“Vulnerabilty” has become something of an empowerment buzzword. But it is also something most of us fear.
Vulnerability is being open to being hurt by others and we fear it precisely because we focus on that potential, rather than the potential bonuses we might experience if we are more open about our needs.
Seems reasonable enough, right? Isn’t the smart thing to do, to protect ourselves?
But the experts are telling us that we stand to grow so much—and gain so much more—from casting off our armour and stripping ourselves bare (metaphorically speaking). In theory, I get it. But in the real world, it’s hard to do.
Nevertheless, since I started writing for elephant journal this time last year, I’ve found myself stretching my comfort zone a little bit. I’m being less guarded, more open. And it does feel good to be less scared of—and less focussed on—what other people might think if I let them see inside the chinks of me a little bit.
And it’s having little ripple effects in different areas.
The other day, I watched a video that moved me, of a woman who took the metaphor to heart—she stripped to her underwear at an open-air market and put a mask over her eyes.
At her feet was a board explaining that she was standing in solidarity with all those who—like her—struggled with self-esteem. She asked people to show their support for self-acceptance, “because all bodies have value,” by drawing a heart on her body. And she stood for an hour with her arms outstretched, holding pens for people to use in their act of support.
This was a vulnerable act.
But she asked—honestly and transparently—and those around her connected with her and gave the support she requested. (You can watch the love she was showered with in one of the videos below.)
But it seems her act wasn’t original—she was inspired by a younger, skinnier girl who did the same thing and used the same sign. That girl had suffered from an eating disorder.
In a blog afterwards, she explained that her inspiration came from a TED talk by Amanda Palmer, which you can also watch below. As a by-the-way, during the talk, Amanda described having stripped naked and allowed German fans to write all over her body.
But, unlike the videos that particular act inspired, her talk was not on body acceptance, but on the art of asking.
“It’s not easy to ask…asking makes you vulnerable.” ~ Amanda Palmer
And yet, she is completely willing to be that vulnerable all the time—to ask for whatever she needs, whenever she needs it.
But the critical thing is, Palmer appears to feel no fear.
And this has prompted me to ponder…
If there is no fear, is there still vulnerability?
When we say we feel vulnerable, do we really mean we feel afraid?
Is fear an integral part of vulnerability, or are they two separate things that we mix up?
If we didn’t mix them up so much, would we be better able to embrace vulnerability more—and experience the promised benefits?
How can we separate the fear from the vulnerability, so that we are more willing to go to that place?
Palmer talks about trust.
She trusts her fans. She trusts people. And from that place, she feels free and able to ask for what she needs.
And because she asks, her needs are always met.
More than that, in asking others to help her, she opens the way for deep levels of connection with so many people, who would otherwise never be anything more to her than anonymous fans.
“Through the very act of asking people, I connected with them. And when you connect with them, people want to help you.” ~ Amanda Palmer
And “connection” is the greatest of the promised benefits of vulnerability.
Although I am making some progress in this arena myself, the progression is slow and has been a long time coming. For me, this talk may have sown the seed for a paradigm shift. I’m beginning to imagine how different my life might be, if I could live it with this level of trust.
I feel inspired and encouraged!
If you could use a shift into being more vulnerable, please watch Amanda Palmer talk about “The Art of Asking”:
Author: Hilda Carroll
Editor: Travis May
Photo: Youtube Screenshot