I’ve done a lot of thinking about vulnerability. I’ve read and been powerfully influenced by Audre Lorde’s The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action, and I’ve listened to the words of Brené Brown – who has done Ted-X talks and On Being podcasts on the subject. I’ve embraced the idea that vulnerability is also a strength, and I’ve discovered the healing and compassionate power which comes from embracing and acknowledging your own vulnerability, rather than shaming it. Once you do this, I’ve found it to be a gateway to better embracing yourself and allowing yourself to thrive, as well as something which helps you to also be aware of vulnerability in others, and consequently take a more compassionate approach.
I say this in the past tense because I believe that my relationship with vulnerability is not a ‘done-deal’ but rather a daily, perhaps life-long, journey, and while there may be times where vulnerability can feel positive and intuitive and like something I can embrace, there may also be times where it can feel overwhelming, isolating and fearful. Even in writing this response, it took a conscious effort to look my own vulnerability in the eye, and to write these admissions with ‘I’ and ‘my’ over the more distant, less vulnerable, ‘you’, ‘our’, or ‘we’. It is far easier to write ‘sometimes we feel vulnerable’, rather than ‘sometimes I’.
And perhaps, then, this is the trick: that when feeling vulnerable, one of the most important things we can do is acknowledge its presence and say, out loud or to ourselves, ‘I’m feeling really vulnerable right now.’ Perhaps this acknowledgement and naming it is a step towards understanding and acceptance, a conversation we can continue with compassion in our reply: ‘it’s okay to feel vulnerable right now, it’s really understandable why you might feel that way, why don’t you go easy on yourself, why don’t you do something loving for yourself today.’
Vulnerability can be powerful, transformative, even. But it can also be really difficult too. I often tell myself that ‘we are all on our own journey’: 7 words that I use like a space to breathe, that give me permission to be kinder to myself and to recognise the ways I have grown and thrived, and to help keep my faith in my own strength and ability to keep going, to keep growing. I hope you find the words that make this breathing space for you. I hope that the next time vulnerability comes knocking, you’re able to use them.