We cultivate meaningful connection with others when we are fully seen and deeply known. Certainly, we will find some people easier to get along with and some relationships develop more rapidly than others. However, no matter how natural a connection is in a romance, friendship, professional or familial relationship, meaningful connections are cultivated with intention.
This requires vulnerability. If we want to deepen our connection with others, we must choose courage, honesty and authenticity. Here’s how we lead with vulnerability in the relationships that matter most.
If we want to deepen our connection with others, we must choose courage, honesty and authenticity.
Understand the story behind the struggle.
Vulnerability feels more natural to some than others. Perhaps some of this can be attributed to personality. However, what many of us love to call personality is actually reactivity.
In other words, if vulnerability is a struggle, it is likely there’s a story about the pain that makes it more difficult to allow yourself to be seen and known. Maybe you gave someone your trust and were betrayed, making vulnerability feel unsafe. Perhaps you had experiences early in your life that taught you that you can’t depend on anyone, so you decided that it was a more prudent choice to only trust yourself.
All behavior makes sense in the context of the behind-the-scenes story. Taking time to understand the pain that drives your hesitancy to be vulnerable will ultimately help you move forward with healthier relationships.
Whether we care to admit it or not, many of us are waiting for others to offer the kind of relationships we crave. We all long for authenticity and depth in our relationships. The real question is: Are we making the choices necessary to cultivate this kind of relationship? Are we willing to go first and lead with vulnerability?
The truth is that nothing changes if nothing changes, and we must be the kind of friend, partner, family member and co-worker who we would like to have if we want to cultivate more meaningful relationships in our lives.
We all long for authenticity and depth in our relationships.
Vulnerability is best served with boundaries.
As we seek to exercise courage in practicing vulnerability, we are wise to understand that vulnerability is best served with boundaries. In general, the thoughts, feelings and pieces of your story that you choose to share should match the level of trustworthiness you have experienced in the relationship.
Also, different kinds of relationships will warrant different levels of vulnerability, and that is OK. We can enjoy laughing and sharing interests and activities with some friends. On the other hand, there are other friends who will be our first call when we receive bad news or share a dream out loud. Enjoy relationships for what they have to offer instead of wasting opportunities for joy, wishing they were different.
Be vulnerable with your joy.
Often, when we think of practicing vulnerability as sharing our deepest pain. While this certainly can be part of vulnerability, joy is in fact the most vulnerable emotion we can share.
To embrace joy without fear that it will be ripped from our grasp intensely vulnerable experience. Sharing our joy with others requires just as much bravery and practice as sharing our pain. Having the courage to celebrate our joy with others is both a courageous and worthy experience.
Sharing our joy with others requires just as much bravery and practice as sharing our pain.
Love where you are and grow from there.
Whether vulnerability comes easily to you or not, know that you are deeply loved and worthy where you are. The practice of vulnerability isn’t about proving or earning your value. It’s about growing in courage and telling the truth about where you are and the story that has brought you to this place.
Love where you are and grow one choice at a time from there. That’s how we develop virtues in our lives. We practice them.
Relationships are the best gifts we have in this life. When we practice vulnerability in our homes, social settings and jobs, we will experience our lives differently as we cultivate the kind of love we all long for in the relationships that matter most. Relationships are worthy of our investment—our time, our attention, our courage and our vulnerability.
Do you struggle with fostering vulnerability in your relationships? What power can be found in vulnerability?
Image via Jason Barbagelott, Darling Issue No. 20