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Vulnerability is a word that tends to have a very negative connotation in our society. The associations that come to mind when we think of vulnerability are: susceptible to being wounded or hurt; being open to attack and criticism. Vulnerability is one of those words that society (and the dictionary) has labeled as a “negative emotion” and one to avoid at all costs.
As a result of these perceptions, the automatic response that most of us have to the mere thought of being vulnerable is to shield ourselves from any potential attack on our energy by putting up an emotional wall around ourselves. We may even think that if we can protect ourselves from being hurt by someone else’s thoughts, words, and actions, eventually we won’t feel any pain.
This seemingly self-protective strategy ultimately backfires because when we become numb to pain, we also become numb to experiencing the flow of joy and love in our lives. Putting emotional armor around ourselves actually creates a disconnect between the head and the heart. Every human being is vulnerable because we all want and need to be loved and accepted. If we deny our own vulnerability, how can we possibly have empathy and compassion for other human beings? Empathy and compassion are not experienced in our heads; rather, these self-empowering emotions can only be fully experienced through the heart.
When you try to avoid being vulnerable,
you are judging yourself for not being perfect.
When you judge yourself, you feel afraid that others will judge you as well. In an effort to “protect” yourself from having your perceived weaknesses being seen by others, you then have to hide all the parts of yourself that you don’t like by stuffing these fearful emotions somewhere into your mind and body. Ironically, in this futile attempt to “protect” yourself from others, you actually hurt yourself. By not bringing these hidden fears into the light of awareness, eventually your repressed feelings will surely erupt into mental, emotional, and physical pain and suffering.
Everyone has a “shadow side,” which is simply the love that is
trapped inside of us that we are afraid to express.
When we choose to express our complete, authentic self, we bring our “shadow side” to the conscious light of awareness, thereby creating the space to heal all the parts of ourselves. The following are some healthy ways in which we can allow ourselves to express our vulnerability:
1. Lighten up with humor – We tend to take ourselves so seriously. There are times when it is entirely appropriate to laugh at our own “mistakes.”
2. Admit when you don’t understand something – Many times we repeat the same unproductive patterns because we are afraid we will be judged as “stupid” if we ask more questions.
3. Express your honest feelings in a kind, respectful way – This applies equally to situations where you think that what you have to say is not going to be popular.
4. Tell the truth – even if it is something so small that no one would know the difference. Complete honesty creates self-respect and encourages others to do the same.
5. Ask for help when you feel you can’t handle the work load – We don’t need to sacrifice our health and well being to prove to the world that we are capable or indestructible.
6. Take responsibility for your thoughts, words, and actions – When you feel you have hurt someone, face up to it by offering an apology. You will feel better, and so will the other person.
Vulnerability does not mean rolling over and allowing yourself to be kicked around. Expressing your vulnerability is actually an amazing strength that involves standing up for yourself by completely accepting all the parts of who you are – the beautiful and the unattractive parts, the strong and the weak aspects, as well as the successes and the failures that you have experienced.
If we do not judge ourselves harshly, then it follows that we will not be critical of others. When we accept our Whole Self – warts and all – we open the path for genuine communication in all of our relationships because it sends the signal to others that it is OK for them to be imperfect as well. It is an acknowledgment of the truth that we accept something we humans all have in common – we are each here on earth to learn and to grow.
When we are willing to be vulnerable, we are giving ourselves permission to be seen in our entirety. Through this complete acceptance of self, we begin to comprehend the true meaning of unconditional love – for ourselves and others.
Unconditional love is, indeed, the ultimate in self-protection.
Love and Light,