The Practice of Vulnerability

The Practice of Vulnerability
Photo by Liza Summer

Author and researcher, Brené Brown, may be one of the most knowledgeable people in the world about the practice of vulnerability. According to her vulnerability is defined as “uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.” Most people feel unstable and uneasy when stepping outside of their comfort zone. It is normal to feel scared to try new things and a fear of not being good enough is sometimes a large barrier. Opportunities for vulnerability can show up mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Vulnerability is scary for many people because it involves risk and possible disappointment, which is an unpleasant emotion for humans to feel. People go to great extent to avoid being vulnerable from people pleasing to hiding behind shame and guilt. As children, humans tend to be more vulnerable because their awareness of others around them is not as significant. As people get older, the awareness of others becomes more prevalent and important. As a result, humans have learned to protect themselves from possible pain by hiding parts of their authentic self and emotions. While vulnerably is not always comfortable, it is important because allows up us to open up about how we feel and in turn helps us feel less alone or isolated. It fosters empathy, trust and intimacy, which create a deep human-to-human connectedness. The practice of being vulnerable is intimidating, but it has many benefits! Below are some tips and tricks on how to practice being more vulnerable in life.

  1. Talk to yourself in the mirror: It might seem silly at first, but what a great first person to practice vulnerability with-yourself! When you are in the habit of avoiding or suppressing difficult emotions, you may start to lose sight of how you actually feel. In order to be able to express yourself and be vulnerable, you first need to really know and understand how you are feeling and have an honest narrative with yourself.
  2. Identify “safe” people: It is not necessary to be vulnerable with everyone in your life. In fact, the cashier when checking out at a store might not care about how you are feeling or what is going on in your life. Is there someone close to you that you love, but have not been able to tell them recently? Or maybe there is a part of you hiding behind shame and guilt. It is possible that you are proud of yourself about something- this is also vulnerability! Try to share these parts of yourself with someone that you feel safe and comfortable with. 
  3. Push yourself outside the comfort zone: Being vulnerable by definition requires you to do or say something that pushes you outside the edge of your comfort zone. If you stay in your comfort zone, there will likely be no change in your life.
  4. Ask for what you need: Achieving close connections means being willing to speak up when you are in need. Part of vulnerability is expressing your truth. Whether it is with friends, family, or a partner, being transparent about difficulties and needs most likely will be rewarded with a higher level of connection.
  5. Slow down and be present: Part of being vulnerable is the ability to stay present. As mentioned, often times vulnerably is uncomfortable and as a result, it can be challenging to stay present. Notice how you are feeling and what is happening around you. Try to incorporate the five senses into your experience. 

Practice, practice practice! Like most things in life, vulnerability takes time, risk, and patience. The more you do it, the easier it will become. At Mountain Vista Psychology, we are here to help you along the way! 


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