I’m sitting here and really reflecting on and pondering the concept of vulnerability and I have to give credit to Brene’ Brown for all of her research and the contributions that she has made to unpack the concept of vulnerability.
Just like her I have struggled and still struggle with being vulnerable because of what it entails and what it requires of me, and that’s a scary concept and picture to wrap my mind around. The control gremlin inside of my brain tells me that it’s too big of a risk and that I need to put up these walls and barriers.
But the healthy part of my brain understands that vulnerability is vital to my success, to thriving and growing, and being what I was designed to be. Vulnerability allows me to give and share, and receive more than I could ever imagine, if only I just free myself from the shackles that I keep lugging around.
Brene’ Brown shared an example in one of her books that a person in the military shared with her—that our soldiers risk their lives for each other and it’s only possible because they are allowing themselves to be vulnerable. You’re putting your life in someone else’s hands, that is vulnerability. It makes me think of Extreme Ownership, the book, by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin. It’s a great book by the way. Much of what Willink and Babin share is based on vulnerability and understanding that by embracing it there was greater trust formed during combat, plans were executed effectively, and a bond was formed with fellow soldiers. They could rely upon and lean on each other because they opened and revealed a part of themselves, and in so doing that revelation was entrusted and protected by those they shared this intimacy with.
In the various examples shared, in all of these books that I am reflecting upon right now is a willingness and comfort with being vulnerable, and being okay with it. Not seeing it as a negative but actually a positive. But what is interesting is that so many of us see vulnerability as a weakness and it is usually the first thing that is pushed back upon when mentioned, especially in environments that shy away from topics of the heart and expression of feelings. But when you actually dissect vulnerability and break it down you realize that it is a positive element of our life, and our lack of vulnerability is what actually blocks us from great growth and development, from connecting deeply with others, from having greater intimacy and authenticity.
Some people confuse over-sharing with vulnerability. Sharing all of the intimate details of your personal life is not vulnerability. It’s just over-sharing. You’re just being an attention hog. Telling your friends about your romantic encounters is not vulnerability, it’s just lack of tact and respect for those individuals you were romping around with.
Vulnerability is being able to identify and accept the truth about yourself, sharing this truth with others, with an understanding that you risk that information being used against you— possibly, and that’s okay.
I guess in a way, vulnerability is understanding the concept of fear as information and processing it, without holding onto it and making it more than it is. Vulnerability would take the power away from fear. Vulnerability admits there’s fear there and admits that there’s hesitancy to make a decision. Courage can step in, answering vulnerability’s call, and face down the fear.
So being honest about your current state of affairs, maybe your mindset and what you’re going through emotionally and possibly physically or psychologically, is vulnerability with an intended purpose. If that makes sense?
I don’t have to share the details of any relationships that I’ve been in but I can share that I’m still trying to heal from those relationships—that is my vulnerability and my willingness to connect heart to heart with other people. I don’t and I won’t share details about my divorce but I can be vulnerable enough to say how gut wrenching it was for me because I never married with the thought of divorce in my mind. See, the details don’t really matter.
I don’t have to share details to share my heart and I understand that it requires vulnerability to share one’s heart. I can share that I’ve struggled with my business and in my career, and sometimes I question “What in the world am I doing and why?”, and I don’t need to go into the specific details about my finances or frustration with contracts and people who don’t truly value me— even though they need the services that I provide. I don’t need to go into specifics when sharing that I’ve struggled financially, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. You can be receptive to the essence of what I’m saying without feeling the need to grab a soda and popcorn, kick up your feet and wait to be entertained by my Lifetime movie sob story.
Vulnerability frees us to admit when we don’t know or understand something. It frees us to find people to help us in areas where we need it, at times when we need it. It frees us from the bondage of pride that will destroy us if we give it power and allow it to do so. Vulnerability opens a doorway where we can share what’s going on in real time and in the ways in which we are addressing issues, utilizing tools, learning lessons—rather than waiting until we conquered whatever mountain we were facing—and then victoriously celebrating and sharing with everyone all of the ways in which we did so.
Vulnerability says share it while you’re going through it.
It’s great, awesome, noble, and every reason to celebrate, when you can say that you wiped out your debt, or rebounded from any type of hardship, and then can share with other people how you did it so that they can learn from your lessons, and utilize the tools that you used. That is vulnerability.
What’s also a state of vulnerability is if you share while you’re in the trenches, sharing what you’re going through and what steps you’re taking to rectify it, what lessons you’re learning right now, and asking for guidance and counsel in the midst of the storm. You don’t have to share how deep in debt you are to be vulnerable. You don’t have to show people how and where you’re living in your state of homelessness. You don’t have to boo hoo and rant about how you got there and play the blame game, or internalize things in shame. It’s just sharing that you’re in this valley and understanding that this too is okay. It’s a lesson not a death sentence. It’s a humanizing experience. One that could possibly save someone else’s life.
How many people commit suicide because they don’t see another way out, or another solution to the overwhelming problems that suffocate them? Think of the countless people who steal and rob to put food on the table, provide for their family, without a thought or care about who it negatively impacts, because they are too overwhelmed by the lack they are experiencing. They see little to no other options. Yes, we can say that’s just an excuse not a reason, but heck we all make reckless decisions based on the excuses we allow to play on repeat in our minds. Some of us just fear the consequences more than others.
