On Being Vulnerable

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Merriam-Webster definition of vulnerability:  The quality or state of having little resistance to some outside agent

Happy Super Tuesday.  As political campaigns ramp up, I am noticing the lack of vulnerability acceptable in today’s political spheres, as well as in many public and private realms and often within our own relationships.  How many times has my own husband told me it’s exhausting for him when he feels he has to “get it perfectly right” when having an argument with me.  Individuals need to be able to flounder, flail, and flummox on a day-to-day basis.

Why is vulnerability vital?  If we are unable to risk being emotionally  “wounded,” we are unable to risk emotional growth.  Growth of ANY kind can only take place in vulnerable environments.  If you plant a flower in a hermetically sealed jar, protected from all elements (sun, water, wind, insects), it will die.  A plant needs water and sunlight to grow outside, but that means it must risk being vulnerable to wind, hostile weather, and insects.  In a sense it must risk being destroyed in order to live.

Vulnerability in the work place: If we know that vulnerable environments promote growth, it’s vital that as a supervisor of a staff team we provide our employees with opportunities to be vulnerable.  Vulnerability will promote creative breakthroughs, new discoveries, and agility.  To create this environment, supervisors can use a variety of methods.  Three very simple ways are, really taking the time to know your employees’ strengths, being open to feedback (positive and negative), as well as letting it be known that there is room for failure on your team.  There are many workshops and activities organizations can do with their staff teams to promote vulnerability in the work place.

Vulnerability In our personal life:  Think about some of the best times of your life.  That time you were 20 years old driving cross country with your best friends, that time you hiked 5 miles farther than you planned, that time you drank a little too much and divulged a little more than usual, that time you met someone on an airplane and had a surprising connection that led to a job offer or better yet, a life long friendship.

Vulnerability is what lets others know we are not judging them, and in turn, they trust us with the best parts of themselves.  Only when one is allowed to be vulnerable in our presence will we truly ever know them.

How is vulnerability showing up in your life?
Do you give your partner the space to be vulnerable?
Do you demand vulnerability for yourself?
Is there space for vulnerability in your career and friendships?

I say all this as someone who has expelled a great deal of energy avoiding being vulnerable and understand how it can often be a comfortable way to live, however I know there’s no ROI (return on investment) when we invest our energy this way.  One of the antonyms of vulnerability is impenetrability, which is exhausting and an uninspiring way to live.

Cheers to you, me, and our messy selves.

Rachel