I don’t do vulnerability.

Which basically means…I don’t do relationships…or at least not deep ones.

Writing that out in words and then repeating it back to myself out loud is depressing. Facing that kind of truth is hard. But, it’s necessary for change.

So this is the part where I give you my excuses (knowing that, while the are an important part of my upbringing, they are not good enough currency for avoidance of facing my issues).

I was raised in an old-school military family. We did (and still do) loyalty, honesty, dogged determination, commitment, patriotism.

We didn’t do tears, weakness, or fear.

As a result, after countless years of being told to “buck up and stop crying,” I learned to be strong, to deal with my own shit and not put it anyone else. I never wanted to be a burden…or a pussy.

I learned to say “I’m fine” even when I was far from it.

I learned to believe that I had to BE fine…all the time…or that something was wrong with me.

It’s hard to move beyond that as an adult, but I realize that it is necessary to cultivate deep, meaningful relationships with others.

And the most important ingredient that I have been missing is vulnerability.

I’ve been listening to Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly on my way to work in the morning. (Here’s her TED talk on vulnerability.) While much of it is simply interesting, not new…there have been a few concepts that have sort of hit me right between the eyes. You know, those things you have heard before, but maybe not in this specific way, and for some reason this time they strike you differently?

Two chapters in particular, The Vulnerability Armory and Minding the Gap: Cultivating Change and Closing the Disengagement Divide, have especially struck me. What I’ve taken away from these chapters are the following:

  • My armor is thick, built mainly to avoid rejection (real or imagined) and avoid being perceived as weak or a failure
  • My focus on this need to avoid rejection is self-centered
  • People may reject me, but it is worth the risk to build deep, lasting relationships
  • Women’s armor tends to revolve around body image or the desire to achieve an unattainable perfection
  • Men’s armor tends to revolve around the a perception of failure (real or imagined) or weakness
  • Men (not the assholes) don’t give a shit about women’s body flaws…they care more about being loved, needed, and wanted by the women in their lives
  • We disengage to protect ourselves from vulnerability
  • “Staying vulnerable is a risk we have to take if we want to experience connection.”

I have lived a fairly disengaged life on many levels. I protect myself from loss by not gaining. I protect myself from rejection and failure by deflecting or disengaging. I have protected my vulnerabilities by keeping them to myself.

But being vulnerable is necessary to fully living. Having a sense of connection has long been a goal of mine, and I guess, on some level, I knew that vulnerability was the ticket. That’s why I have this blog. But, being vulnerable to people who are on the other side of a computer screen is not nearly as scary as being vulnerable to my husband, son, family, friends, colleagues, students, boss, etc.

But, as scary as it may be, being vulnerable is my new goal.

And part of that is getting back to sharing my mistakes and failures and wrong turns with you. I’ve been remiss in my “personal experience” writing, mainly because it opens me up to uncomfortable conversations, not especially with my readers, but with my husband (who IS one of my readers and is the subject of the majority of what I write – as far as personal experience is concerned). It means saying the wrong thing or being misunderstood. It means looking stupid or selfish or mean. It means admitting wrongs…and apologizing. It means being grateful. It means opening myself up to failure…and embracing it. It means not being “fine.”

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  • May More

    I have also struggled with risking anyone seeing that side of me – so often I have shut down a friendship or partnership because I could not risk being vulnerable and maybe getting hurt – I am getting better at the vulnerability bit though – my man has helped but I still have too many trust issues, that I expect I should deal with but hey sometimes I just wanna forget about how I am feeling, being, what I should be focusing on and just live ;-)x

  • Cara Thereon

    Vulnerability has always been a struggle. Getting close means people leave so why get close? It’s a habit I struggle to break. I hope you’re able to be more vulnerable and honest and that it deals the rewards you deserve

  • Marie Rebelle

    I hate being vulnerable, hate showing it, but in the last months I have learned that great things come from sometimes allowing yourself vulnerable moments…
    I look forward to read more of your journey and to learn from it.

    Rebel xox

  • Modesty Ablaze

    I’m often told I “say / talk” too much . . . express my emotions too quickly.

    But I do think that speaking one’s mind . . . sharing the downs as well as the ups . . . makes for a clearer (if at times bumpy) life.

    Does that make one more vulnerable . . . or in the end, stronger and more “you” .

    Xxx – K

    • Brigit Delaney

      I think vulnerability requires great strength and courage. If it leads to self awareness, then it does make you more “you,” though I do believe many people who never show their “true colors” so-to-speak, know exactly who they are inside, they just chose not to show it, for whatever reason.

  • Jo

    This really spoke to me, Brigit… I spent many years completely walling myself off from people, and it WAS necessary for me to change. Vulnerability is so painful and *so* worth the pain – I’ve come to embrace being vulnerable in the past few years, and it’s been soul-crushing at times… but also brought the most amazing relationships and love into my life. This post has inspired me to be more open with my flaws, mistakes, and failures on my blog, though, because it is highly curated to present a positive view. Thanks for the inspiration! xx

  • Floss

    I can identify with so much of this and I think your new goal is one to be admired. I’m always ‘fine’ and I can ‘manage everything on my own’, I always used to say this was because I was strong and independent, and while that is in part true, it is also to do with that fear of being vulnerable. I didn’t write a blog post on healing this week, because I kind of did a fair amount of it this week and writing about it as a subject was just a bit much. There was a level of vulnerability with both my partner and a friend that was truly terrifying, but I did it and I’m still standing and no-one is thinking less of be because of it. When I see all the comments from people who can also identify with this writing I just want to reach out and send you all warm, positive and wonderful things. Being vulnerable is hard to do, but we can all get there when our time is right, and I think we will feel good things about it in the future. Thank you for writing this xxx

  • Molly

    You are right vulnerability is so important in developing relationships but clearly it brings risk into play too as the moment you open yourself up to it you up yourself to the potential for greater hurt but in my experience the rewards have always outweighed the pains


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