• Joanna Dreher

The beauty of vulnerability

Updated: Jan 9, 2020

Many of my clients hear me talk about the strength found in being vulnerable so I thought I would address this more fully in this blog.

Many of us go through life unable to admit or express that we are anything but strong, capable and holding it all together. Modern society allows for these qualities to be admired and sought after. So here we are all striving to be indestructible because that’s what we believe is expected of us - but what effect does that have on us?

In our efforts to not appear supposedly weak, we are afraid to ask for help, we berate ourselves for not being like X, Y or Z, but most of all, we do not show us or those around us how to be human. Brene Brown said ‘What makes us vulnerable also makes us beautiful’ and I agree. In order to understand this quote, think about the qualities that young babies and animals show, they are vulnerable, but there is an honesty and openness in their vulnerability and it is that which draws out our best human qualities like compassion, altruism and love, all of which the world needs more of.

Showing our vulnerability also allows for us to have self-acceptance which is empowering. When we can accept that we have flaws, that we have difficult emotions, that we can make mistakes - we are embracing the whole of us. We cannot change anything about us without accepting who we are. Holding our vulnerability out for the world to see, is basically saying ‘this is me and I’m comfortable with it’ - imagine the strength it takes to do that, but also the feeling of liberation, of no longer being afraid of others’ opinion of you.

Vulnerability is often missing in the workplace, where companies often support a culture of go-getting, hustling, hard-driving and over-resilience which often leads staff into feeling they can’t show weakness or self-doubt, or even share the fact that they may be struggling. That kind of working environment does not allow for a healthy place for people to work and contributes to the rise in mental health stigma that is common in the workplace today. Yet many companies are beginning to recognise that by not embracing the notion of vulnerability, they are doing a disservice to the staff and that will affect the company’s success. Brene Brown also conducted a study on what aids social connection and the data revealed that it is vulnerability. Social connection and a sense of camaraderie with our colleagues is conducive to company attainment.

A tool used in leadership coaching is for a group of management to talk about an event in their life that the others did not know about and I have read a few examples of people sharing stories that allowed them to be vulnerable. Others around them had not realised that the person had experienced loss, illness, a mental health problem, made errors and this allowed them to see each other in a new light - as human-these revelations deepened the understanding and connection between them.

Finally, I end this piece by bringing vulnerability into the therapy room. When clients show me their vulnerable selves, I feel privileged that they feel comfortable enough to show me who they are. In that moment I do not see something less than - I see beauty.

I will sign off with a quote to ponder on: ‘Vulnerability is terrifying. The courage it takes to reveal your heart is one of the most daunting and yet rewarding experiences in life…it will set you free’

- The Better Man Project

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