I caught a television show last week during one of my lying-on-the-couch-feeling-sick-and-vulnerable days about the subject of vulnerability. It resonated with me so much because A) I’m a sucker for that feel-good, improve yourself stuff and B) I think I’ve spent much of my life showing that I’m vulnerable, sometimes to my demise.
Here’s the definition of vulnerable: Exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.
Doesn’t sound like a good thing to be and I used to think of this as a weakness but I’ve never known any other way to be. I’m one of those people who wears her heart on her sleeve and I suck at poker. I don’t know how to smoothly bullshit anyone (you know, there are people who are great at it); I only know how to be who I am.
I’ve shown my uncertainty and trusted people who have and haven’t deserved it. But I’ve gone through some amazingly wonderful and thrilling times and some dark, soul-wrenching painful ones — that’s what life is though, right?
Experiencing it all so that we can grow, learn, love, show compassion, give and receive love, trust.
From a Friend
One of my dear blogging buddies wrote this about me on one of her posts: She’s warm and vulnerable. I think that’s what I respond to the most, her vulnerability. She’s the real deal.
Thank you, Lisa! But truthfully, when I first read that, I thought to myself am I coming across as uncertain? Isn’t being uncertain a weakness? Do I seem like a wimp?
Being uncertain and imperfect isn’t very popular these days. Every image I see on television or in magazines of a successful woman depicts her as being strong, confident, gorgeous, perfect. Most certainly, not vulnerable.
Turns out allowing one’s self to be vulnerable is actually a very good thing. At least according to Brené Brown, a research professor who has spent the last decade studying those human attributes that we all share: vulnerability, courage, worthiness and shame, which are all inextricably linked. We can’t selectively numb ourselves to emotions that aren’t comfortable. If we do, we don’t really experience those really joy-filled soul ones.
Being vulnerable means having the the willingness to say “I love you” first. To invest in a relationship or situation that may or may not work out. And to have the courage to be imperfect, compassionate for ourselves first (one I work on continuously), then others. We have to let go of “who we should be” in order to be who we are.
Through a decade of research, she said that people who were willing to be this way thought that what made them vulnerable is what made them beautiful. And, in believing and doing so, made those real connections with others. The real deal, not the shallow “I’ll-meet-you-at-5-for-martinis-and-we’ll-talk-about-someone-else-and-I’ll-make-sure-I’m-wearing-the-right-kind-of-clothes-so-I’ll-impress-you-connections. I’m horribly uncomfortable around that kind of thing
Vulnerability — So Attractive in Movies, But Would You Do That in “Real Life?”
Remember the movie, Say Anything? John Cusack drives up to the poor little rich girl’s house and despite them being totally wrong for each other, he holds that enormous boom-box up proclaiming his love for her with that make-my-heart-drop song, In Your Eyes blaring out of it. Didn’t even think about rejection. Totally vulnerable. Very attractive, but would a girl really want a guy to do that and would a guy really do that?
In The Departed, (one of my favorite movies), Vera Faramiga’s character (therapist) asks Leonardo DiCaprio’s character (undercover cop) — Is your vulnerability real? She liked it — a lot.
It all usually works out in fiction, boy gets girl, girl gets boy or girl gets girl, boy gets boy — whatever, but it’s when partners, friends or lovers show their real heart, the good stuff and open themselves to being loved or hurt, that a real connection is made.
Do you think we do this in our real lives — expose our vulnerability? Show our real selves? I think maybe we should do that more.
I’m leaving you with two GREAT songs to enjoy. Peter Gabriel’s In Your Eyes and Comfortably Numb by Roger Waters featuring Van Morrison and The Band.
Then scroll down after you’re feeling all lovely and in a good place from those tunes and watch Brené Brown on Ted Talks. I swear it’s worth the 20 minutes and she goes even deeper into this topic. Just listen while you’re doing something. It makes sense.
Enjoy and Happy Monday everyone.
