There is infinite power in our courage to embrace vulnerability. It’s just another one of life’s paradoxical truths that exactly what we are afraid will alienate us from someone is the thing that will make us feel connected and close to someone. The dictionary lists “weak” and “helpless” as synonyms to "vulnerable." Maybe that’s why we are societally afraid to show our vulnerabilities — because we don’t want to appear weak and helpless.
But I define being vulnerable as having an open heart. And being open-hearted is the opposite of weak and helpless.
When we have an open heart, we experience true joy, love, and intimate connection. So being afraid of vulnerability is really being afraid of intimacy. But we need intimacy to thrive.
I’m defining intimacy here as closeness, connection, and emotional bonding. Intimacy is why our hearts feel happy when we hear a story that resonates with ours, or share a moment of eye contact, or feel connected to the human in front of us — because in that cosmic moment, we realize we are not alone on this planet.
I think that all of our safety behaviors (like people-pleasing, micro-managing, and even gossiping) come from not wanting to be vulnerable and intimate. Because if we’re vulnerable, it’s a lot easier to get hurt. We can’t let someone see us, because then they might hurt us. So we protect and defend ourselves by skimming the surface in our relationships and not showing people who we really are. We do this in big and small ways.
I think what we want to summon is courage. Courage to be our real selves in our relationships, and courage to trust that it’s enough. And the strength to handle whatever comes our way — rejection or acceptance.
Addictions are a very common and convenient way to check out and avoid intimacy. I watch it happen all the time and have engaged in every behavior myself. I notice when I can’t look someone in the eye, or when I use my phone to separate me from the moment, or when it feels easier to talk about someone else not present, or when I hide who I am by wanting to please the other person. These are only some of the various ways by which we avoid intimacy, and therefore the possibility of being hurt.
But when we attempt to protect ourselves from more pain and suffering, we also end up simultaneously blocking out the potential love we might experience.
I don’t have all the answers, only a million questions. But I think what we want to summon is courage. Courage to be our real selves in our relationships, and courage to trust that it’s enough. And the strength to handle whatever comes our way — rejection or acceptance. The pain of rejection stings, but it doesn’t last. The pain of never feeling connected to another, however, does last, and will fester over time.
When I make a point to be open-hearted throughout my day, it instantly bonds me to the person I’m interacting with. They needed me to open my heart so they could open theirs. And then it sets off a chain reaction of heart-bursting goodness. Connection is healing the world. Because happy, connected people have no reason to act out and be nasty to others. They have no reason to self-destruct or rage on the road or spread malicious rumors.
Bob Marley said, “Being vulnerable is the only way our heart can feel true pleasure.”
Why would we deny our sweet hearts? We are here to show them. I’m sure of it.