Monday, September 2, 2013

I SEE YOU: Learning to be vulnerable for LOVE

"The strongest love is the love that can 
demonstrate its fragility." Paulo Coelho

Most of us liken vulnerability to having the sheets snatched off of us in the middle of a cool winter night. Yikes! You may want to scream to the top of your lungs, "For the love of God put the covers back on!" Okay, that sense of overexposure is what emotional vulnerability may feel like for some people.  But being vulnerable is like courage, faith or compassion.  It is best when put into practice.  You have to exercise your vulnerability muscle in order to experience the benefits. The good news is that the pay off exceeds the pain.The truth is that being vulnerable is both a gift and a skill. Let's consider both.

The gift of being vulnerable:
Vulnerability is God's way of freeing our souls. It is the pathway to true love and intimacy. After all how can you trust someone's love for you if you've never truly shown them who you are? Vulnerability can offer the kind of love that sees your hurts, wounds and insecurities and says, yes! Not in spite of them, but because of them. That kind of love understands that the fragility of humanity is our greatest strength; It gives us the sweet opportunity to be courageous in the face of our perceived weaknesses. Vulnerability is the path of least resistance toward our strengths. For example you might say, in a vulnerable place, "I am afraid of what lies ahead but I will move forward anyway because I am not the sum total of my fear". On the other side of that journey is a sense of accomplishment.

Vulnerability is a gift because it is the access to trust. It is the key to trusting someone to love you wholly. As children we are vulnerable and must trust the grown-ups in our lives to care for us. They don't always get it right, but many of them try their best. They feed us, clothe us and keep us safe. This is the foundation for the unconditional love between parent and child. Even when the parent is less than stellar, the child still feels love. Vulnerability is at the base of such love.

As children we are at the mercy of the adults around us. However, as adults we can self-protect. Too often we do so and close the door on our vulnerability. We are afraid to be emotionally naked in front of others. At the core it is really about the fear of rejection. We think, "What if I show her my innermost self and she rejects me?" Even as I write those words I can feel the empathetic depth of them. Well here is the answer and it is a hard truth, so take a deep breath... Rejection is a possibility. There, I said it and it is out of the way. Now we can move on to the courage that is required to take that risk. Because it is indeed a risk you must take in order to achieve unconditional love and deep intimacy.

At the end of the day, we always have a choice. We can spend our time surface-dwelling (never going deep) and keeping ourselves safe from rejection. However the price we will undoubtedly pay is an unexplained sense of emptiness and loneliness. Or we can take a chance and experience deep and fulfilling acceptance and love.

Now let's look at vulnerability as a skill: 
Vulnerability requires the ability to access your emotions, thoughts and feelings. You can't share what you don't acknowledge to yourself first. While this may sound simple it is too often a blind spot for many people. We are way too often taught to stuff scary feelings and emotions. Test it out... Ask 10 people how they feel and count how many tell you what they think instead. See, we tend to push down those emotions that make us feel uncomfortable: anger, sadness, fear, loneliness insecurity, etc. But the truth is that when we share those emotions, we realize that others feel the same way. For as much as we are different, we are in fact alike. Imperfection is our commonality. The ability to share that common space is the skill that separates the courageous from the pack. Brene Brown, professor and social scientist, says, "We love authenticity and we know that life is messy and imperfect."

I'd like to offer you a few tips for becoming more vulnerable and experiencing deeper intimacy in your life.

  1. Trust yourself to recover from the exposure of being vulnerable. There is less fear of rejection from others when you stop rejecting yourself. Trust that you will show up and have your own back, first and foremost. This will make it easier to trust others.
  2. Practice accessing your feelings, thoughts and emotions with consistency and authenticity. Sharing yourself requires knowing yourself. And we must be authentic in that expression.
  3. Model the vulnerability you see in others whom you admire. One of the things I love about Oprah, along with millions of others who feel connected to her, is her ability to be vulnerable and "real". Her strength in the midst of her vulnerability is magnetizing. It can be the same for you.
  4. Honor the gift of discernment. I believe that God gave us the ability to discern what feels safe. Having healthy boundaries for the way others connect with you  is evidence of your ability to discern what is right for you.
It is my deepest hope that this article offers some affirmation of what you already knew, or the information to courageously do something new. Either way, love and intimacy is on the other side awaiting your decision to embrace it with vulnerability. I wish you great success as you embark on your journey to CREATE more love in your life.

Nya Akoma!
Imani Evans, MA