Is it bad to be vulnerable?
Many if not most people see vulnerability as a sign of weakness. As they grew up, they learned that it’s best to protect their emotions to avoid disappointment and hurt.
They learned to build walls to protect themselves, often after painful or even traumatic experiences.
And as they noticed that those walls could, indeed, keep them safe — that reinforced the thought that vulnerability should always be avoided or hidden.
But the truth is that vulnerability is one of the necessary traits of us human beings. Not only that, it’s what allows us to live a life where we are free to express our emotions and can reach the highest level of fulfilment.
What does being vulnerable mean?
In general, we refer to vulnerability as the state or quality of being exposed to physical or emotional harm, and that’s precisely what generates the belief that vulnerability is bad.
The issue is that by trying to be emotionally immune to everything and everyone, we may indeed feel safer, but at the same time live a pretty boring life.
A more accurate, more helpful way to define the word “vulnerability”, then, would be that being vulnerable means allowing yourself to open up, and accepting that by opening up you may experience more pain — but also and most importantly more joy, freedom, and fulfilment.
When you realize that vulnerability is an essential component of friendship, relationships, and the way we connect with others in general — it becomes clear that being vulnerable is actually a strength and not a weakness.
Here are ten key advantages of being vulnerable that will make you reconsider the whole concept of vulnerability, and help you embrace it…
Important benefits of being vulnerable
1. Easier to socialize
Naturally, people prefer to interact with those who are willing to open up and communicate their true feelings.
When your vulnerability is hidden, and you come off as too guarded, it can be hard to socialize and make new friends.
In some cases, being emotionally detached is a good thing — for example, if you ever have to interact with toxic people, or fake people, that allows you to ignore them and protect your mental health.
However, when it comes to making new friends, being completely detached and having no vulnerability at all rarely works; people find that intimidating.
2. Higher level of empathy
One of the not-so-obvious benefits of being vulnerable is the fact that vulnerability makes you a better listener and a more empathetic person in general.
The way we interpret, listen to, and deal with our own emotions is often a reflection of the way we deal with other people’s emotions.
Because those who are vulnerable do not consciously repress their feelings, that allows them to better understand their feelings and those of other people, particularly the ones they love.
This often means a much higher level of empathy compared to those who are not willing to show their vulnerable side.
3. No more perfectionism
Are you a bit of a control freak, or a perfectionist? Good news — by learning to be more vulnerable, you’ll automatically end the vicious cycle of perfectionism as well.
Although vulnerability usually means being exposed to the possibility of being hurt, it also refers to the act of letting go and accept life’s unpredictability.
In turn, that means that you no longer need to be a control freak because you are willing to accept your own mistakes, other people’s mistakes, and the fact that you simply cannot control everything.
If you tend to be a perfectionist, vulnerability will be your best teacher and ally.
4. Better relationships
The fourth important advantage of being vulnerable is that it naturally leads to deeper, more genuine relationships.
In general, people decide not to be vulnerable because they are too afraid of the possible negative consequences, especially when it comes to love and relationships.
They think that opening up and experiencing real intimacy and closeness can eventually be too painful if the other person betrays them (or turns out to be the wrong person).
But the truth is that in life everything comes with risks, and that includes our relationships with others.
Is being vulnerable a risk, and could it hurt you emotionally? Absolutely. Is it worth it? Absolutely. Be willing to take the risk and life will be able to reward you with a truly fulfilling relationship.
5. You can be yourself
It’s difficult to be yourself when you are constantly guarded and cautious.
If you have decided to suppress any kind of vulnerability, you may think that you’re still able to be yourself and act spontaneously, but chances are that subconsciously a part of you will go against that.
Again, the intention is to feel safe and protected. But you need to ask yourself whether that’s actually the most sensible approach.
Does it really make sense to hide your flaws or vulnerabilities just so you can feel a little bit safer? Wouldn’t it be better to simply let go and be yourself no matter what?
Your vulnerabilities are part of your identity — who you truly are. By suppressing them, you’ll also forget about who you really are, your real emotions, and perhaps your real path in life as well.
6. You can live to the fullest
If you’ve read all the previous paragraphs, you probably already have an idea of where I’m going with this.
To live life to the fullest, you must be willing to take risks (nothing too crazy, of course, but you can’t have the mentality where you need to be safe at all costs).
To live life to the fullest, you also need to be aware of your own emotions and express them. Some would say you need to experience pain, too, and go through painful lessons that eventually make you a stronger person.
And guess what — vulnerability means you can be and do all those things, naturally and spontaneously.
7. Introspection and self-awareness
We all have inner demons, and there’s only two ways to deal with them in a positive way: you can either work on them, for example through cognitive behavioral therapy, or learn to silence them.
But in both cases you need to be aware of them. You can’t just ignore them and pretend they don’t exist.
The seventh benefit of being vulnerable is the profound self-awareness that comes with it.
When you learn to accept and identify your own vulnerabilities, that opens up the possibility to practice introspection and become a lot more aware about your own thoughts and emotions.
