Visiting Vulnerability

“The strongest love is the love that can demonstrate its fragility.”

~ Paulo Coelho

It was early 2003; a quiet Italian restaurant in downtown San Diego. I was having dinner with a friend who I hadn’t seen in three months. Being a weeknight, the environment was pleasantly conducive to privacy and conversation. After some time and at Jeff’s prodding, I shared emotional details of my recent past. It was when I was telling him about how they’d stopped my heart from beating for more than two hours during a 7.5 hours surgery that I lost my composure.

I didn’t expect to show that weakness, especially in the presence of someone I viewed as a rock. After all, Jeff was, on the surface, a solid being who epitomized confidence and having his act together. Maybe it was my being so exposed, maybe it was the red wine, but where the conversation then went was even more unexpected. In a much longer story, shorter, my friend opened up and shared how he was actually a very fragile being.

And there we were. Two accomplished professionals in the corporate world, being weak.

What nobody told us is that there is actually a deep inner strength in vulnerability. This may sound contradictory at first – but vulnerability is actually a strength in disguise. You know why? Because to be vulnerable you have to be honest, you have to be the real you. And we were certainly being real.

Being vulnerable isn’t just about how you present or project. It’s about revealing what you withhold or keep hidden from other people. We all do this to some extent. I bet you’ve never said to a friend, “I just love that I’m insecure.” There’s the risk that if we reveal our authentic selves, we’re likely to be misunderstood, labeled or rejected. The fear of rejection can be so powerful that some will never let their guard down.

Sometimes it may feel safer to hide our inner feelings in favor of an inauthentic, more confident exterior, but the truth is, people respect vulnerability so much more than a false presence. Playing pretend doesn’t ever make you feel good on the inside; it only leaves you feeling like a fraud. And who likes frauds?

Perhaps it’s through writing, perhaps it’s through getting older, but ultimately I’ve realized that I’m still a pretty hard person to get to know. I’m guarded and I don’t break easily, no matter how close I am to people. Maybe you can relate to this. I know that most are still kept at a distance that is comfortable, a distance that won’t leave me exposed.

When you’re vulnerable, your heart is wide open. You put your trust in somebody in the form of giving the most precious thing you have – your heart. When we’re vulnerable we leave ourselves available to be hurt and people hurt people. So I guess somewhere along the way, I made the decision that vulnerability wasn’t for me. I told myself that to be vulnerable would mean to give up my strength and I didn’t want to surrender that.

So, if you go back to my very first blog post, I’ll again call myself a cave man. I mean, isn’t that where this need to be not vulnerable belongs?

How comfortable are you with putting it all out there? Being emotionally butt-naked?


13 thoughts on “Visiting Vulnerability

  1. This is interesting.

    I do not like crying in front of other people . . . but it’s not because I’m afraid of what THEY might think of me. It’s because I don’t want to have to deal with THEM and THEIR reaction to my tears . . . I just want to cry in peace. To be alone with my sadness.

    And that is part of who I am at the core.

    So . . . NOT crying in front of them is ME being ME.

  2. Hi Eric! You’re sounding a lot like a disciple of Brené Brown there! Embracing your gifts of imperfection… If only that were easier done than said….

  3. Hey Eric,

    Good topic.

    I feel I am getting gradually better at “putting it all out there”, realizing that there is nothing to hide. Hiding in all forms stems from fear and low self-esteem (for me) and it is absolutely something I feel is worthwhile to practice. That’s one of the key goals in writing for me, not only in writing my blog, but also in writing and doing public speaking in general. Both of which I do often.

  4. I’m surprised you ended on the note that you did. Are you condoning leaving vulnerability in the man-cave? Not that I’m arguing that we all need to be weeping willows in every garden, but sunlight on our frail branches does everyone good. No?

    • Absolutely to sunlight. Perhaps I could have worded it differently but I did imply that the need to be less vulnerable belongs in a cave. What I’m advocating is, for a variety of reasons, we need to be and would benefit from being more vulnerable. (Said as he backs himself into a Brown corner.)

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