Is Vulnerability Really One of Our Greatest Weaknesses, or is it Our Greatest Strength?
Written by: Kathy Best May 29, 2018
The topics of asking for and accepting help and being vulnerable have come up in conversations a lot lately, so I felt inspired to shine some light on them. It seems human beings have a very difficult time being vulnerable, beginning at an early age and becoming more challenging the older we get. It’s not surprising considering that, from the time we are born, everyone and everything around us is telling us we need to learn to do things for ourselves and be independent. Our society and most cultures associate being vulnerable with being weak based on the original definition, but vulnerability can be a good thing, if we look at it in a different context.
Let’s look at the word vulnerable. In the Merriam-Webster dictionary, vulnerable is defined as: capable of being physically or emotionally wounded; assailable, open to attack or damage. Dictionary.com defines vulnerable as: capable or susceptible to being wounded or hurt, as by a weapon: vulnerable part of the body. Vulnerable is 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.”¹ This is not what comes to my mind when I think of vulnerable. The Urban Dictionary more appropriately defines vulnerable as: someone who is completely and rawly open, unguarded with their heart, mind, and soul. Trusting completely, vulnerability by pain or joy, being exposed emotionally; making it easy for someone you trust to really do some damage or healing.
In contrast, Independent is defined by Dictionary.com as: not influenced or controlled by others in matters of opinion, conduct, ext.; thinking or acting for oneself; and independent thinker. I believe it is safe to say that one can be vulnerable and still be independent at the same time, but is vulnerability truly a weakness? Humanity spends an inordinate amount of time creating personas or images of ourselves that we project out to the world. Why do we do this? I can think of a few reasons. To protect our heart and mind from hurt and pain; to make our ego feel superior or better than others; to prevent others from truly knowing what makes us tick; out of fear, that if others really knew what we were truly like they would judge us harshly or gossip about us, no one would respect us, or no one would love us. The truth is that all of these things happen to us regardless of how hard or how well we attempt to protect ourselves. It is all just an illusion. Even the people that get so good at doing everything for themselves, pushing people away, or keeping everyone at a distance are living an illusion of control and independence. Many of us try to do more for others, in a vain attempt to show how worthy we are, or how strong and able we are, but refuse to let others help us when we truly need it. We try to act tough, put on a brave face, or push through the pain, so others don’t see our own weaknesses, challenges, or emotional baggage. Many believe they put on a mask of perfection in order to be loved, respected, and appreciated. How can we be loved and respected when we are not willing to appreciate and bless every little blemish and flaw that made us who we are? How can we find comfort and safety in another, when we cannot even begin to look at our own issues which make us feel like we need rescuing?
Human beings were not created to live a solitary life. They were created to love and be loved. The problem with this stems from our ego and its need to project an image of superiority, entitlement, and victimization all at the same time. It attempts to exert power over, or control those around it, to make them more like itself, all the while arguing that it wants to be different and unique. It judges and finds fault with everyone and everything, including itself, and then laments that it’s just the way life is and there is nothing to be done about it. The truth of the matter is that our ego consciousness serves a very important purpose; keeping us safe from actual danger, but as adults we are better equipped to deal with and avoid dangerous situations, so we no longer need our ego in the driver seat. Our ego actually hinders our ability to connect with others on a personal and emotional level that feeds our heart and soul. Reacquainting ourselves with the ability to be vulnerable is a huge step toward fulfilling, harmonious relationships. We have allowed our ego to become the master of our mind, and in doing so have totally tuned out our innate source of wisdom and true power, our intuition. The thing about intuition is that you have to let go of control and learn to be vulnerable before you can access it. Your intuition is also a guide that will steer you away from people and experiences where you may be taken advantage or, or hurt physically or emotionally. The more you practice using your intuition, the stronger and more accurate it becomes. If you open yourself up to the experience of listening to your body, instead of your mind, it will guide you unfailingly toward happiness, love, and meaning in all areas of your life.