Vulnerability In Perspective
Being vulnerable is often associated with weakness.
For example: The term vulnerable adult, it refers to those in need of care or support and when we describe being in a vulnerable position, we usually mean we are at risk or in danger.
No wonder then that so many people strive to hide or disguise their vulnerabilities.
There is however an alternative way to think about vulnerability.
Let me give you an example. I know that I experience vertigo, which can result in anxiety whenever I am close to an edge at height. Now logically my vertigo is a vulnerability, very much so if I end up in a panic attack at the top of a tall building!
Wow! that really would put me (and perhaps others) at risk!
So maybe I hide it, pretend my vertigo doesn’t exist?
Nothing rattles me – nothing – honest!
But that’s not a true projection of me and I have no shame in talking about my fears and allowable weaknesses.
So why is it worth seeing this in a different light?
Well firstly knowing that I have vertigo gives me an advantage. I can choose to avoid situations that may trigger the vertigo. I can also choose to engage in situations that challenge it head on and sometimes I do.
Having a good understanding of when this vulnerability is heightened and when it’s not is good. This awareness lets me figure out what situations I can engage in and I manage my world accordingly.
For example: I know that I can climb to the top of the tower at Durham Cathedral and stand out on the roof. I also know that I cannot look over the perimeter wall whilst on that roof without feeling anxiety. So, I usually enjoy the views without going to the edge. If my anxiety is reduced then I might choose to challenge myself, approach the edge and have a peak over.
If I denied the vertigo’s existence or tried to hide it then I am likely to increase any anxiety I may feel. I am also therefore less likely to notice when I am able to challenge myself so would be unlikely to do so. If I then try to hide the increased anxiety state then I may present with characteristics that are not really me. I may lie to avoid the situation, make excuses, become hostile to others etc..
My being aware of my vertigo actually prevents me from looking silly or being resistant or aggressive or making excuses. Knowing my ‘vulnerability’ and being able to be honest about it gives me an advantage.
Ok so not maybe the best example. But let’s consider why people hide or deny vulnerability.
One chain of thought is that people who do are scared. Yes scared!
They fear that someone might use it against them (please don’t dangle me from a high building)!
Or judge them (everyone with vertigo is pathetic you know) or that others will think they are completely weak (I cannot hang over the edge of a cliff therefore I am a useless person with no value).
Seems silly put that way doesn’t it?
But often the reality is that the fear of exposing our vulnerabilities, keeps us hiding our weaker elements, even though we all acknowledge that as whole human beings we have allowable weaknesses. We can’t all be great at everything – yes that includes me – and you!
But we do all feel vulnerable from time to time and we all have situations that expose our vulnerabilities. We are all human; we have strengths and allowable weaknesses. We cannot be the strongest at everything or comfortable in all situations we find ourselves in. Knowing our allowable weaknesses as well as our strengths (and everything in between) is to be self-aware and self-awareness is a powerful thing to possess.
Know your vulnerabilities and work with them.