Brene Brown1 has written and researched extensively into the power of vulnerability and has made the point that being vulnerable – far from showing weakness – is a sign of strength. Revealing one’s vulnerable self takes courage and, at the same time, destroys those shameful feelings we have about ourselves.
Shame only has power over us while we think it is so bad that we need to hide it away. Once revealed, it loses that power. Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable in front of other people is, essentially, us saying, “Look, here I am, as I am, and I’m accepting enough of myself to reveal that to you”. If that doesn’t feel empowering, then I don’t know what does.
As with any goal which is worth striving towards, showing our vulnerability is not easy. And it’s especially hard when you have been the victim of abuse, including narcissistic abuse and gaslighting.
How can you learn to reveal your vulnerability when your vulnerability has repeatedly been used against you in the past?
Choose supportive people initially
As with any change in behaviour, by showing your vulnerability you’re learning a new way of being. With time, it would be nice to reveal your vulnerable side to anyone, without suffering from any negative consequences. Be prepared, though, if you surround yourself with emotionally abusive people and you choose to show your vulnerable side to them, they may react to you in a derisive, cruel and manipulative manner.
There are some wonderful, accepting people out there and, in your journey towards a more empowered vulnerable self, it would be wise in seeking out those types of people to help you start your journey, or, perhaps considering seeing a therapist who will help you accept your vulnerable self.
Be prepared to get upset (or angry or frustrated)
If you have spent your life hiding things which you find unacceptable and shameful, be prepared for a bit of an emotional tsunami when you start revealing stuff. Bringing things into the open is empowering but it can also be overwhelming. Discussing your vulnerabilities instead of hiding them can stir up deep rooted, big emotions. Becoming emotional in the process of learning to show your vulnerabilities is a healthy part of moving through your emotions.
Take it step by step
If you’ve kept everything bottled up for years, you might enjoy the feeling of revealing your vulnerabilities so much that you feel tempted to overshare. Whilst this is safe to do in the therapy room, with friends, family and colleagues you need to ensure that you have created safe, emotional boundaries which allow you to keep a strong sense of self. You don’t need to rush into the process and can slowly learn what it feels like to reveal your vulnerabilities and then build on that learning as you continue to develop emotionally.