Vulnerability as the Path of Love

I’ve been listening this week to Brene Brown’s audio book The Power of Vulnerability: Teachings of Authenticity, Connection, and Courage. I’ve been a fan of her work for a long time, ever since her now famous TED talk on the same topic. Her wise perspective and unstoppable sense of humor help me feel deeper into how to show up whole-heartedly in my personal life, and in my EFL work with the horses, where I help others do the same. Vulnerability is central to this process, because we take a risk when we step out of our comfort zone, begin to release old patterns, and try something new.

Brene Brown describes vulnerability as “uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure” – the things that scare us – and yet she also prizes vulnerability as – “the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity.”
Without vulnerability, there can be no real intimacy.
When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, we take off our armor. We allow ourselves to be truly seen, not just in our power, but in our fear, our uncertainty, our self-perceived weakness, our self-perceived mistakes.
Some people avoid vulnerability by disengaging. Being present, but not really listening to or talking with the other person, not really showing up or being there for them, not empathizing.
Vulnerability requires empathy, courage, and radical self-honesty.  
A lot of us wear invisible armor over our hearts because of the ways we have been hurt in the past. I know for myself, spending several years in a predatory school system as a child left me with a fear of being seen – if I am really seen, I will be seen through, or seen as ugly, and rejected. It’s one of the reasons I now work with horses, because the lessons I learned from being seen, loved and accepted by my horse during those same formative years helped me overcome – or at least manage – this fear and grow into the stronger person I am today. But vulnerability is never easy.
Vulnerability is asking for help.
Vulnerability is saying, “I don’t think I have enough money to pay my bills next month.”
Vulnerability is being in a relationship and being the first to say, “I love you,” not knowing if the other person feels it too.
Vulnerability is loving your child – or anyone – with your whole heart in a world of full of violence, chaos, terror, and change.
Vulnerability is scary! Yet it is so necessary for a joyful, creative life, in which we are fully IN, fully alive.
Vulnerability is the key to a whole-hearted life. Yet because our mainstream culture is predatory in many ways, “led” by predatory “role models,” and governed by a marketing culture that clearly dictates how we should look and what age we should be in order to be attractive, what kinds of work are valuable and for which gender, how we should spend our time (you’re doing what?), wearing exhaustion as a badge of honor – it isn’t always safe or wise to show up in our vulnerability.
Yet we can find spaces where it is safe to begin to test out our own vulnerability, whether with a dear friend or caring partner, or in a non-predatory learning environment where we can try out new skills without the risk of being ridiculed or demeaned. And we can create these spaces for each other by fully showing up and listening with empathy, which means entering into each other’s perspective and relating to it with a kindness that is present, expansive, compassionate, and non-judgmental.
This process begins with each of us showing up as our authentic self.  So, dear one,
Brave your way on.
You are a blessing waiting
to be discovered by yourself.
The wisdom waits in your heart
like a buried treasure which
only loving your self can
bring to the surface. And
yes, loving your self is like
diving to the bottom of the
ocean with nothing but who
you are to find your way.
Mark Nepo, “The Dive”
And, of course, we have each other. I’m so grateful for all the goodness and joy in this crazy world of ours.  And I’m sending gratitude and love to you today, too. Thanks for reading.
Erin Menut, MA, E-RYT