Reframing Vulnerability as Connection
What’s the deal with vulnerability? All of us experience it at different times in our lives. Some of us deal with it better than others. For those of us who are still learning to deal with it, how can we move forward without letting it paralyze us?
A Google search reveals the following definition. “The quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.” Well, when defined that way, who would want to let themselves be vulnerable? The other day a friend of mine mentioned she was redefining judgment as discernment in her life, which was a more positive experience for her. Instead of feeling judged or like she was judging others, she realized they were just in the process of making different choices or discerning and that no one needed to feel bad about those choices.
This prompted me to think about how I could redefine vulnerability in my own life. I decided to begin seeing vulnerability as connection. Next time I’m in the middle of sharing what I think or feel about something personal to me, I have decided to relish in the fact I’m allowing myself to connect with another person on a deeper, more intimate level. This is something I have been craving in my life, but didn’t know vulnerability had been acting like a roadblock until just recently.
As far back as I can remember, I have enjoyed laughing and making other people laugh. This is something that comes naturally to me. Although this has always been a part of who I am, it has also served as a decoy for vulnerability. For instance, when I’ve felt vulnerable, in the past, I have had a tendency to use jokes and humor to distract from the feeling of vulnerability I was experiencing at the time. This has gone on for many years.
More recently, I have come to realize connection is one of my major life purposes, so moving past vulnerability and reframing it as connection is a major shift for me. It means I get to share parts of me I haven’t shared with others before and allow others to do the same. Sharing our true selves with others and allowing them to do the same helps provide connected experiences unlike anything else.
Sure, at first, being vulnerable or connecting with others can feel uncomfortable and unsafe, especially if you have had negative experiences in the past. However, what’s the alternative? Building a brick wall around yourself may keep you safe, but it is not 100 percent foolproof, and it may just leave you feeling lonely, isolated, and exhausted from constantly trying to protect yourself.
To start transforming vulnerability in my own life, I have used the following steps:
- Awareness - knowing that I feel uncomfortable with vulnerability
- Recognition - understanding the moments I feel vulnerable
- Desire - wanting to feel connected instead of vulnerable
- Action - sharing my thoughts and feelings with others even though it’s not always easy, and allowing them to do the same
None of these are right or wrong, they are just experiences. Since I can only control me and you can only control you, it is up to each of us to decide when we want to move into the more intimate, connected relationships where we can share our minds, hearts, and souls with others.
Sometimes it may feel like sharing comes more naturally to some of us and less naturally to others. Instead, think of connection (or vulnerability) like a muscle...the more you use it, the stronger and more comfortable it becomes. When we let ourselves be connected or vulnerable more often, the easier it will become, and we’ll all reap the benefits.
I choose connection now. What do you choose?
(Picture of a card I received for New Year's 2019)
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