Written by DiveThru Team
Reviewed by Dr. Courtney Tracy LCSW, Psy.D
Learning How To Be Vulnerable & 5 Steps To Get There
Published Apr 6th, 2021 & updated on Apr 7th, 2021
It can be ridiculously hard to let your guard down with new people. Like, heart-racing, shit-your-pants hard. Sharing all of the trauma you’ve been through, your triggers, and the chaos that goes on inside your brain can make you feel like you’re going through it all over again. But, believe it or not, being vulnerable has a lot of benefits.
Now, when we say “vulnerable,” we don’t mean high-risk-for-COVID-cause-underlying-health-conditions vulnerable (although still VERY important). We mean being vulnerable about emotions, experiences, and mental health. So, let’s figure out what exactly that means and how to be vulnerable!
What Does Being Vulnerable Mean?
The literal definition of vulnerability is being “susceptible to physical or emotional attack or harm.” But we don’t really like that definition, because it doesn’t take into account ALL of the ways we can be vulnerable with those around us!
Brené Brown is an American researcher who has studied vulnerability for OVER 20 YEARS, and has a better understanding of what it really means. She defines vulnerability as “the feeling we get during times of uncertainty, risk, or emotional exposure. This includes times when we’re showing our feelings and we’re not sure what people will think and times when we really care about something and people will know that we’re sad or disappointed when it doesn’t work out.” Now THAT’S more like it.
We are the most vulnerable as children, sharing every small aspect of our lives without the fear or shame of embarrassment. But as we get older, this weird black cloud takes over our brains, telling us that being vulnerable is something we should avoid because it makes us seem “weak.” But that couldn’t be further from the truth! Avoiding vulnerability is avoiding feeling, and numbing everything is defs NOT the way to go. We have to peeeeel back that protective skin we’ve grown for ourselves and let it alllll out, or else we’re never gonna be fully happy!
“Let’s talk about the shit…the pain…the mistakes that we think that we made. Let’s get real, let’s get honest, let’s risk putting ourselves out there,” says psychotherapist Dr. Courtney Tracy in a recent episode of the Truth Doctor Podcast.
How To Be Vulnerable In 5 Steps
Alright, now that we know what vulnerability is, let’s put it into action! There are many different ways to actively put ourselves out there and bare our souls to the important people in our lives. Unfortunately, it’s not quite as easy as just shouting: “Hey! I’m being vulnerable right now!” But here are some tips on how to be vulnerable that def come close!
1. Get To Know Yourself
First things first, you need to decipher what’s going on in your head. You can’t be vulnerable about something if you’re not 100% sure what that something is! Take some time to recognize what you are feeling and where that feeling stems from. Look in a mirror, say it out loud, or write it down if you have to! Once you’re more in tune with yourself, you can help others see what you’re going through, too.
2. Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Help
When you’re feeling down in the dumps, it can be SO easy to just shut everyone out and pretend that you don’t need anything (trust us, we know). Admitting that you need help can feel like the hardest thing in the world, but it’s such an important first step! Whatever it is you’re going through, you don’t need to go through it alone.
3. Share Your Feelings
Once you’ve recognized your feelings and come to terms with them, sharing them with someone else can lift a huuuuge weight off your shoulders! It’s not so much that you’re expecting them to have the perfect solution to your problem (because they probably won’t)…most of the time, a simple “I’m here for you” will do the trick!
4. Be In The Moment
If you’ve taken the next step to being vulnerable, chances are you’ve already spent a LOT of time in your head! The best thing to do after a solid vulnerability sesh is to allow yourself to soak in the feelings with whoever you just shared them with. You know that half-cry, half-laugh thing we do sometimes when we’re relieved? Yeah, that. It can feel so good to let it all go and bond with someone in that moment. So enjoy it, rather than crawling back into your brain!
5. Set Boundaries
Vulnerability is a sensitive emotion that, unfortunately, can’t be shared with just anyone. So, you’ll also want to take some time to think about who you can be comfortable with! Whether it’s with a therapist, a parent, a friend, or a partner, that person should be someone who you know will understand where you’re coming from and won’t take advantage of it! Because the last thing you want in that moment is to feel even more alone than you did in the beginning.
5 Reasons To Be Vulnerable
Being vulnerable can be scary af because we risk getting hurt, getting rejected, or being criticized! It takes a lot of courage, but if you find the right people to be vulnerable with, you can become more self-aware and be the best possible version of yourself. And if you ever forget how liberating being vulnerable can be, just remember these points!
1. Vulnerability Strengthens Relationships
Whether with an intimate partner or a close friend, being vulnerable can result in a much deeper connection! Like, Grand Canyon deep! Sharing your love language, being the first to say “I love you,” or even just sharing your feelings and being empathetic to theirs, all foster a more meaningful relationship. Vulnerability helps us better understand and forgive each other when things get heated, so that everyone knows that their emotions are valid and that they are worthy of love. And not only that, but being vulnerable can also help us RELATE to each other!
2. Others Relate To Your Vulnerability
Just think of the celebrities who have been the most open about themselves — like Lizzo! They cut through the bullshit and tell it how it is and, because of that, you can relate to them on a deeper level. The same goes for us when we open up about what we’re going through! It’s almost guaranteed that whoever is listening has gone through something very similar, and they can feed off of our vulnerability to OWN their shit and feel empowered!
3. Being Vulnerable Empowers Yourself And Others
Let’s take another look at Lizzo, shall we? That woman OOZES self-love! But how did she get here? She’s been through the same rejection, the sadness, and the fighting that we all have, because we’re taught from a young age to be strong and nothing else!
But Lizzo recognizes that strength has to be met with an equal amount of vulnerability — that we need the space to embrace every ounce of human emotion so that we can turn around and lead our lives how we want to. That confidence is CONTAGIOUS, and we can definitely spread our own version of Lizzo-love to those around us!
4. Being Vulnerable Helps You Grow
Taking charge of your emotions plays a big part in embracing imperfection and realizing who we truly are. Because without emotions, we may as well be the speck of dust floating through the wind in Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who! Once you can actively recognize how an emotion is affecting you and be kinder to yourself for it, you will be able to see the beauty in being alive. Listening to your body is the first step in personal growth and acting on it is the second, so you can push aside that fear of criticism and show up anyway!
5. Vulnerability Makes You Stronger
Fear, insecurity, and doubt will never go away — they’re just a part of life! But what we CAN change is how we deal with them. Every single time we take a minute to be vulnerable, we practice dealing with that emotion or obstacle so that we can be even more resilient the next time it pops up! So, when you feel like you can’t take any more pain and start shutting down you have to take a moment to remember who you are, think about who you want to confide in, and be VULNERABLE!
“Let us be vulnerable, let us deal with the possibility of being attacked or harmed for sharing our mental health struggles so that, hopefully, one day it doesn’t have to be ‘vulnerable’ when you share about your mental health issues,” adds Dr. Tracy.
To dive into everything there is to know about vulnerability, tune into the “No B.S. Break Down: Vulnerability” episode of the Truth Doctor Podcast!