Why does vulnerability and showing emotion make us feel so weak? It’s so difficult to allow our emotions to show out of fear that we will become mocked or laughed at. Kim provides several reasons and scenarios that not only prove that showing emotion is a strength, but also how this makes a person more stable and better off than someone who doesn’t show emotion!
Is Being Vulnerable a Weakness?
By: Kim Openo, LAPC, NCC
Psychologist, Dr. Brene Brown says, “Vulnerability is not weakness.” But think back to the last time you felt truly vulnerable. Do you remember how exposed & emotionally naked you felt? Being vulnerable can make us feel less than strong and confident. However, is feeling powerless in vulnerability the same as weakness?
Once a teen client complained of “being too sensitive and very weak”. When I asked her to elaborate, she said that no matter what she tries, she is just too emotional and couldn’t be strong like the rest of the family who do not openly share their feelings verbally or with tears. This came as a surprise to me because this teen was quite responsible and did not make impulsive decisions due to emotion. So, instead of simply trying to argue with her, I used the example of two friends that like the same boy. I asked, “Which girl is stronger? Is it the girl who shows her sensitive side and feelings to a boy or it is the girl who hides her feelings and never says a word about them? One girl takes a risk with her feelings and one does not. Which is the stronger girl?” So, she cognitively determined that she would start to change her outlook of what made her strong after our discussion.
With some individuals, there is such a high and thick wall built against hurt that numbness is all that is felt emotionally. This is the type of person who is outwardly tough as nails, seems resilient to crisis, but also might be emotionally distant or angry in many situations. Some of these individuals have been hurt so many times and to such a degree that being vulnerable is equal to being open to an emotional and/or physical attack. And while there was a time when having that wall up might have been a matter of survival against hurt, in times of peace, having that same barbed-wire fence that keeps out both hurt and joy may not work quite as well. So, while this person is safe in their lair of solitude against feelings, is the complete lack of vulnerability truly the strong stance that many believe it is?
It is the very brave person who makes the option to show feeling again after a significant hurt by breaking down their walls and choosing to be vulnerable again. Being vulnerable to hurt is a bold move that puts one’s heart at risk, but it also makes one available to receive love, compassion, and fellowship with others. For a person to be vulnerable sometimes takes learning about mutually beneficial boundaries and learning to love self unconditionally. Many times, a therapeutic relationship with a counselor is the safest way to have this type of relationship for the first time. Having the immense courage to be vulnerable to others is also well worth it in the joy that comes from loving those that love back just as freely.