Maybe the people in both examples never learned how to be vulnerable enough to share what they’re going through, to ask for help, and to position themselves around positive people who could help, protect, and uplift them. Maybe.
We’re so busy pretending and faking it til we make it, that we oftentimes feel like the only time we should speak of our adversity is after we’ve overcome it and now we’re kicking it on the other side, sipping sweet drinks and eating guac and chips, and we want others to celebrate what we accomplished. What we don’t realize, don’t consider is that we never know who we can be helping while we are also climbing out of that trench, pit, valley.
For those of you who believe in God, let me ask you this question…
Are we praising God only after we’re saved or are we praising Him while we’re being clobbered? Imagine sharing your unfolding testimony during the storm, afraid but confident that you’re going to see the other side, hopeful that you will see that rainbow and feel that warm sunshine after the storm ends. Imagine how that message, testimony, vulnerable declaration could possibly help someone else, save someone, grab ahold of their heart and stop them from making a life-ending decision.
What if we could’ve made better decisions had someone else been vulnerable enough to share their valley experience and we learned from taking steps right along or right behind them.
It’s like the YouTube videos where people have an issue and they start troubleshooting and seeing if they can fix it, and you’re watching them blunder and try again, until either they get it or they say they will try a different approach and ask you to check out their next video. And if the first one was intriguing you hurry and click on the next video and you find yourself drawn into their troubleshooting experience until they get it right or give up, or you give up. But do you see what I’m saying? It’s like we have a tendency to want to see and feed off of success stories and we only like the hard knock life stories that resulted in success, and that’s what we gravitate to versus looking for stories where people are trying to figure it out and we’re learning from them as their learning these lessons.
People get frustrated with all of the famous business minds that can’t recall step-by-step how they made it. And that’s because they wrote their books after they made it. Imagine if they documented their lives while they were going through their uphill battle. Imagine had they kept a blog or a journal and wrote about the failures and mistakes, blunders, rejections and then they shared it either in real time or shared it later once they were a success story, and they could say “Here’s excerpts from my journals for the past X number of years”. But so many people don’t do that or if they do have journals they are too fearful to be vulnerable enough to share excerpts from those journals for you to be able to peer into their mind and heart at that point in their life.
It’s hard to believe that certain people who admit to having a journal, now, didn’t seem to have one back then to reflect upon and share what was going on in their life. I think some people just don’t want to share. And guess what? It’s their right and their life, and they can choose to share what they want to share, or not. Just because we would like to know something doesn’t mean we are entitled to the information. I was just pondering the odds of them not having a journal 10, 20, 30, 50 years ago when they were struggling. Heck, but honestly, would most of us really want to go back and read all of our journals to then extract content that could be relevant and helpful to potential readers, who may or may not purchase our books? I highly doubt it. Some of us who could potentially see the value of it might, but I think the majority of us would not.
That is in a lot of ways what the reality TV shows of the late 1990s initially hooked us with. We got to watch peoples lives unfolding and adjusting and we could relate in so many ways. Then it became the nonsense that has evolved to the absolute trash that so many people seem to be entertained by today. I don’t get it because it’s not authentic, truth, real, or vulnerable. It’s just over sharing and pretending, telling lies, playing games, and acting a fool for a paycheck. Viewers are so entertained by the lies that now they don’t know what’s truth. Everywhere we turn folks are telling lies—online, in schools, businesses, government and politics, houses of worship, magazines, newspapers, press conferences. We’re being told and shown what other folks think we want to hear and see.
Can you decipher the truth?
When I think of reality tv personalities and the lies they tell and buffoonery they display, maybe they do it because their authentic selves aren’t dramatic enough to generate higher ratings. But then again, why do we need drama to be intrigued by someone’s story? I was asked to take part in a docuseries of sorts that would share with the world my life from ages 20 to 30, navigating the toxic world and toxic relationships interwoven in the music industry. Two producers who interviewed me said that my personality and how I conducted myself wasn’t as dramatic as the other women involved in the project, and like other women in “reality tv”, and they would have to figure out how to pitch me. I told them I wouldn’t act or put on a show, I wouldn’t be anyone or anything but my authentic self and if that wasn’t good enough then I wasn’t meant to be a part of that project.
Lawd, when the sizzle reel was sent to me I almost fell out of my seat. I watched the video several times and I just kept shaking my head and saying, “No”. There was no way in, on, or around the world that I could take part in this overly-dramatized concoction that was being whipped up to serve as entertainment. I respectfully withdrew my interest and said that I would share my story in another way, because I’m here to help not harm, uplift not tear down, bring light not darkness, clarity not confusion. My story, my truth, will not be pimped or poisoned.
What if people just opened up and shared their truth, allowing themselves to be vulnerable, without the bravado and arrogance, buffoonery, pretense, dramatics, and Billy bad butt tendencies? Imagine the healing that could envelope them and spread outward to others.
Just a thought.
Copyright 2022. Natasha L. Foreman. All Rights Reserved.