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. Â 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.
24 thoughts on “Being Vulnerable”
Well, being vulnerable, I knew 200% as I came from a minority background but I single -handed refused to back down from prejudice which I knew will resurface. By the way I leaped until the end as I finished proudly.
But wait. The Opposite of vulnerability is Resilience. Then Exceptional resilience is needed to overcome circumstances of vulnerability. What do you thinks buddies?
I like this line, ‘you feel youâ€™re abused, you can just move away.’ We can actually make a choice if we want to be continously abused or not. We can choose to remain or move away. I for one would choose to move away and seek those who can appreciate me.
Hi Dragos. Overall I love your article because I think it encourages people to get past the fear of opening up to others. I can’t say I agree that those who aren’t vulnerable are useless; however, I do see the value in vulnerability.
I personally offer different levels of vulnerability to different people. It’s based on many factors including the degree of trust and intimacy in the relationship. I think it is important to balance vulnerability with boundaries.
Any time you trust someone, you are opening up yourself to be hurt…but you know what? if you never trust anyone, you can never feel what its like. It comes down to that old saying…”It’s better to have loved and lost, than to never have loved at all.” It’s about love, but I think it applies to trust too.
Being vulnerable is a *good* thing as long as we strike the right balance. It seems almost counter-intuitive, but I find great strength in being vulnerable.
Love this post, thank you!
Dragos, do you notice how there is a sense of power that comes with being vulnerable? Sometimes I feel like when I give someone a handle, it fills me with this sense of power. The other person feels sometimes awed with the responsibility and opportunity handed to him (not because I’m famous or anything, I think it’s just the power of trust), and because of that, me, the one who was confident enough to own my weaknesses, is seen as more powerful.
Vulnerability and self-esteem go hand-in-hand. You can’t be secure with yourself and at the same time be afraid of your slight imperfections or failures.
Great thoughts Dragos, very well-written.
Hmmm… making me think a bit, eh? I’m wondering about the connection between vulnerability and openness. For instance, I think I’m pretty open, yet I’m not vulnerable because there are things I know I’m never going to talk about. I’ve had people say I was pretty open, but then the personal questions they asked weren’t things I minded talking about. Now, had any of them asked me my weight they wouldn’t have gotten it, and their thoughts on my openness might have been different.
Great post; thought provoking!
Loved the line “And you have no way to know this, until you open up.”
I am thankful that I have yet not been abused and therefore…continue to open up more and more…
And yet – that’s the thing: life has meaning only when we are innocent, vulnerable and genuine…Otherwise it is conditioning isn’t it?
Thank you for sharing…I am sure this post will make sure that I am at least a bit less artificial and a bit more genuine and pure tomorrow. And then I know the purpose of the post will be served.
Really love this post, one of the things I learned in 2010 was that vulnerability isn’t a sign of weakness. Am now starting to understand that it’s really just the opposite.
Hi Dragos, yet again your knowledge and timing was perfect. I was just reflecting if I’d given too much personal information about myself away in a recent radio interview. I am a naturally open person, but sometimes feel I should limit what I give away, though at others I am just me and make myself vunerable, but then worry after about what people think. Thank you for giving me the assurance that connecting on a genuine, open level is the way to go.
Interesting topic and great message, Dragos. We all love it when people open up their vulnerabilities… it reminds us that we are all part of one universal whole. The greatest artists, writers, musicians etc are genius at exposing there vulnerabilities. The ones who are the most fearless and open are often the most revered. It’s the baring of the the soul, raw and naked that touches everyone in their own heart.
Being vulnerable is not something that comes easily in this society. It’s seen as weak, as wimpy, and generally ‘uncool’.
But as you say near the end, Dragos, it’s not being vulnerable that people are afraid of. It’s being abused that strikes fear into our hearts. And this is why so many people will close up at the first sign of being threatened, even if they’re not.
Being open takes courage, and a lot of self-awareness. But it can be done.
Thanks for sharing Dragos 🙂
I watched this video on TED last night. I think you’ll enjoy it. It’s on the subject of vulnerability.
I was reminded of this video too!
I like the handle analagy. It’s a good way to think about how we show ourselves to others.
Hi DragoÈ™ thank you for the reference! 🙂
Now speaking of being vulnerable and hence being abusable. This is a scarcity and competition mindset. The more of us that shift to just be vulnerable and show up all our handles, the more the mass consciousness shifts to this new mindset: We are just beautiful as human beings just the way we are.
Being venerable is not a crime. It means we are putting enough faith in the person were opening up. It’s not a bad idea to give them the handle but sometimes, from the inside of our hearts, we can hear someone say ‘keep quiet, keep safe’ and that’s when we should make sure nothing more than required goes out.
Look in the eyes of the person and feel how venerable it is to open up before him. In the blink, your mind known what is right and what is wrong.