So, what is “being vulnerable”? What does it mean? It seems being vulnerable has as many definitions as there are people! There seems to be no consensus as to what it means. Is there even a standard definition about vulnerability? I looked around online and I found a few. Those definitions bore some similarities without being identical. So, I went back to the basics.
Vulnerability comes from the Latin word “vulnus”, which means “wound”. It isn’t surprising that one of the definitions of vulnerability in the Meriam-Webster dictionary, is “capable of being physically or emotionally wounded; open to attack or damage”.
So, according to its root meaning, vulnerability might refer to the ability of being wounded. That’s quite broad and expansive definition. Is it a self-inflicted wound? Or does it mean others unintentionally or purposefully wound you? Vulnerability is about being open, yet what is the limit of that openness? What’s the frontier? Does a frontier even exist, or do we have to create one for ourselves, according to our values, our rules, and our sensibilities? Does that mean we open ourselves enough to expose our existing wounds? Or does it mean opening ourselves widely, without any restraint? Or does it mean being transparent to the point where we show our vulnerable side and risk being wounded? Is it all of the above? Once again, so many questions, and a few answers.
I would say vulnerability is about honesty first and foremost. Openness is a distant second. Yet, it would appear people believe honesty and openness go hand in hand, simultaneously. Honesty comes first and always will. To be even more precise, it is honesty about oneself. One must be honest with themselves and about themselves. That’s the first step. One must accept reality. One must wrestle with themselves before accepting reality. One must be objective about their condition, their nature, their flaws, their qualities, their shortcomings, their failures, and their successes. One must assess themselves in an objective manner, which is the hardest thing a person can do.
Being honest with ourselves is a perilous exercise, one most of us fail miserably at. By the way, it is ok. There is no shame in failing this crucial and arduous exercise. Most of us fail over and over and over and over again, before we get it right. It takes courage to face ourselves and assess ourselves objectively. It takes mustering all the strength one has to finally admit reality, to admit what is going on. That’s vulnerability; I’d call it “objective self-honesty”.
Do you know how long it took me to admit I was a below average boyfriend in some relationships? Or a failure at school? Or a mediocre listener? Or an impulsive wise ass? Or an occasional dishonest man who believes himself to be honest? All that shit and more took years, if not decades. And I am still battling some other truths within myself that aren’t easy to face or admit, but we move, the fight rages on.
See what I did there? I was honest with myself and open about my own problems. However, I will never, ever, ever, not in a billion years, not if my parents’ lives depended on it, be totally and completely open with everybody about my thoughts, my private own kingdom, my failures, my aspirations, my dreams, my faults, my sins, my redemption, my come back stories, and so much more. I will be vulnerable with MY PEOPLE, NOT THE PEOPLE! And even then, I will never tell everything to even my closest confident! Lauryn Hill, in the song “Lost Ones”, said that “wisdom is better than silver and gold”. Allow me to replace the word wisdom with the word “privacy”, which must be fitting given this hyperconnected era we live in.
There is so much about me people do not know and will never know. And that is how it should be. No one needs to know my business and I don’t want, nor need to know people’s business. There are so many subjects I will never touch because they are personal, because they are not easy to talk about, because they bring a certain darkness I’d rather deal with privately. I’d rather be vulnerable with myself and deal with whatever it is that’s bugging me. BY THE WAY, DEALING WITH YOUR PROBLEMS PRIVATELY, DOES NOT MEAN YOU ARE NOT BEING VULNERABLE, ALRIGHT?
Sharing all our business with everybody isn’t being vulnerable; it is simply sharing stuff about yourself. Moreover, you could even be vulnerable with everybody, but I think that is unwise. I don’t believe the whole world needs to know everything about you.
My skepticism comes from a personal experience where I overshared and nefarious people used that information to hurt me. Thankfully, these mindless, idiotic, narcissistic, blinded by low self-esteem individuals whose DNA should be discarded, didn’t succeed in bringing me down but what if they had? I will never say enough how oversharing is a dangerous habit, a scary way of life. Nowadays, oversharing seems to be synonymous with being vulnerable when they are not.
Vulnerability is about honesty and then openness. Nevertheless, it doesn’t necessarily mean being open with everybody. Of course, being open with the people who love you and care about you, that is of paramount importance. Being open with everybody will give you a false sense of acceptance and validation. However, I promise you, and I would bet my life on it, once you hit rock bottom or if you go through a true rough patch, the same people who sang your praises for being vulnerable and open, will disappear. They will vanish, as if they never existed. Well, I wouldn’t say all of them, but surely most of them. That’s a guarantee. I know, firsthand. I aint making shit up.
The people you trust, the people you love, the people you rely on, the people you talk to, the people you care about and respect, the people who are there for you, consistently, every time you need them, those people are the ones you should be vulnerable to! Those people are the ones who deserve to know what’s ailing you, what’s bothering you, what’s messing with your head, what’s bringing you down. They deserve your vulnerability because they have earned it. They know you and they care about you. The people who aren’t close to you, well, they shouldn’t necessarily know about your vulnerabilities. Finally, the rest of the world shouldn’t know that much about you because…the world frankly doesn’t care. And why should they? Technically, they don’t know you. If you were to be hospitalized and/or institutionalized, how many of those people would really show up and help you?
This isn’t cynicism; it’s realism. That’s all. As I said, I know what I am talking about, on a personal level. Here I am, being honest and open. I guess I am being vulnerable on a public forum. I am being personal without being specific. How about that…
Be vulnerable. Be honest with yourself first. Face whatever it is that’s bothering you. Then, once you have accepted what’s going on, share it with your people, those you trust above everybody else. Then, just leave it at that. The world doesn’t need to know your business. Don’t let the camera on your phone fool you. It isn’t real. The only reason to be vulnerable is to be comfortable and live a better life within yourself. Being vulnerable is supposed to help you get better so you could be better within yourself and with others. That’s it.
This isn’t a contest. This isn’t a fucking competition. This is about becoming a better person. This is about caring about yourself to the point you admit something isn’t going well, something is wrong. More importantly, it is about YOU trying to find a way to get better. Think about it; you found the problem. That’s step one, the hardest part is done, congratulations. Now, part two…GET HELP. Just knowing the problem doesn’t help. Seek help. GET BETTER.
Remember: honesty with yourself first and foremost, then openness with your people. That’s it. That’s vulnerability. Nothing more, nothing less. And life will get better, I promise you.
Just one man’s opinion.
Now smile and go on with your day!