May 19, 2017

Vulnerability

Vulnerability.

Most people hate the idea. It requires a level of honesty, transparency, and connection rarely practiced in our day-to-day lives. I find it interesting that the word itself carries neither a positive or negative connotation, but rather a kind of warning: Shit’s about to get real.

I, too, have struggled with vulnerability. Like many people, I have been conditioned to think that feelings = bad, and preserving the mask I wear that makes people perceive me as unflawed or unemotional = good. But the problem is that we can’t really connect when we’re all wearing our masks. We may dance around the truth that some words need to be said, but we choose to avoid them.

Vulnerability requires risk. When I embrace vulnerability as a pathway to connection, I have been shocked at the level of directness and transparency with which I’ve carried my conversations. I’ve asked questions with answers that have scared me shitless, given praise and love that might not be reciprocated, and learned about emotional intelligence in a way I haven’t done before. Risks bring fear, and don’t nobody want to be afraid.

Depending on the person and the level of fear, many have learned that while it is scary/uncomfortable/unnatural/risky, vulnerability feels damn good. Last week I facilitated at a college student leadership retreat largely focused on developing identity awareness and personal growth goals. At the end of the week, students had to spend four minutes of uninterrupted time speaking with one other student, offering praise and challenges for growth. Their energy was awkward during round one, but by the end of that session, you could feel the magnetism in the air. To them, opening up felt good.

As a spiritualist, I’ve learned that all of my growth has resulted as a consequence of vulnerability because all of my growth is predicated on healthy relationship building. Vacant relationships are both triggering and sad to me; the idea that friends, family members, and partners could be actively engaged in a relationship yet are still hesitant to go “all in” is a suspect one.

Think about your own relationships. What words do you need to say to someone who needs to hear them, whether those are more positive or critical? What words do you need to hear from someone, and how will you ask for them? Whatever came to mind first in both examples are wonderful places to start to explore.

While I have not experienced significant death in my life, I have experienced loss, and from those times in my life I’ve learned that the worst thing I can do is leave any of my truth unsaid. Ya girl will fight to the bitter end for something I believe in and make sure the people in my life are well aware of how they influence it. If you are scared of the dreaded V word (and as a gay man, remember, I’m talking about “vulnerability” this time), see what happens when you lean in. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

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