What Does It Mean To Be Vulnerable?

If you're a Silk + Sonder member, you already know that our April theme is vulnerability. When we came up with this theme, we had no way of knowing that we would all be stuck inside our homes and practicing social distancing by the time the issue came out. As it turns out, the timing is a bit serendipitous. 

The challenges that have come with the devastation surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic have forced many of us to confront the more vulnerable parts of ourselves, whether that has to do copious amounts of alone time, a lost job, fear surrounding our health, worrying about a sick friend or family member, or something else entirely. 

Regardless of what specific emotions you're experiencing, it's important to remember that you're not alone. We're all feeling a little cracked open right now, and maybe that's not such a bad thing. In an effort to dive deeper into the topic of vulnerability, we chatted with Dr. Linda Humphreys, a Psychologist with a Ph.D. in Metaphysical Counseling and two master's degrees in the psychology and spirituality field. Here's what she had to say. 

S+S: "Vulnerability" is a word that gets thrown around a lot. But what does it actually mean? 

LH: Vulnerability simply means coming and sharing from an open-hearted place. Vulnerability is actually a human super-power, because it means you're coming from a place of strength, respect, trust, freedom, unconditional love, and authentic power. With this definition in mind and in this context, it's clear that vulnerability is a strength, not a weakness. 

S+S: What are some ways to express vulnerability? 

LH: Vulnerability can be expressed in so many ways, but I'll give you two examples. The first is a willingness to practice empathic and compassionate listening—to be with another, in a loving, supportive, and non-judgmental manner, while another person is sharing in a vulnerable way. The second is a willingness to practice empathic and compassionate sharing—to be with another, in their pain, sorrow, grief, and so on, and share from a place of authenticity—from an open-hearted or vulnerable place within yourself.

S+S: What are some of the best ways to support someone who's being vulnerable with you? 

LH: Just listen. Listen not only from your ears, but from a deeper place within. Listen with your heart to hear the heart of the other person.

S+S: How can we be better at leaning into vulnerability, rather than away from it? 

LH: The two keys to leaning into vulnerability are giving yourself permission to be vulnerable and practicing being vulnerable. First, give yourself permission to actually “go there"—and allow yourself to be authentically vulnerable. Next, practice.  Find someone you love and trust to be vulnerable with. Share with them that you would like to practice being vulnerable, and see if they're willing to support you with this.

This practice may inspire the other person to be vulnerable with you as well which, in turn, can provide you with an opportunity to support another by allowing them to express their own vulnerability, which provides you an opportunity to practice empathic listening.

S+S: What are your best tips for helping someone tap into their vulnerable side if they're having a hard time?

 LH: The first tip that comes to mind is one of the “golden rules”: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. In this context, if you would like others to be more vulnerable with you, be willing to be more vulnerable with them.

Additionally, I have heard that one of the greatest gifts you can give someone is the gift of being heard—truly and deeply heard, seen and accepted. Vulnerable self-expression and compassionate, empathetic listening are the gifts that an open heart can give—and receive.

 With those two things in mind, I would, again, suggest practicing being vulnerable yourself and practicing being an empathic and compassionate listener. Who knows? You may become a model and a way-shower for others regarding both vulnerable self-expression and empathic listening.

 What does vulnerability mean to you? Let us know in the comments. And while you're at it, make sure to subscribe to Silk + Sonder today. 

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