Grippy was on the money with her description of you. It’s funny, my “Spock VS Kirk” post had a similar topic… It’s interesting how being emotional, sentimental, raw, can often be seen as being “vulnerable”, and sometimes, even weak. I think being in tune with your emotions is a strength. To feel is a strength. You, Brigitte, are strong.
Eric, Thank you. That post of yours certainly showed yours (vulnerable self) and look how many comments and responses you received from it. It resonates with people to be that way — it does. What a compliment from you — thank you. I guess I am pretty strong. So are you.
Great post, Brigette! I really admire people who are able to be vulnerable and put themselves out there – that is not a strength of mine and is something I have been working on. I look forward to watching the Ted Talk – thanks so much for sharing!
Hi Jenn, Nice to see you. It’s difficult…I think it’s the fear of being rejected or hurt maybe — ? I think you’ll enjoy the Ted Talks and you’re very welcome.
Wow Brigitte. You hit this out of the park. This is a total validation for me today, in this moment, everything I have been trying to say about how we are all connected, the value of living an authentic life, recognizing that I have limitations, allowing myself to “roll with it.” OMG – thank you so very much for being who you are and sharing in such a way that brings it all together. ~~LOVE~~
Well hello dear friend and thank you for saying that. I love that — an authentic life. I think the older (and hopefully wiser) you get the more you realize just how crucial this is, otherwise, really — what’s the point? Thank you for being you, Honie and I’m so glad you liked the post. xxoo
Yeah, girl! Being authentic and open and emotional is definitely not a sign of weakness. You are who you are, and owning all of it is much braver than pretending you’re something you’re not. Some of the most vulnerable people I ever met are the ones who put up a strong front.
Hey Weebs. Putting up a strong front is something I’ve done pretty well but it’s even better when you can let those walls down to the people who get you and love you despite all your mistakes, flaws and imperfections. Here’s to being authentic and I’d say you’ve got that nailed down pretty well, friend. xo
To be called vulnerable is a supreme compliment in my world : ) It means that you have integrity and that you’re emotionally courageous, and yes, it’s what connects you to other people – like velcro.
Okay, let me just start by saying I love Brene Brown, almost as much as I love you. I even carry notes around in my purse from her lectures. I like the bit about being “a whole-hearted person,” that it takes courage to be imperfect and tell the story of who you really are and not a false story of what people want you to be. This is exactly how we connect with each other. Oh, I just love this stuff! Yes, my warm vulnerable friend, I think it takes guts to be true to who you really are, especially when there is strong opposition. I can relate to the “vulnerability hangover.” It’s scary to put yourself out there and risk rejection and disapproval or not being loved. Scary stuff.
You mentioned two of my FAVORITE scenes ever!! The one from the Departed gets me so hot it’s not even funny! (Well, maybe it is.) But yeah, Vulnerability is a big turn on. Big.
This is such a great post, Brigitte!!! What a worthwhile topic. Thank you for writing this!!! xoxox
Grippy, my friend — I thought you felt that way and you’re saying that about me makes my day/week/year! Brene Brown — talk about strong and funny and all that. It is scary but oh so worth the ride, yes? :).
And yeah, that Departed scene, my gawd…I know it’s one of the best ever. It fades away at just the right moment. Damn, if you know what I mean and obviously you do. So glad you enjoyed and you know, I really liked writing this one. xxoo
After spending a lifetime of being stoic, I’m not keen on displaying vulnerability. That being said, the emotion still exists, so to deny it is futile. Everybody has their own means of coping with it; humor is mine. The fact that you can admit to vulnerability openly makes you a step ahead of the rest of us.
Carrie, I think many people are like that. I’m know all about deflecting — using humor — in order for the focus to be on someone else. I’m a middle-child — hello!! I don’t know about being a step ahead of the rest of you, but I greatly appreciate your saying that. 😉
Hi middle child, nice to meet you. I’m one, too. 🙂
I knew I loved ya for a reason. It’s a curse and a blessing, know what I mean?
