“Courage is vulnerability. Vulnerability is courage. Like shadow and light, neither one can exist without the other.”
–Wai Lan Yuen
It’s not easy to vulnerable. If it was, I guess everyone would do it all the time. It’s hard to put yourself out there with the knowledge that maybe you won’t be received or respected or honored. It’s a trigger for guilt and shame, but mostly shame. We attach our thoughts and actions to who we are, which is being terribly unfair to ourselves. I would hope that we are mindful of our thoughts and actions but with the understanding that we all say and do things we wish we hadn’t or that we wish we would have articulated better. When you’re vulnerable with someone, there is the knowledge that the other person is going to have their own thoughts and feelings about it and about you, whether they share them or not. It’s terrifying. The terror ends when you just allow it and realize that whatever reaction you got didn’t kill you. It never does, though sometimes it feels like it might.
When I was a kid, I used to get butterflies in my stomach every time it was my turn to step up to home plate. I suspect it largely had to do with the knowledge that everyone’s eyes were on me. All kinds of fears raced through my head, obviously the worst being, “What if I strike out?” The time between standing there knowing I was next up to bat and actually standing at home plate seemed excruciatingly long due to the fear I was feeling. I’ll be honest. Sometimes I struck out and sometimes I got a hit. After my turn was over, it didn’t really matter. The important thing was that I stepped up to the plate and took the chance, despite the fear I was feeling. Being vulnerable is a lot like playing baseball. There’s no way to know how we’re going to be received but we have to take a chance if we’re going to be our authentic selves.
I try to remember this when I’m working with clients. It’s important to acknowledge their willingness to be vulnerable so that they can feel free to be themselves because that’s where change occurs.