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Personal Growth

Vulnerability: 2 Truths and 1 Lie

Lack of vulnerability is like barbed wire around your heart. It keeps others out. But it also keeps you in.

The strongest people in any gym have one thing in common. They all use spotters.

Lack of vulnerability is like barbed wire around your heart. It keeps others out and keeps you in. @DanielTStephens

I’ll get back to the spotters in the gym in a minute. If you still haven’t seen Brené Brown’s TED talk on vulnarbility, plan 20 minutes in your schedule to go watch it.

If you don’t have 20 minutes, I’ll sum up what I still get out of her talk: A lack of vulnerability is like barbed wire around your heart. It keeps others out. But it also keeps you in.

Pain is part of this life. Pain is also part of every relationship we’ll ever have, even the best ones. A natural response to that pain is to hide our wound from anyone who might be a threat. Including the very people who might help us heal the pain.

Whoever wounded us… Whatever wounded us… The fight eventually ends. After the fight it is time for healing.

Vulnerability leads to healing (truth)

Cleaning wounds hurts. Setting broken bones hurts. Getting stitches hurts. There is no such thing as painless healing. That’s why someone came up with anesthetics. Wimps like me can only get stitches because of anesthetics. I would rather have a gaping, bleeding hole in my body than let someone sew the hole shut without numbing me first.

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That’s exactly what would happen if I could never trust (ahem, be vulnerable to) an ER doc. I would bleed out.

Emotional healing is different from physical healing. As Brené Brown said in her talk, there is no way to numb bad feelings without also numbing the good ones. There is no such thing as emotional anesthetic.

If you are using vulnerability to heal, you’re doing it right.

Vulnerability leads to strength (truth)

Back to the gym. I want to get stronger. For that to happen, I need to be able to say that I may not be strong enough to be safe. I need to be able to say that I need other people.

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If I want to get stronger I have to admit that I can’t do it alone. I need other people around me who want to get stronger themselves. I need them to want me to get stronger.

But even in the gym, they have to put up signs that say “SPOTTERS REQUIRED FOR ANY OVERHEAD LIFTING.” Even though everyone knows that the strongest people in the gym all use spotters, no one wants to ask for a spot.

The same thing is true for our emotions. We need friends, community, and camaraderie. For that to happen, we need an environment where vulnerability is naturally encouraged.

Even once you have spotters in your life, lifting heavy just plain hurts. As you face life’s challenges, and become stronger as a result, you will need to take time to rest and heal. In that case, you’re back at the point where vulnerability leads to healing.

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After that…

If you are using vulnerability to get stronger, you’re doing it right.

Vulnerability is honesty (lie)

Brutal Honesty is like a drill instructor. Calls out everyone in sight and destroys your voice. @DanielTStephens

Authentic vulnerability certainly includes honesty, but it’s an honesty related to integrity. The honesty of vulnerability is not brutal honesty.

Glennon Doyle Melton said that vulnerability “is being brave enough to tell your own story, and kind enough not to tell others.” Vulnerability is honesty about yourself. Brutal honesty only calls people out, probably in a destructive way.

Brutal honesty is like a drill instructor. Calling out everyone and everything in sight, and destroying your own voice.

If you use “vulnerability” as a guise for gossip, you are destroying your own credibility.

(No, I’m not saying drill instructors have no credibility. It’s a metaphor, it’s not perfect).

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By Dan

Founder, Executive Director, Mental Health Counselor at Restored Life Counseling