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Vulnerability is not Weakness

Vulnerability is not weakness
Vulnerability is not weakness

In this week’s Success Newsletter, I would like to reveal the truth about vulnerability – it is not weakness but pure courage – and why it is critical for happiness & success.

First a quick update:

“Yoga Guru Bikram Choudhury victimized vulnerable women – accused of rape, sexual battery & fraud”
The founder of Birkram Yoga is being sued over allegations that he “raped students in a cult-like training.”  Are these allegations surprising if true? Why do so many women fall for and become prey for charismatic men and cults? Read my article about the link between women with low self-esteem, a poor relationship with fathers and easy prey for gurus, cults & brainwashing:

Now, let’s talk about the truth about vulnerability – it is not weakness but pure courage – and reveal why it is critical for happiness & success.

In my newsletter, Craving human connection – 6 tips” I revealed that love and connection (a sense of belonging and meaning) is one of the six key human emotional needs. I also explained that the strongest form of punishment in the prison system is solitary confinement, which leads to a host of mental and emotional disorders and breakdowns.

In other words, both men and women need human connection. Although women openly place more emphasis on relationships, men need connection just as much as women.

Connection, which is the relationship with people whereby we feel seen, heard, and valued; whereby we can freely express and receive without judgment, is critical not only to our mental and emotional health, but also critical to our sense of having meaning and purpose in life. (Read my article “Getting your six human emotional needs”  ).

What blocks and prevents connection?

The fear of becoming vulnerable.

What is vulnerability?

The choice to reveal yourself; all of you.

Vulnerability is the choice to reveal yourself knowing that you might be loved or you might experience pain and rejection.

Recently, I explained to a ‘friend’ whom I had known casually for about 3 years that we weren’t real friends, couldn’t become real friends, until she chose to be vulnerable – to reveal herself, to be fully seen and heard, without hiding or being secretive.

What and why was she hiding?

The same thing everyone hides and for the same reason everyone hides, which, I’ll explain in a moment.

But you cannot feel fully alive, until and unless you fully reveal yourself and become vulnerable. Yes, you can shut down those difficult feelings but you will also shut down all of the other feelings – joy, love, happiness and creativity.

What prevents us from being vulnerable?

The same thing that blocked my friend from revealing herself: the fear that when we become vulnerable, we might get rejected, we might experience pain.

Ultimately, the greatest fear behind vulnerability is the fear of not being good enough, not being worthy.

In other words, people who fear vulnerability, actually fear that they are not worthy of love and connection.

It is the thought that says “If he/she sees the real me, he or she won’t love me; he/she will reject me.”

Thus, this is also coupled with shame, guilt and an overall sense of simply not being worthy; the belief that there is something wrong with oneself.

Feeling or believing you are inherently worthless only destroys you.

If you believe you are not good enough – that there is something inherently wrong with you and that therefore you don’t deserve love or are not good enough to be loved, then you will mask that pain in every way possible; you will turn to anything and everything to numb that pain – food, drugs, work and every form of addiction, distraction and escapism.

But alas, you cannot escape yourself; and as mentioned earlier, numbing one painful emotion leads to numbing every emotion – and at that point, you no longer feel alive. You have become numb. And then, you will turn to some substance to try and regain a feeling, any feeling.

You cannot feel fully alive until you connect deeply with other people – and you cannot connect deeply with other people until you become vulnerable.

But I opened this article with the claim that “vulnerability is not weakness but pure courage.”

How so?

Courage is the choice to act in spite of feeling afraid, uncomfortable or uncertain.

Courage is from the Latin word cor, meaning heart; the original definition was to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart.

Thus, being courageous to be vulnerable infers that one speaks from the heart, one lives from the heart, and one reveals oneself with an open heart.

It is summed up as living life wholeheartedly – giving of oneself completely and wholly; willing to express the full range of human emotions – not just those that we think society or certain people expect of us.

Expressing the full range of human emotions implies revealing pain, hurt, sadness, self-doubt, shame, guilt and fear as well as love, joy, excitement, anticipation, dreams, fantasies, compassion, empathy and so forth.

All of that requires the willingness to remove the mask.

In order to live wholeheartedly, one must be willing to remove the mask and be authentic.

And you cannot be authentic whilst you choose to hide, be secretive or pretend to be something you are not, or pretend to be something or someone that you think others want you to be.

Here is the one tough question, the secret to setting you free to be authentic, wholehearted and vulnerable:

  • What is the one thing that you are hiding or that you think “If people were to know this about me, then they would not love/approve/like me?”
  • What is the one thing that you are hiding or that you think “If people were to know this about me, then they would know that I am not good enough, not worthy of love, not worthy of being loved or of expressing love?”

The second and final step is:

Acceptance and compassion
Until you accept yourself, you will never be able to reveal yourself; until you accept your flaws, mistakes, guilt, wrongdoings, you won’t be able to allow yourself to be seen. You cannot expect others to do that for you; you must begin the process of self-acceptance.

That process also involves accepting human Imperfection (yours and others), letting go of shame, and forgiving oneself.

If you know you did something wrong or hurt someone, seek to make amends. Read my article of 7 simple steps “Asking for forgiveness”.

It’s also important to understand but not be attached to the fact and realization that people are drawn to those whom live and love wholeheartedly, with vulnerability and passion. Think of the people who resonate the most with you, those people you admire the most; it is those who have an open heart and live with vulnerability, tenderness and strength.

Of course, discretion is required when being vulnerable for it is not fully appropriate in every situation – those that are required to be strong and protectors such as police, military and emergency personnel cannot express extreme vulnerability; a boss cannot pour out emotion and self-doubt to his/her employees, nor can a parent lean on his/her children and express sadness or full vulnerability – the children are not there to fulfill your emotional needs and they need your strength. However, there are times when a parent might express some vulnerability if he/she makes a mistake and chooses to turn it into an opportunity for the children to learn about honesty, humility, imperfection, acceptance, responsibility and forgiveness.

Finally, have you noticed the way I close every newsletter – 355 newsletters for the past seven and a half years?

I wish you the best and remind you “Believe in yourself -You deserve the best!”

The more you believe in your worthiness, the more love and vulnerability you will express and the greater authentic connections you will have, and, thus, the more happiness, meaning and fulfillment you will experience in life.

If you want to learn more about research associated with vulnerability, watch the TED talk by Dr. Brené Brown, research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work

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I wish you the best and remind you “Believe in yourself -You deserve the best!”

Patrick Wanis Ph.D.
Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert & SRTT Therapist

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