I have been thinking about what it means to be vulnerable and vulnerability. Why is it so scary to be vulnerable? I think one major reason is when you have been vulnerable and someone has hurt you during that time, you remember that pain. The pain of being hurt when vulnerable is intense and is seared into your soul much like a burn leaves a scar upon your skin.
Another reason that it is scary to be vulnerable is because there are people in the world who prey on others vulnerability. Just this week in the paper there was an article about a scam that preys on those looking for employment. A couple years ago friend of mine was on a dating site and had to report a scam artist who had contacted her. Just the other day I heard about a scam that calls and leaves a message saying you are about to be arrested unless you call a certain number in 24 hours. The list of scams and scam artists is unending.
But this is not the type of vulnerability I am talking about. I am talking about the kind of vulnerability that happens when we share our souls with someone else through our art, through relationships, through taking risks and/or by asking for help.
A good friend recently lost his cat due to illness. He lives out-of-state, but when he was here, we would hang out, cook together and watch movies or TV. The cat that passed away was called Mines. Mines was very shy and did not bond with just anyone. Well, I got along great with Mines. When my friend moved, I have to confess that I missed Mines just as much as I missed my friend. So when I got the phone call that Mines had died, I was so surprised. Mines was only four years old. I was saddened by the death of Mines and could feel the pain of my friend. I also felt honored that my friend chose to call me and share his sorrow with me. He was in a vulnerable place. He needed someone he felt safe with to share his loss.
I have been in that place myself. Where I have needed to share my pain in loosing someone or something important to me with someone who wouldn’t be judgmental and who would treat me and my feelings with respect. Right now think about the people in your life. Do you have people who you can lean on when you are feeling vulnerable? I feel like I have several people in my life that I can be vulnerable with.
Why does it scare people to say that they need help? What is it about sharing our weaknesses that terrifies us so? I am the poster child of not wanting to ask for help. I fear that people will see me as weak or stupid if I ask for help. Being stubborn and not asking for help when I need it has caused me to get into some pretty stupid situations. I have gotten better about this as I have gotten older, but; it is still a struggle. There are times when you need to ask people you trust for their input. When I first started writing posts for my blog, I would read them to friends when I was scared that the post sounded stupid and/or I wasn’t sure if the subject matter was appropriate for a blog on creativity. None of the people I asked for help have treated me as stupid or see me as weak because I asked for their help. In fact their help, guidance and encouragement has made me stronger and more confident.
Why is it important to be vulnerable? I shared my pondering with one of my creativity classes. One student said that it was important to be vulnerable. That we needed to be vulnerable in order to push the limits of the box. The idea intrigued me and I asked her to expand on it. She said that if we do not experience new things, put ourselves out there and take risks, the box that is our world gets smaller and smaller. Smaller box means there are fewer people we allow in and we don’t allow ourselves to participate in new experiences and activities. But by taking risks, being vulnerable and trying new things we push the boundaries of the box and open up a world of possibilities for ourselves.
In February I was emailing a friend. We started sharing some very personal experiences and feelings. I don’t think that normally I would have shared these things but I felt very comfortable expressing myself to this person. Well, the next day I didn’t hear from him. I immediately felt that I had shared too much. I felt extremely vulnerable. I wondered if the relationship with this person was worth the vulnerability that I was feeling by taking a risk and sharing. It turned out that my friend had a situation happening in his life and just wasn’t able to email me. I felt a huge surge relief. I do feel like this relationship is worth the risk of being vulnerable.
It’s not always easy to share very personal feelings or experiences. It is scary to take risks that we know will change our lives forever. It is nerve wrecking to share a new poem, our latest artwork, or song. The possibility of rejection is out there. But so is the possibility of acceptance. By being vulnerable we give someone else the opportunity to say, “Hey, me too.” and/or “I understand what you are going through.” and/or “That’s really good. Keep up the good work.”