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The Paradox of Vulnerability

When someone says, “I feel vulnerable” we typically assume that this is a negative state. We tend to associate vulnerability with weakness. A vulnerable person may come under attack – physically, emotionally, intellectually, or spiritually.

The paradox of vulnerability, though, is that unless we truly open ourselves to things that evoke fear – acknowledging areas of difficulty or ignorance – we may never be able to embrace fully our areas of strength and expertise. Power comes not from just seeing where we are gifted, but from also recognizing where we need to seek partnership, help, or advice from others. True authority comes from accepting ourselves as “learners” rather than trying to be all knowing or perfect.

When we can accept ourselves as vulnerable this can foster inner peace and greater self-confidence. We see that we don’t need to do it all on our own or have all the answers. Once we are freed from the shackles of perfectionism, we can focus our efforts on those areas where we can really make a difference. This is great for us, and the world, because we have more energy to invest in those areas where we can truly shine and develop. And perhaps just as critical, we feel empowered to take risks and build new talents because we are no longer burdened by the false belief that we have to do it “right” or not at all.

Here are a few thoughts on how you might begin to explore your vulnerability.

  • Take a class in something that takes you just a bit out of your comfort zone: square dancing, archery, foreign language, poetry, etc.

  • Volunteer for a group that will take you to a new neighborhood, environment or landscape

  • Ask someone with whom you share a significant age gap (older or younger) for their philosophy on trying new things

  • Share a problem with a friend who usually comes to you for advice

  • Answer the question “How are you?” with something more accurate and genuine than “Fine”

Self-Discovery Tool Number 59
How can we make a regular practice of exploring our vulnerability? How can having a deeper awareness of what we lack help us to take greater pride in our gifts and perhaps use them more wisely? Fear and vulnerability won’t go away, but seeing them as pathways to growth can help turn them from foes to friends!


Wait a minute…consider the power of silence

The Artist was jut released on DVD here in the US. It is an unusual film for the present day because for nearly its entire length you hear only the musical score – it is a silent film. This got us thinking about how we often make talking and doing a priority over silence and reflection.

Part of self-discovery is exploration. If we experiment with silence, we may be able to make space to notice the ways in which we are reacting out of patterned behavior. Often we are too attached to taking some immediate action or voicing a hastily conceived opinion. A moment of silence, for instance counting to ten when we are angry, can give us time to reflect on our reactions – not necessarily to make them wrong – but to give us a chance to examine them and then express those that are truly important to us in a way that is respectful to ourselves as well as the to the situation and the others involved.

Self-discovery is also about getting to the heart of things and identifying our core principles. Being silent can help here, too, because a quiet environment can encourage us to focus. If we turn off all of our devices, seek a spot without manmade background noises and soak in the stillness, we may be better able to get in touch with our values. Doing so can create an inner calm to match the outer one we’ve engineered.

Finally, part of self-discovery is accomplished in connecting with others. Communicating with others helps many of us get clarity on what we think through the sharing process. What can get lost, without some periods of quiet, is the chance to hear our inner voice. Indeed we may keep on talking in an effort to mute this voice and avoid the material it is urging us to recognize. Time spent in reflection can help us open up to these voices and to their input. When we don’t speak, we can listen.

Not acting immediately and instead allowing silence can give us space to test our assumptions about what is really happening within and without. This in turn helps us to uncover more of who we are and what we want. Then, when we do take action, the outcomes are more pleasurable and satisfying because they are in line with our true nature and what we hope to achieve.

Self-Discovery Tool 51
Wait a minute, take a breath, and then observe your internal and external environment. More often than not, what is happening does not require an instantaneous response and pausing will most likely strengthen and improve whatever action is taken. Enjoy the tranquility and potential benefits that a little time honoring silence provides!