Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Embracing your vulnerability as a strength

Why is it that we all strive to be seen as strong? We hear it all the time: ‘He’s a strong man’; ‘She’s a strong woman’ – but just what is it about the human psyche that makes us regard our vulnerabilities as weaknesses?

More generally, vulnerability is usually associated with uncertainty, which other people see as risky, and this leaves us feeling emotionally exposed. That’s why very often we mask our true feelings, or soldier on without seeking the support or guidance that we need to develop to our full potential.

But perhaps now is the time to break the façade and show others our more vulnerable side? The more we talk about the issues we face, the more it becomes socially acceptable to show our authentic, vulnerable self. This will make it much easier for us to get the support we need.

This has certainly been the case in the world of sport. A number of top sports people have spoken out recently about the struggles they have faced in the sporting world. While just as vulnerable as everyone else, we wrongly assume our sporting heroes to be invincible. And this can lead people to feel shameful about how they are feeling and prevent them from seeking help. However things are starting to change as more people speak out. 

Whatever walk of life we're in - whether it be sport or something else, when we can't admit how we're feeling to others, we isolate ourselves and make it harder for ourselves to get the help we need. 

As more people speak about the struggles they face, the more we understand that nobody is without their struggles and the easier it is for them and others to seek help. 

So, where do we start? Here’s our advice for dealing with some social situations where we shouldn’t be afraid to let our guard down:

When you are wrong

We get it, it’s super hard to admit you've messed up. However, we’re all human and mistakes are inevitable from time to time – you can’t bake a cake without breaking a few eggs, after all. We may strive for perfection but in getting there we need to take advantage of the many opportunities we’ll have to improve – and how do we learn if not through mistakes? By admitting we’re wrong from time to time, we leave ourselves open to the learning opportunities that go hand in hand with mistakes.

When you don’t know all the facts

Why is it that we would rather make assumptions or gloss over our lack of knowledge than admit we don’t know it all? Admitting to others that we don’t know it all is uncomfortable – but it’s also liberating. Now’s the time to admit when our knowledge is lacking and let others fill the gap.

When you’ve hurt someone

No-one likes to upset others – and it’s certainly not something the vast majority of us would do intentionally – but admitting to ourselves and to others when our actions have caused upset is one of the hardest things we can do. The good news is that a well-placed ‘sorry’ goes a long way to not only mend broken bridges, but also strengthen relationships. Saying sorry for your actions is a strong thing to do!

When you are thankful

For one reason or another, we use our gratitude sparingly. It’s as if by thanking others we are demonstrating a ‘need’ for their guidance and support – we’re admitting that we are unable to do it by ourselves. The reality is that gratitude actually improves our psychological health – it’s scientifically proven – as well as making us more aware of our interdependence on others and our place within the universe. You can read more about the benefits of gratitude in this Psychology Today article.

There’s no denying that allowing our vulnerabilities to be on show takes courage. This other Psychology Today article looks at how we can – and should - embrace the power of vulnerability and use it to help us build more meaningful connections with others. Maybe it’s time that we all started to acknowledge our vulnerability as the agent of empowerment it could – and should – be.

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