Conversely, those who are too afraid to be introspective often find it difficult to get in touch with their emotions — positive and negative.
8. Less stress/tension
Many people choose to hide their weaknesses and to not expose themselves to the possibility of being hurt. As we’ve seen, this is usually because the idea of being vulnerable seems too scary or risky for them.
But what a lot of people don’t realize is that although hiding your vulnerabilities could potentially protect you from pain — there’s a lot of stress and anxiety coming with this attitude.
The state in which you constantly need to control yourself as well as how others see you simply isn’t natural, and causes too much tension.
By being vulnerable, on the other hand, you eliminate this unnecessary tension and experience a higher level of freedom.
9. Spiritual growth
What we’ve learnt so far about vulnerability has to do with psychology and the way we interact with others and see ourselves.
However, being vulnerable will have profound effects on your spiritual life as well, and all the benefits mentioned in this list could also be interpreted in a spiritual way.
Vulnerability allows you to not only grow as a person but also allow life, or God, or whatever you believe in, to guide you into the best path for you, and embrace all the spiritual phases you are supposed to experience.
The more we try to control everything and avoid pain at all costs, the harder it’s going to be for us to receive what is meant for us.
10. Easier to express your emotions
Some of our emotions can be destructive or simply not very useful, in which cases it’s actually healthier not to express them.
However, it is essential that we learn to express most of our feelings and emotions, including some of the negative ones, such as sadness or frustration.
If you fear vulnerability, that’s going to be very difficult to do so.
If you’re the kind of person who, on the other hand, embraces vulnerability and sees it as a strength, expressing your emotions will be a spontaneous process.
By no longer labeling certain emotions as signs of weakness, you will have the freedom to express them, and that’s going to benefit both you and those around you.
Practical tips to be more vulnerable
- Learn to say “sorry”. It’s a simple but powerful word, and it will help you embrace vulnerability and see it as a strength. Often, we have a hard time saying “sorry” because we feel the need to hide our mistakes; we think some of them are unacceptable. But the truth is that mistakes (at work, in our relationships, or in life in general) happen simply because we’re human. And when we learn to say sorry, we also learn to accept the imperfections that make us human.
- Change your posture. It will have tremendous physical benefits, and you probably know that already. But it will also change the way you see yourself and the way others see you. A posture that’s too guarded or rigid can both be caused by and lead to the need to hide our vulnerability; whereas a confident, relaxed posture tells others that we are willing to open up and be more available (often subconsciously).
- Learn to let go. This is basically the same advice you would give a perfectionist, and it has to do with the belief that we should always have everything under control. The easiest way to challenge this toxic thought is to simply realize that it’s impossible to control everything and that most things in life are actually outside our control. So at times we need to be more vulnerable and simply let go.
- Take more risks. Remember when I mentioned that being vulnerable allows you to live life to the fullest? There’s a lot of risks in life that are actually with taking, and those who refuse to be vulnerable often refuse to take those risks as well. You should always use common sense, of course, but to live the best life possible you’ll need to take risks sometimes — whether it’s in your relationships or in your career — so learn to do that and life will reward you.
- Ask for what you need. That’s one of the key concepts about vulnerability — that no matter how independent we want to be, we must identify our needs and realize that many if not most of them will depend on others. It’s easy to see how this applies to friends and relationships, but the truth is that it applies to all other areas of your life as well. Asking for help or for something you need makes you more vulnerable, yes, but that’s a good thing, so don’t be afraid to do that.
- Try therapy. A bit of an obvious one, but it must be mentioned here. There are many things you can do to learn to open up and embrace vulnerability on your own, but talking to an experienced therapist will help you immensely. By becoming more aware of your own thought patterns, you will have the opportunity to transform them, and in turn become the person who has the courage to be more vulnerable.
Quotes about the benefits of being vulnerable
One thing to remember is that human beings connect through vulnerability. That’s our core way of connecting.— Zoe Buckman
To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken.— C. S. Lewis
The strongest love is the love that can demonstrate its fragility.— Paulo Coelho
The first to apologize is the bravest. The first to forgive is the strongest.— Zig Ziglar
Courage is vulnerability. Vulnerability is courage. Like shadow and light, neither one can exist without the other.— Wai Lan Yuen
When you shut down vulnerability, you shut down opportunity.— Brené Brown
There is no intensity of love or feeling that does not involve the risk of crippling hurt. It is a duty to take this risk, to love and feel without defense or reserve.— William S. Burroughs
There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.— Aristotle
Open your hands if you want to be held.— Rumi
Benefits of being vulnerable: summary
Vulnerability can be scary, but it’s what allows you to…
- Socialize spontaneously and make new friends
- Understand other people’s feelings and be more empathetic
- Ditch perfectionism and accept mistakes and flaws (yours and other people’s)
- Experience true love, intimacy, and connection
- Be your authentic self regardless of other people’s opinion
- Take sensible risks and live life to the fullest
- Increase your self-awareness and discover your inner world
- Avoid a lot of unnecessary stress and/or tension
- Grow — spiritually, and as a person
- Express your emotions and therefore improve your mental health