnerable. It’s hard for me to ask for help because I get embarrassed. I think it stems from my childhood. I grew up on welfare and lived in Section 8 housing. It’s a gift to those who aren’t able to support themselves, but I think it made me fear asking for help. I don’t want to be stereotyped as someone who can’t do anything for herself. But this mindset has negatively affected my life. I did realize how bad it was until recently, when I found it difficult to ask my boyfriend for help.
Letting people in – especially when it’s not something you’re used to doing – is not an easy process. It essentially comes down to being self-aware and developing your communication skills. Doing this is seems scary, and it is, but it is exactly what allows us to improve and grow as a person.
We protect ourselves from vulnerability and when we do this, we are closing down our vulnerability. Sure, it shields us from being hurt, but we are also shielded from positive things like love, affection, and relationships. They come to us through the same door. When we close it to one, we close it to all.
Relationships tend to struggle without vulnerability and it’s the main reason I’m working on being more vulnerable. The thing we have to remember is that occasionally, we will get hurt. Pain and heartache from relationships is seemingly unavoidable, but really, it’s a part of being human. When it happens, it seems to take over you for a moment. While I’ve never been truly heartbroken, I have been hurt to the point where it scared the shit out me.
Luckily, this happened to be when I was older, because I know if I went through what I went through at a young age, I’d be a totally different person today. I chose to look at it for what it was – something to learn from. I could have taken it as a warning to what was to come with relationship and protected myself from being hurt again. Instead, I made the choice to be vulnerable. Closing myself off from other people wasn’t going to help me because closing myself off from the risks that come with being vulnerable, I am risk shutting myself off from the possibility of happiness, appreciation, and connection. And what good would that have been?
Vulnerability doesn’t mean you have to share every single detail of your life with the whole world. You have to be intentional with who you share your intimate story with. There are probably already people in your life who know a lot about your story and if they’re not the type to use it against you, hold on to them. When you open up, you are offering your true self and want it to be received.
I understand that the need to protect yourself from being vulnerable overshadows the need to connect. Nothing hurts worse that the heartache that comes from relationships (whether its friends, family, or romantic partners). But heartache and hesitation are all a part of being human. We need to stop avoiding it.
Life happens in the heart of our vulnerability. Every human advancement we made was done by someone willing to be vulnerable – willing to put themselves out there for a chance of a better life. And we are our strongest and most courageous when we ask for help, when we say “I love you” first, when we speak out about the injustices we witness. Shutting down vulnerability means shutting down possibility.
Of course, like anything, there are no promises. But we are worthy of more than to have our vulnerability being shut down by fear. I remind myself this every day. Sure, there is not guarantee that the outcome of all of this will be good. But we can have faith in ourselves and our ability to cope with the bullshit. Living and loving with a vulnerable, open, strong heart and all we need to do is embrace it, act from it, and respect it.