Brigitte, this is beautiful! As I experience life longer, I see that it takes strength to be vulnerable, that much of what we perceive as weaknesses – tears, uncertainty – are actually badges of courage. It takes great strength to say: this is who I am. And you do that, dear friend, with great tenderness! Thank you! xoxoM
Thank you, Margarita. I love that — badges of courages. If you watch the video, you’ll find out the original meaning of the word courage. I think we all do that with our blogs, don’t you? We write and put ourselves out there and it’s been encouraging and inspiring to meet so many people from all walks of life that are doing the same thing, just saying: This is Me. xxoo
Yes, I do, indeed, just put out what/who I am. To my never-ceasing joy and amazement, people keep coming back for more! I intend to watch the video later with sweet husband. He’s an amazing and loving man…we’ll hold hands and be present! xoxoM
Now that sounds wonderful. It’s so nice being present when you really take the time to do so. xoxoB
And the reason why people keep coming back is because we love what you have to say. ;).
Thanks, dear one! xoxoM
I have no words(yes it is true) to comment on this post… other than I’m working on it. Your words are timely and the comment section is as well. working on my softness.. outside of the unfettered world
Ah, my friend — you don’t have to work on anything. You’re perfect exactly the way you are. And, I’ve seen your vulnerable side — you show it when you write so beautifully, didn’t you know? Thanks, Audra.
thanks for saying that..
thank you my queen (smile)
I am pretty much a solo entity i.e., I have close friends and a significant whatever, but I’m very much on my own in life so for reasons of self-preservation, I have developed a hard shell. If I let things get to me it would probably be impossible for me to get through the day. so for the most part, I let things roll off. Recently, I had what could have been a serious health scare. I only told my closest friend, a guy, and my significant whatever, a woman, otherwise I kept it primarily to myself until I knew the prognosis. No point setting up an appointment at the crematorium just yet. She was surprisingly there for me. I neither demanded it nor expected it, but I’ll admit I appreciated it. Fortunately, everything turned out fine, but when I think about what might happen should my health bail on me, then I feel my most vulnerable. I dread the thought of being a burden on anyone.
I dread the thought of being a burden on anyone
To a lesser extent, I’m that way too. But playing devil’s advocate (and as someone who, like many of us, has cared for a sick relative or friend), the people who love you may be GRATEFUL to take you on as a burden if it comes to that.
Hi V, I know what you mean about the self-preservation thing, been there myself. I wish I could be that kind of person that lets things roll off! I take things to heart. Maybe there’s a happy medium?? Those scares really make you take a pause, don’t they? And that old saying, you find out who your true friends are — that’s so true. The good ones stick with you through the scary stuff. I’m so glad everything turned out to be just fine but if you look at it this way — you found out that significant other was there for you. Why did that surprise you? You deserve that, right? Yeah, you do. Thanks for the comment, V and for showing your vulnerable self. xo
Us men are probably more vulnerable than we want to admit. Get a man away from his drinking buddies and only then will you see signs of his true self, despite him wanting to hide his vulnerability.
George — WELCOME!! So glad you stopped by. Yeah, I know that about men. Hubby shows his vulnerable side at times and that’s one of the best things about him. Your blog looks great — I must stop by and hope you come back and visit the Banter again soon.
Thanks – glad you liked my blog. I’ll certainly come back and visit. Personally, and my wife will agree, that I’d rather spend an evening chatting to women, then a bunch of men talking about sport, sex, and all the things they say they’ve done. I even like Musicals – and I’m far from gay!
I’m selectively vulnerable. When I was younger, I think I tended to be more vulnerable, but this was less of an asset than a weakness in my case, and I had to learn to harden myself up. As an adult I’ve generally been more selective about revealing my vulnerabilities, and this has worked out quite well for me. My vulnerability, just like my affection or my friendship, must be earned.
I want to stress that what’s right for my life in no way invalidates anything anyone else has to say. I won’t be able to watch Ms. Brown’s presentation just now (I was supposed to start working 11 minutes ago!), but I will check it out, because, even though I feel very comfortable in my own paradigm, I would be a fool to think I have nothing more to learn.
