A few weeks ago I met a fellow blogger for a live interview. We knew each other from the Internet for quite some time and we both thought it could be an interesting idea to meet each other in real life too. I always try to balance my online relationships with real life encounters.

I won’t talk about the interview though, in this post, but rather about something that came up during the interview. At some point, as I was answering questions and opening up to the whole interaction process, my friend told me something surprising:”You are surely opening a lot, Dragos. Aren’t you afraid of being vulnerable?” Nope, I wasn’t. And I gave him a few reasons (you can go ahead and listen to the interview, it’s in Romanian, though).

Part of my answer for being vulnerable was an image that is still circling inside my head: vulnerabilities are like handles. Whenever you open up and leave some spots of your inner being open to the light, you’re offering to the other person a bunch of handles. They can literally get access to you through those handles.

Now stop a little and think about handles. Where do we find handles in the real world? In tools, of course. We interact with our tools through handles.

And here comes the interesting part, the one that keeps spinning this image inside my head: you can either use, or abuse a tool. You can use a knife to cut your way out of the jungle, or you can use it to cut somebody else (or yourself).

Every time you open up to somebody, you create an opportunity. You offer a handle to the other person. You start an interaction. And, of course, you can be either used or abused by the other person.

Vulnerabilities And Abuse

Many people choose to avoid vulnerability after being abused. I also used this strategy. Why open up, if you can get bitten?

And then I realized there are other approaches too. For instance, avoid abusers.  Yes, it may take some time until you realize somebody is trying to abuse you. Yes, you may get hurt in this process. Happens. But in time you’ll get better at identifying those abusers.

And you’ll see how avoiding them, while still maintaining your vulnerability, will create some sort of invisible shield between you and them. And that’s because you are continuing to be genuine, authentic. And when you’re authentic, everything in you is working as it should be. Your intuition. Your capacity to take action. Your senses and your memories.

When you’re disconnected, when you close up, you can’t function properly. You don’t have enough data to feed to your intuition. Not enough info comes to your senses. You’re handicapped by your own decision to block all the entrances.

But as long as you keep yourself open to new experiences, you will realize that being abused is simply not possible anymore. Nobody can’t do anything to you, unless you agree. If you feel you’re abused, you can just move away. Turn your handles to the other side. Or even better, turn your handles to somebody who can really appreciate you and do something nice with you.

Competition versus Connection

A lot of the weakness associated with vulnerability comes from the “competition” approach. This is especially frequent in business or sports. If you are vulnerable AND you are in a competition, than your chances to lose that competition are dramatically increasing. This is why all the businesses are focusing on hiding, masking or eliminating their vulnerabilities. An incredibly huge part of a daily business operation is focused on how to hide your vulnerabilities from your competition.

In all honesty, this is a very good thing to do. If, and only if, you are in a competition.

But when what you’re after is connection, then being vulnerable stops being a liability. It becomes an opportunity. In fact, you can’t even create a connection without being vulnerable. You can’t use a tool without grabbing it first by its handles.

As a general approach, connection is a better place to be than competition. We’re all craving for connection. We’re opening up to our friends, to our loved ones, to people we trust. And we do this because we want to offer our handles to them. We’re telling: “here I am, offering something to you. My love, my support, my knowledge. Use it.” And, most of the time, if the connection is really working, we get back something valuable too. That’s what a connection is, after all, a two way highway.

But if you don’t offer your handles to the world, you’re simply useless. You can’t offer anything. Your lane is blocked, nothing runs on it. You may feel secure, but you’re not contributing. And our real sense of happiness comes from creating, from sharing, from contribution. Not from security.

Security gives us contentment, at best. And as much as we’d want to replace happiness with contentment, deep down we know this is not possible.

***

People are not afraid to be vulnerable, they are afraid not to be abused. And they are right. This is a real risk.

But the other alternative is also real. Believe it or not, your vulnerability may give to the other person the chance to do something beautiful together with you.

And you have no way to know this, until you open up.