What does being vulnerable actually mean? How do you do it?

Being vulnerableSo last week we looked at being vulnerable and what’s so great about it…after all given that it’s scary, risky and rather uncomfortable at times, it’s worth knowing why it’s worth all the bother. 

…and as we now know, being vulnerable is a gift that we give ourselves…it can make us feel more relaxed, learn to accept ourselves more, prevent us from losing lots of energy and most importantly create real, honest, genuine connections with the people around us.

The question I have been asked a lot recently is “What does being vulnerable look like?” and “How do I do it?”

The first thing to say is that it’s OK to be a little anxious when it comes to being vulnerable.  Allowing ourselves to be fully seen by another person can be scary if we’re used to showing the world one of the many masks that we wear to try and protect ourselves from getting hurt.

But as we know, the things in life that are worth having are worth taking a little risk for…the reason that they’re a little scary is because they matter, and the pay off for following through is oh so worth it.

So what does being vulnerable look like?

Put simply being vulnerable is a practice.

It’s not something you do once and then your work is done.

As great as it would be to be able to say, “I was vulnerable last April 5th…so that’s me done!” it doesn’t quite work like that.

Being vulnerable is a choice you make every day.

In fact, being vulnerable is a choice you make every single moment.

Every time you open your mouth, or choose not to, you take a choice over whether or not to be vulnerable.

Vulnerability is about sharing your truth, your heart, your soul, your reality, your experience, your needs, your wants, your desires, your fears, your questions, your (perceived) failings, your curiosities, your thoughts, your concerns, your shame, your worries, the words your inner voice whispers to you, the words your inner critic shouts in your ear, your ideas, your hopes, your dreams, yourself….exactly as you are, without the filters.

Without the ‘I shouldn’t say this’, ‘I shouldn’t think this’, ‘I shouldn’t do this’, ’I shouldn’t be this’ filters.  The ones that make us hide, edit or distort what we share to make it more ‘acceptable’.

It’s about saying what’s real for you, openly, honestly, truthfully.

But being vulnerable is scary…is this really a good idea?

To be vulnerable takes courage.  To allow yourself to be truly seen takes a lot of courage.  It’s important to remember that courage is not the absence of fear, it’s simply the decision that something else is more important.  This is one of those situations…knowing it’s a little scary, but that the benefits make it so worth it.

I once heard someone ask the question, “But what happens if you share the real you, and the other person walks away?”  Well, if that happens (which in my experience is rare), the reason is often that they don’t have the courage to be as open with you in return.  It means that you get to practice and learn how to be vulnerable so that when the right people are around you’ll be able to connect with them so much quicker and easier, you’ll know what being vulnerable looks like for you.  It’s like doing your stretches at home so that at yoga class you’re able to easily touch your toes.  It’s about cultivating your practice of being vulnerable, and understanding how to be gently true to yourself without being influenced by other people.

How to practice your ‘being vulnerable’ practice

Because we don’t practice being vulnerable, we don’t know how to do it, so in order to get comfortable with being vulnerable we need to practice our ‘being vulnerable’ practice.

So here are a few suggestions for how you might like to start your practice of being vulnerable.

  1. Start with you – In order to be open and honest about who you are with everyone else, it’s important to first be able to do this with yourself.  Begin a ‘vulnerability journal’ that you write in every morning or every evening (or both if you like), sharing in it your truth about what is going on in your life, your thoughts, feelings, hopes, dreams, concerns, worries…anything and everything that comes to mind.  This is a great practice for two reasons; Firstly, you’ll get in touch with what is real for you, which makes sharing it with others so much easier, and secondly when you write out these thoughts and feelings they lose some of their charge, and the things that seemed impossible, will instead just seem a little challenging.
  2. Share the layers that are right for you – If you’ve seen the movie “Shrek” then you’ll know that he quite eloquently describes Ogres as being like onions (if you’ve not seen it, I highly recommend checking it out) …they have layers.  Well, this is true for women too.  We have layers.  …and sharing the outer layers is a little easier when you get started with the practice of being vulnerable than sharing the deeper inner layers.  So share the layers that you feel comfortable with…possibly starting with something that is a little nearer the surface before going all in and sharing something that’s closer to your heart.  Go with your instincts and share what feels right for you.
  3. Know that you are enough – Part of the reason that it can be scary being vulnerable is that we are afraid that when we show all of ourselves that it won’t be enough.  Well, I’m here to let you in on a little secret.  You are enough.  You were born enough.  You are enough exactly as you are now.  …and in order to make the practice of being vulnerable a little easier, it helps to remind yourself regularly of that truth.  So every morning while you are cultivating your practice of being vulnerable, take 2 minutes to look yourself in the eye in your mirror and remind yourself with a smile on your face “I am enough”.
  4. Find a safe space to practice your practice – It’s so important when you first start practicing being vulnerable that you do so in a space that feels safe for you, and with people who you feel that you can trust to be vulnerable with.  If you would like to try being vulnerable in a safe space with others who are doing the same then come and join the conversation in the Feminine 1st Facebook group here…there are over 1200 amazing women in the group who help and support each other through our respective journeys in femininity and relationships…it’s a great place to begin to share some of your vulnerable layers as there are other women sharing theirs. If you have friends or family who feel safe being vulnerable with then I highly recommend giving it a go with them too.
  5. Share with others when you resonate with their vulnerability – When someone, anyone, is being vulnerable the words they most want to hear are “Me too”.  So if you see someone else being vulnerable and you resonate with what they’re saying, simply say to them, “I understand, me too”.  It will mean more than you know, and will encourage others to do the same for you.
  6. Recognise you are not alone – Being vulnerable is scary…I know, I practice it daily.  So in order to help inspire you to share your vulnerabilities I thought I would share with you here some of my most vulnerable posts.  The ones that were hard to write, the ones that had a piece of my heart and soul in them, and the ones that more often than not actually inspired the biggest response from the people who read them.  So here are some of my most vulnerable moments…I hope they inspire you to share some of yours:

I will simply leave you with a reminder that by being vulnerable you are showing that you, like me and everyone else on the planet, is perfectly imperfect…and you are giving others permission to accept and love that in themselves too.

So share your vulnerability, and share this article with someone you know who would like to know how to be a little more vulnerable, and let’s help each other to get to know and show the people who are hidden deep inside.

Stay Fabulous,

Claire xx

2 replies
  1. Lorraine Burwood
    Lorraine Burwood says:

    Claire, this post is spot on, it was only this weekend having been to a powerful coaching weekend, that I realised that being a “strong” woman and not showing my vulnerabilities has not served me well. Even writing and admitting this would not have been easy last week. Keep up the good work.

    Reply
    • Claire
      Claire says:

      Thank you so much for sharing Lorraine…and for being vulnerable in doing so. I know exactly how you feel, I spent a long time not allowing my vulnerabilities to be seen and it wasn’t until much later that I realised that it had actually been hurting me rather than protecting me as I’d intended. I’m really pleased that you’re taking these first steps to share this, and if there’s anything I can do to help you on this journey just let me know x

      Reply

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