Vulnerability has been a huge buzzword over the past few years. I suspect it’s in large part due to Brené Brown whom I greatly admire and respect from her 45-minutes’ worth of TED Talks that I have watched. I have never read any of her books so I don’t know how Ms. Brown defines vulnerability however I do know how many of us have interpreted vulnerability and it’s not a good look.
My personal experience of vulnerability has led me to believe that many of us confuse vulnerability with insecurity. There is a stark difference between the two although I fully admit that on the surface (in the first 5 minutes) they can feel quite similar. I have noticed that one makes me feel light and empowered while the other leaves me feeling unsatisfied and victimized.
I have found three very easy ways to distinguish if I am experiencing and/or expressing vulnerability or insecurity:
- Is the antagonist/enemy in my situation anyone other than me?
- Am I experiencing and/or expressing anything other than love, compassion, kindness or gratitude?
- Do I hope for, even secretly or deep down, a particular response and/or any response at all from someone other than myself?
If the answer is ‘yes’ to any of the questions above then I know that I am experiencing or expressing insecurity.
Insecurity creates a façade or identity, usually unbeknownst to its carrier, then attempts to manipulate people and/or situations in order to receive the validation it relies upon for its very existence. Insecurity is dangerous because it often mimics vulnerability; it is also subversive and insatiable. Ultimately, insecurity is disempowering because it requires external validation to exist.
Vulnerability, on the other hand, is derived from self-awareness which cannot and need not be externally validated. Self-awareness of vulnerability and/or the expression of it as one’s personal truth are in themselves acts of empowerment which say: “I see myself and am beginning to understand myself. I am grateful to have discovered this gaping wound because now that I see it, I know that I am the only one who has the power to inflict further harm or to heal it.”
Insecurity and vulnerability cannot co-exist because they are diametrically opposed; if it needs to be validated or protected externally then it cannot be vulnerability/personal truth and vice versa. As I mentioned previously in Lars and The Ladyboy – there is no rebuttal to Truth. One’s truth is so powerful that it cannot be refuted nor validated by another! We all know when we are standing in Truth’s almighty presence.
We intuitively know the difference between vulnerability and insecurity. When someone expresses their personal truth to us we often feel chills or get teary-eyed (in a good way). At the very least, we generally experience admiration and/or appreciation because we immediately recognize both the underlying vulnerability and strength in their words. We know in our hearts that they are going to be ok despite whatever trials or tribulations they may be experiencing at the moment. We feel emboldened, inspired, uplifted and energized in the presence of those who vulnerably speak their truth because they are empowered!
On the other hand, when someone expresses insecurity to us – we tend to feel pity, guilt and/or like we should do something to help them or as if we have done or may do something to cause them harm. We may get a pit in our stomachs and/or feel like we are walking on eggshells in the presence of insecurity. Insecurity feels unstable and we often feel confused, helpless and emotionally drained when we spend time with the insecurities of others and/or with our own.
Insecurity has a negative charge so it draws energy from us whereas vulnerability has a positive charge which gives us energy. Insecurity will even go so far as to call itself ‘vulnerability’ and say things like: “I was being vulnerable and you/she/he/they dismissed me or did not support me.” Vulnerability never calls itself out because it does not need to while insecurity demands both attention and protection.
Insecurity persists if it gets fed so I no longer feed it although I have compassion for it. I acknowledge it for what it is and do not give, seek nor accept the external validation it craves. I now use insecurity as a peephole into self. I have learned that self-awareness has the ability to alchemize the negative, victimized state of insecurity into the beautiful, positive, empowered state of vulnerability.
Vulnerability is ok with being misunderstood and does not need to clarify, justify or explain itself. Vulnerability apologizes for insecurity’s words and actions. Vulnerability asks for forgiveness but never needs to receive it. Vulnerability can sit in insecurity’s pain while simultaneously having compassion for someone who may be lashing out at it. Vulnerability performs acts of kindness for people who may never be able to appreciate them nor reciprocate them. Vulnerability trusts that we are loved because we are love and does not need signs, symbols or actions to prove it.