I really want this.
But I’m not sure I can do this.
I’m laying all my cards on the table for everyone to see, with no guarantee that the outcome will be one favorable to me.
Yet here I am, exposed, naked, vulnerable, and more alive than I’ve ever been.
You’ve asked me time and time again about how to deal with the exposure, with the vulnerability, of putting myself out there and living a life on my terms.
You want to know how I remain confident while also being vulnerable. The truth is, I’m confident because I remain vulnerable.
Although you may think this is a contradiction in terms, it’s actually very simple and logical when you break it down.
A Direct Relationship Between Strength and Vulnerability
You’ve probably spent most of your years covered in various layers and types of armor to protect you from this crazy world.
Some armor is dedicated to protection from emotional pain, some is for mental pain, some is for imagined pain, and still other types of armor you use to protect yourself from interacting with the world in any way that would leave you exposed.
Covering myself in armor never did make me any stronger. In fact, the more I tried to protect myself, the weaker I got.
I discovered that it was impossible to interact with the world on the level I needed to in order to achieve my mission while I was covered in heaps of armor.
It became a constant barrier to forming relationships, learning, discovery, and development.
So, I started peeling off layers. The first to go was the layer that protected me from the judgments of others.
Boy did I get hurt. I was judged in ways I’d feared my whole life.
They called me irresponsible, unpredictable, naïve, selfish, ungrateful, and downright idiotic.
I was an unwelcome invader.
Needless to say, there was a lot of crying, and I considered retrieving my armor from the trash heap.
I stuck it out, and eventually I developed my own personal shield to these judgments. It wasn’t armor exactly; it was like an invisible force field that repelled unwanted social expectations.
It left me free to interact with the world in the way I wanted to while still protecting myself from unwanted interactions.
Then next layer I ditched was the armor protecting me from humiliation. Then the armor protecting me from feeling failure, rejection, disappointment.
On and on this went until I found myself completely naked, raw, and finally able to have up close and personal experiences with my environment.
The Necessity of Raw Vulnerability
Protecting yourself by avoiding any situation that might harm you doesn’t keep you strong. It keeps you weak, incapable, and scared.
You’re scared because you don’t know if you can handle the world as it is by being just who you are.
You’re weak because you don’t know how to handle the world by being you. How could you? You’ve never tried.
Remaining in your protective shell leaves you emotionally impotent.
It compounds the fear of the world by simply removing you from it. You don’t really trust the armor so, to be safe, you check out of life and anything activity deemed risky.
Is it any wonder that conquering the unknown makes you feel terror and panic?
You need to make yourself vulnerable if you want to live a life on your terms. You must state what you want with assertion. You must be able to handle the fallout after you’ve shown everyone you believe you’re worthy to pursue your dreams.
The Many Unfamiliar Faces of Vulnerability
It’s not always easy to see vulnerability in action. Most often, it looks just like courage or inner strength. I’d argue that half the time, it’s an equal mix of both. You need to have the courage to be vulnerable after all.
Asking for what you want makes you vulnerable. You advertise what your wishes are, and if they’re not fulfilled, humiliation is public.
Asserting yourself makes you vulnerable to the judgments of others.
Saying no makes you feel unpopular and unwanted and, therefore, vulnerable.
Taking risks towards living a life on your terms makes you vulnerable.
All of the above examples of vulnerability have an equal mixture of courage and vulnerability. The result of the equation is self-esteem.
It releases the need to pursue perfection, which is also just another form of armor we use to protect ourselves. When we’re perfect, everything will be ok, so we work for that perfection.
When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, we ditch any illusion that we’ll ever achieve ‘perfection,’ whatever that might be. We expose ourselves to all the imperfect happenings of life.
The conquering of these happenings is what nutures life-long self-esteem.
Vulnerability As A Prerequisite to Self-Esteem
Vulnerability means exposure in some way, shape or form. It means overcoming obstacles and reaching inside yourself from the strength and confidence it takes to keep on going even when prospects don’t look so great.
As I’ve mentioned before, self-esteem is made of of your self-confidence and self-respect. It’s the reflection of how you feel about your competence and worth as an individual.
Consistently exposing yourself to challenges and overcoming them not only builds your confidence in your competence and worth as an individual, it’s also an expression of self-respect in and of itself.
The act of stating what you want, what scares you, what hurts you out loud, is a testament to your strength and shows yourself that you think your desires are important enough to be spoken.
Being openly vulnerable is having the courage and self-esteem to say ‘I am human. I am imperfect. And that’s awesome.’
That’s what I want to tell you today.
You are human. You are imperfect. And that’s awesome.