I hear people use the term “vulnerable” a lot these days. They speak of being vulnerable in favorable terms. It’s vogue to say, “I get strength from my vulnerability.”
When I think of vulnerability, I think of the likelihood of being subject to the ridicule, the disappointment, the rejection, the distancing or the undue scrutiny of others.
Being vulnerable seems to be putting yourself in a position where other people can weigh in. Being vulnerable is being dependent on other people. It’s being subject to other people.
Other people can do the following: fault you for your personality, your physicality, your political or religious affiliations, your cognitive function and how you handle situations, your sense of humor, your efforts, the things you say and do, the talents (you think) you have… your possessions (or lack thereof)—the list goes on. At that point they can remove their friendship from you. They can shame you and judge you. They can cut off any resources they were giving to you including encouragement, insight and knowledge.
Vulnerability might also be thought of as just being less physically or financially able as the average person. (And yes, I, too, hate it when celebrities make grandiose proclamations about “Gaining strength from their vulnerability.” (Sorry, you don’t get to call yourself “vulnerable” if you’re not disabled and you have enough money to depend entirely ON YOUR INDIVIDUAL SELF for several life-spans.).
For the rest of though, to develop a sense of strength and mental fortitude, we must stick our necks out the window of life and be courageous. We must try. We must try and become something. We must act and not simply spectate. When you act, other people will inevitably notice and they are going to respond. People are going to either like you more or dislike you more.
Nothing comes for free. Often, it’s these risky, “vulnerable” moves in life that will offer the greatest rewards in the long run. But you must take them. The cost is taking the risk. Agreed, you’ll be the one negatively impacted if the risky move turns bad. You might gain the disapproval and shaming from others. Sometimes, this can result in soul-crushing anxiety and despair. Rejection is one of the worst feelings to live with.
Remember though, it is through our vulnerability that we ultimately develop resilience. Make that be your life’s motto. This tough, persistent “I can take it” attitude is what needs to be developed.
What do you do when you feel rejected or rebuffed…when you feel as though you’re always trying to win the approval of others but often met with either some sort of condescending lip-service or outright disappointment?
One of my recent strategies is to just say aloud “Be resilient. Be resilient. This is going to take some time. You are currently in the moment. Give it a few hours—or maybe 3 days, but by then, you’ll be fine again. Those strong feelings will have passed.
You want to get past those strong torrents of emotion because that is when your behavior and reactions are likely to be unstable. You want to imagine yourself riding through those moments, almost like you’re on a boat in the sea, floating to stable land, but you must get there first.
Reminding myself that I must reestablish my mindset and focus on resilience provides me with an escape from my current feelings.