Vignettes in Aging – Vulnerability

Vulnerability is being open and exposed, taking chances. Vulnerability is saying:

“I’ll do it.”
“The truth is…” when what’s true for you doesn’t match what is true for others.
“That hurt me,” when someone’s done something to upset you.
“I’m sorry,” or “I forgive you,” or “I made a mistake,” or “Forgive me, please.”
“That’s not right,” when you see an injustice while others sit by only judging or observing.

Why is it so difficult to be vulnerable? Got an hour? We could talk a lot about those reasons. Current psychology identifies shame and fear to be the main reasons we often go out of our way to avoid being vulnerable.

Our unwillingness to be vulnerable keeps us from being honest, from being and expressing who we really are, and keeps us stuck … in bad relationships, jobs, and a myriad of other situations.

It takes guts to be vulnerable. The rewards of doing so, however, are excellent. I remember a time in my childhood when I was upset about something and needed comfort and understanding. My mother – who knew not what she was doing – lured me to sit at her feet and put my head on her lap. She stroked my hair as I cried and shared my angst. However, the words that came out of her mouth made me regret being vulnerable with her. She said, “You should have known that was going to happen. If you hadn’t done that, you wouldn’t be all crying and upset now. When are you going to learn?” She scolded me, and I made a mental note not to share upsetting things with her ever again. My willingness to be vulnerable suffered in that moment.

If you’re interested in being more vulnerable, and therefore, more in touch with the real world, here are a few things you can try:

~Don’t avoid expressing negative feelings, but learn the best way to do so without blaming others.
~Put yourself out there, even if it’s just smiling at strangers or commenting pleasantly on a stranger’s social media post. Talk to that person ahead of you in line. Be willing to do things in front of others:  speak, perform, read aloud.
~Risk doing something you’re not good at.

Embrace your vulnerability. Most people are in the same boat. If you can learn to express how you feel tactfully, you’ll find you’re in good company with people you admire. Eventually, you’ll become less vulnerable and more open.