vul·ner·a·ble  [vuhl-ner-uh-buhl]

adjective

1.capable of or susceptible to being wounded or hurt, as by a weapon: a vulnerable part of the body.

2. open to moral attack, criticism, temptation, etc.: an argument vulnerable to refutation; He is vulnerable to bribery.

Origin: 

1595–1605;  < Late Latin vulnerābilis,  equivalent to Latin vulnerā ( re ) to wound + -bilis -ble; see vulnerary

It seems almost every month I read an article, blog post or book that encourages me to “be a kid again” – to play, to let go of what is expected, to live from a place of what makes you truly you. Yeah. Easier said than done my friends. It isn’t that I don’t understand or even agree with that advice, I just find it incredibly hard to move back into that space of childhood. Too much has happened; good things and bad, praise and criticism all of which shape the character I feel will be most likely to be accepted – the character I am as an adult.

So you can imagine my surprise last month during a 3-week stay in India that in many ways I was thrown back into childhood almost instantly after getting off the plane. Here I was without any ability to comprehend what was being said, what I was expected to do, how to navigate, how to order food or eat it…. It wasn’t that I couldn’t do those things or figure it out, but it was this overarching sense of vulnerability as I did it. Am I doing this right? Will they understand me? Will I somehow offend someone? Even understanding how to cross a street (and survive) took both the act of watching and learning from someone with experience (an “adult” so to speak) and then the scary act of stepping out on my own and trying those first steps.

And, this is what vulnerability is, the willingness to do something first. To say I Love You. To ask for help. To stand up for someone who needs it. It is risky and scary – you could be rejected or criticized, made to feel wrong or stupid or silly but this same risky, scary stuff is what makes us beautiful. As Brene Brown says, “In order for connection to happen we have to let ourselves be seen.”

Asking questions, not being afraid to not know, allowed us to meet wonderful people, hear stories and have experiences that if we had been “pros” and pretended we knew everything there was to know about India, we would have missed out.

Vulnerability is the birth place of joy, creativity, connection, love… Vulnerability is being okay with uncertainty, being okay with the pain and the hurts that come our way because we know that if we can experience the bad we are also open to experiencing the good.

As an adult, feeling like a child is easily equated to feeling like an incompetent fool, but that isn’t what we are going for here. In India, my experience wasn’t one of feeling foolish. It was an experience of being wide-eyed. Of asking many, many questions. Of enjoying the sensation of being delighted by seeing a monkey in person. Of wearing clothes that may or may not match but made you feel beautiful. Of asking how to mail a package and then spending 3 hours with your new best friend.

Now, the question becomes, when we aren’t in a foreign land, how can we still cultivate vulnerability? How can we be wide open, joyful and a little risky even in the safe confines of our little adult worlds? I’ve just gone back at watched Brown’s Ted Talk on vulnerability and she gives us these 3 keys as a starting point:

  • We have to let ourselves be seen
  • We have to practice gratitude and joy
  • We have to know that we are enough.

How do you practice vulnerability?