WHAT WE FEAR THE MOST AND YET OUR GREATEST ASSET
Quite a while ago I wrote of courage in my blog and today I would like to dive into vulnerability. First of all, it takes a lot of courage to be vulnerable.
“The best people possess a feeling for beauty, the courage to take risks, the discipline to tell the truth, the capacity for sacrifice. Ironically, their virtues make them vulnerable; they are often wounded, sometimes destroyed.” — Ernest Hemingway
We often equate vulnerability with weakness, low resilience, and being in some way flawed. This is correct if you look at the definition or even the history of vulnerability.
The History of Vulnerable
Vulnerable is ultimately derived from the Latin noun vulnus (“wound”). Vulnus led to the Latin verb vulnerare, meaning “to wound,” and then to the Late Latin adjective vulnerabilis, which became vulnerable in English in the early 1600s. Vulnerable originally meant “capable of being physically wounded” or “having the power to wound” (the latter is now obsolete), but since the late 1600s, it has also been used figuratively to suggest a defenselessness against non-physical attacks. In other words, someone (or something) can be vulnerable to criticism or failure as well as to literal wounding. When it is used figuratively, vulnerable is often followed by the preposition to.
All of this is correct and yet I believe that our vulnerability is one of our greatest strengths – provided we are aware of it.
We need to differentiate between vulnerability and simply being a wuss. I once had an acquaintance and we knew one another for a long time. He was a nice guy and it was great to go out and have fun – until the time when someone told him that vulnerability is something the ladies find sexy and that it is ok for a man to cry. What happened after that was amazing. This guy did nothing BUT cry, about everything, all the time – or so it felt. It was horrible and I really asked myself how he did it. I can be moved to tears quite easily but his waterworks were doing overtime ALL the time. What he was doing had nothing to do with vulnerability whatsoever. Just thought I should clarify!
Vulnerability, for me at least, does not mean you have to vomit your feelings and emotions all over the place at all times.
When I was a lot younger, I was perceived, at least in business, as cold and even unapproachable. I learned to hide my inner self very well. I was under the misconception, that emotions and feelings have no place in business and that I always have to be highly professional to survive in a man’s world – a classic rookie mistake. I never showed any vulnerability, because I was an absolute professional – or so I thought.
“There can be no vulnerability without risk; there can be no community without vulnerability; there can be no peace, and ultimately no life, without community.” — M. Scott Peck
This changed completely at an event where I had a presentation on stage. Before my own presentation, a video was shown of an external employee and her last appearance at an event, who had died of breast cancer shortly before. This woman lasted so long to be on stage one more time at this event. She loved what she did very much. I, in turn, liked this woman very much. She was one of the few authentic people in this company and her death moved me deeply.
Professional as I was, I went on stage after this video to give my presentation. There I was in front of the microphone, the audience waiting. I don’t know how long I stood there but I was so choked up that I couldn’t get a single word out. I didn’t know what to do for the first time at a performance. I felt the tears welling up inside me and I couldn’t hold them back. I just stammered, “I’m sorry”, and then someone led me off the stage because I couldn’t see anything anymore through those tears.
A colleague came up to me later and said I should do that more often. I was seriously pissed off at him and just thought what an idiot, should I start crying more often now and show weakness? I was horrified – until I started to think about his words. I realised they were not meant to taunt me be were actually words of kindness.
Yes, I cried on stage. Yes, I screwed up my presentation big time. Yes, I was vulnerable. What I also was was a human being with compassion, feelings, and empathy, and I showed it to everyone.
“I spent a lot of years trying to outrun or outsmart vulnerability by making things certain and definite, black and white, good and bad. My inability to lean into the discomfort of vulnerability limited the fullness of those important experiences that are wrought with uncertainty: Love, belonging, trust, joy, and creativity to name a few.” — Brené Brown
Don’t get me wrong, I did not start crying every time I went on a stage or held a presentation. After this experience though, I was much more relaxed at work and not so concerned with possibly showing my vulnerability which was obviously not a flaw or even a weakness.
I believe that our vulnerability is a part of our humanity. Showing this vulnerability takes trust, especially trust in yourself.
“When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability… To be alive is to be vulnerable.” — Madeleine L’Engle
Of course, it is true that when you show vulnerability, you automatically provide a target and run a much higher risk of getting hurt. But the alternative is much worse. Never showing that human vulnerability is like never loving. And a life without love is not a life.
“One does not kill oneself for love of a woman, but because love – any love – reveals us in our nakedness, our misery, our vulnerability, our nothingness.” — Cesare Pavese
🎶My Song of the Week
I chose a song by one of my favourite artists, Greg Brown. This is simply beautiful, just a banjo and his amazing voice – pure vulnerability!
📚My Poem of the Week
Is by Lucille Clifton (1936–2010)
the garden of delight
for some it is stone bare smooth as a buttock rounding into the crevasse of the world for some it is extravagant water mouths wide washing together forever for some it is fire for some air and for some certain only of the syllables it is the element they search their lives for eden for them it is a test
I chose this one – I grew it myself – as it is not only my favourite flower but probably one of the most vulnerable ones.
If you would like to connect with me, find out more about the Enneagram and yourself, and how it can transform you and your life, I would be happy to take the time for a speed coaching call that you can reserve right here go to my website or simply hit reply and get in touch with me directly.
I would love to hear what vulnerability means to you. In the meantime, I wish you an amazing weekend and look very much forward to hearing from you.