Wise words, Smak. You’re right about it “being earned.” I think we all harden up a bit as we get older. Maybe it’s not so much hardening, but maturing – knowing when to stay and when to leave? Trust our instincts a bit better maybe? I think that’s it. I think being vulnerable is also being brave enough to be who you are and just let life be as it is.
I hope you will at least listen to it. She takes it to a deeper level. We always have more to learn don’t we? ;).
Thanks, friend and hope your week is starting out great.
you are the least uncertain person I know (as much as someone can know another on a blog) and if it is your vulnerability that reaches out and encourages me–then I say up with vulnerability–you always, always, always say the right thing and that is because you are in touch with you; and you are very lucky in that your “you” is a wonderful, intelligent, compassionate being (and a great writer to boot–you are a joy to read)
Lou Ann, well you’ve most definitely said the right thing and I’m honored that you feel that way. Thank you so much for your kind words! Wow, I so enjoy reading your posts as well. xxoo
loved loved loved loved loved X infinity the Ted talk – thank you – my sister told me about some of the Ted talks and I forgot about them – thank you — I am now subscribed
I know! Isn’t it great???!!! There’s some funny ones on there as well and most always inspire. Thanks, Lou Ann.
I must say I really did enjoy her and her sense of humour but she got the message across so effectively
Brigitte, I’ve always loved that the fabulous “boom box” scene with John Cusack in Say Anything. I’m getting all teary just thinking about it! T. (After reading your work for months, here’s how I’d describe you and your writing: incredibly self-aware, articulate and witty, to boot. With exquisite taste in film!)
Hi T, I know one of my favs as well! Oh my, thank you for that, T. Your blog is delight for the senses. :).
I think being perceived as vulnerable is a compliment. I would take it and run. I love it when people say I’m nice. I feel that I’m strong enough to show that vulnerability and principled in a way that I should respect these qualities.
You’re brave enough to reach out and touch people while so many are hiding behind fear, meanness, bitchiness. It’s obvious to me now when people are hard around the edges how scared they really are. If people want to take us for suckers, let them. I’ve had a couple of people say really complimentary things about me based on those attributes, which helps me to see how beneficial they are. I think it’s brave to be this way when everybody else is putting up a front.
Hi Sandee, I think you are right! I’ve never thought of people being mean or bitchy hiding behind something but I guess you are absolutely right, otherwise why would they be that way?? I love your honesty as well and glad you appreciate those same attributes in a fellow blogger (and friend!). xxoo
Thank you for this subject and for the TED Talk. I have linked your post here: http://ohmsweetohmdotme.wordpress.com/2012/09/17/the-human-connection/
Hi Allan — thank YOU! Glad you enjoyed the Ted Talk. It’s a great one and thank you for stopping by!
I love that you are vulnerable and unsure. We all are.
And sometimes there is a price for being certain and confident. You can detatch yourself so far from emotion, you can have trouble finding it.
Hi Rep! It’s a human thing I think. You can’t be sure and confident all the time! :). Thank you for your kind comment.
I think a lot of times, it’s how you show that vulnerability that will either draw people in or keep people out. I think you’ve definitely found the right way to express it and hence, so many people appreciate and love you for it! Oh snap, did I just bring out the “L” word first? 😉
Hi Lillian, I agree! Yes, I have some very talented, sensitive and astute readers of my blog (you included) that are kind of enough to “get” and comment on my ramblings. I’ll take love — thanks, friend!
Hi! I’m a brand new follower. I have really enjoyed reading many of your posts. As for this one. My 2 cents is this. It takes a certain strength to be vulnerable. You seem to have this strength. I hope I have it. Thanks for making me think today.
Hi Jackie! Welcome and thank you for your two cents (worth so much more than that though) and I think you are right about it does take strength. Thank you so much for your nice comment — it is so appreciated. :).
You’re welcome! 🙂
This is great Brigitte. I had a lot of therapy before I could allow myself to be vulnerable. It is a gift. xo
Hey Maggie. Been there myself, friend. We are a work-in-progress — that’s a good thing and being vulnerable is as well! Thank you and I agree. It is a gift. xxoo