Is Vulnerability Safe?
// Vul-ner-ability: //
1. capable of being physically or emotionally wounded
2. open to attack or damage
Do either of these definitions, provided by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, keep you from opening up, being vulnerable, and sharing your story?
VULNERABILITY is a word that scared the living daylights out of me. Being vulnerable meant that I had to come to reality enough with my story to talk about what had actually happened. Vulnerability meant that in order for me to deal with my story, I could no longer deny it. I had to say it out loud, so that I could process it. For a very long time, I felt that if I just kept my story to myself, then I would protect myself from the ridicule and judgment that would come with sharing it. But in the long run, it caused me to become very isolated. Finally, my body had enough and could no longer hold that trauma in. My story was coming out whether I liked it or not, so I was forced to deal with it. As you have read in My Story, I went to counseling and I WAS VULNERABLE. Telling such intimate details of my life to a complete stranger was the hardest thing I had ever done. My husband hadn't even heard some of the details that I was sharing with my counselor. I wondered, would she care about me and what had happened to me? Was it worth being vulnerable and sharing such intimate details about myself? The answer is yes, my counselor cried with me. My counselor lived my story with me. The vulnerability paid off and it allowed me a sense of freedom and refreshment.
I believe that the very definitions given above are exactly what keep us from embracing vulnerability. The idea of vulnerability quite frankly does not sound safe, so why would we put ourselves in a situation that has an opportunity for us to not feel safe?! In being vulnerable, there is space for being wounded. Therefore, we tend to build up walls to protect ourselves from these wounds that we COULD incur. We tend to not share our story, and remain in isolation, because we do not want to risk that pain.
Maybe you are most leery of sharing your story because someone previously took advantage of a time when you were vulnerable and therefore caused you to feel that you cannot trust the process of vulnerability again. Whatever your reason may be for avoiding vulnerability, do not let it continue to keep you from sharing your story. Do not let that experience hold that power over you anymore.
There is a reason that we have a story. Sometimes our story brings about shame and therefore encourages us to hide it, rather than embracing and sharing it. Yes, your story may be raw, it may be painful, but it has formed you into the beautiful person that you are today. If you do not choose to embrace your story and grow from it, your past keeps you strapped down. In fact embracing our story is a conscious choice that has to be made. It is easy to let our story bring us down, but it is rewarding when we can take pride in our story and take our power back.
There are many benefits that come with being vulnerable. While you may have only experienced consequences, there are many good reasons to be vulnerable -- with a safe and healthy person. I want to take a moment to emphasize that. Sometimes it is easier for us to find the unsafe people to be vulnerable with and therefore those who continually hurt us. We then associate vulnerability with all of the bad experiences that we have had and begin to feel that there is no positive outcome to being vulnerable. However, it is important to take into consideration who you are being vulnerable with. If you have a safe person in your life that is trustworthy, they are worthy of you being vulnerable with them. Someone who has continually hurt you and does not show you that they are trustworthy is not. If you have a safe person in your life, you may find the 3 reasons below to be true.
1.) Sharing your story can be empowering
Sharing your story may be the most vulnerable thing that you ever do. I will tell you what though, coming from personal experience, it is absolutely empowering to no longer let your story have power over you. You no longer have to let your story bring you shame. With shame comes isolation. In sharing your story, you may help someone else who has had a similar experience, which actively acts against the negative experience of isolation. We as humans do not want to feel alone in what we have experienced and often look for others who have had similar experiences. These are often the people that are easiest for us to bond with. Find someone that can share in your process. Support each other.
I encourage you, when you are ready--take your power back, be vulnerable, and share your story!
2.) Deeper relationships
Not only are you giving someone an opportunity to care about your story, but you are choosing to go deeper with them than you are in other relationships. There is risk in sharing our stories with others, as we have no power over what they choose to do with the information given. Vulnerability is often not something that we give frivolously. So to consider that someone is worthy of our trust, means that the relationship has already reached deeper levels than most relationships. We then desire and seek support from the person in us sharing our story, which cannot be said for all relationships. Overall, vulnerability allows for true authenticity and therefore brings great depth to a relationship.
3.) Allows for authenticity
If our past determines who we are, but we choose not to share that with those closest to us, are they really seeing our authentic self?
If being vulnerable in the past has not paid off, give it another chance, with someone safe. Being vulnerable and choosing to trust again is a beautiful and restoring experience. After we have been attacked, damaged, or wounded, it is absolutely a rehabilitating feeling to allow ourselves to put our heart in another's hands. To trust that person will not damage it like the last. When someone is willing to treasure the ability to hold your heart, we are able to be revived and know that there are trustworthy people in this world. Not everyone is bad and harmful.
Counseling is also a safe place that allows you to be vulnerable and process the experiences in which you have been harmed. It doesn't matter what your experiences have been, THEY. ARE. IMPORTANT! Your feelings are valuable and you are the person that you are today because of what you have experienced. It is okay if you have issues trusting others, you are not alone. Counseling is a safe place and allows you to get the weight of your past off of your shoulders.
What is your choice? Are you ready to let go of that weight that you have been carrying for so long?
Brittany Wingfield, MS, LPCC
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