I recently lead a group in a discussion about vulnerability. Doesn’t that sound like fun? No, vulnerability is definitely not fun! Who likes being vulnerable? Who likes opening themselves up to pain, rejection, embarrassment, loss? Nobody likes being vulnerable, but avoiding vulnerability also means avoiding true connection, which can lead to depression, loneliness, anxiety and isolation.
Vulnerability is a scary proposition because there are very real risks involved. When you are vulnerable you can be hurt, you can be ignored, you can be laughed at and left behind. But those moments when you are vulnerable with another person are the exact moments that can lead to deep connection with them. So, yes, there are big risks; but there are also huge rewards in being vulnerable. Take a look at Will Smith’s final scene in Hitch…huge risk and vulnerability and deep connection. Check out Crazy, Stupid, Love when Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone spend an evening of ever more vulnerability and growing connection. Or (my favorite) the dance scene in Little Miss Sunshine…what’s more vulnerable than dancing in front of a crowd? But it is the culmination of this family’s journey from utter disconnection to trust and connection with each other.
Think about a time when you felt deeply connected with another person. I am sure you were also being vulnerable. I was recently a part of a group and the topic of race came up. I felt very uncomfortable and scared to share my thoughts and feelings about the topic because I was worried that I would be seen as the privileged white lady who had no right to talk about discrimination and prejudice. I pushed past that fear and spoke my truth, and it turned into a moment of deep connection with other group members. On the flip side, I have had experiences with people who have disappointed me or made me angry and I have not said anything because it felt too scary and risky, and our connection has suffered for that.
When I think about the people I feel closest to in my life, they are the people with whom I can let down my guard and be myself. I can be vulnerable with these select few because they have earned my trust. Trust is build little by little over time. These amazing people in my life have showed me time after time after time that they will not judge me, that they will support me, that they will love me no matter what. Of course, that isn’t always the case. They have also let me down sometimes. But we are all imperfect, so we keep loving each other and apologizing and making amends and trying again. Sometimes when I am vulnerable, they hurt me, judge me, don’t have time for me. And those times really suck! But usually they listen and I feel like I am not alone, and that is the sweet gift of connection. It is the lovely feeling of togetherness, someone on your side. And that is worth the risk!