On vulnerability

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  1. Being vulnerable is important.
  2. But being vulnerable is hard.
  3. Here’s some tips I think could help us be more vulnerable.

Being vulnerable is important.

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What does it mean to be vulnerable, and why is it important?

What it means to be vulnerable. Being vulnerable is about being unfiltered in the expression of your feelings and thoughts. When you’re sad, when you’re happy, when you have a burning thought, you express it. However, being vulnerable doesn’t mean being an asshole who spews out profanities or crude comments or viciousness. Being vulnerable, or true unfiltered expression, is calm because your feelings and thoughts flow cleanly out. There’s no mental acrobatics required. A straight path. If you have ever had a conversation with someone where you really connected with them, you’ll know what I mean when I say being vulnerable is calm.

Why being vulnerable is important. Two reasons: mental health and relationships. On the mental health issue: it’s common sense psychology to say that holding in your thoughts and feelings for long enough can cause them to burst out in destructive ways. Your mind is a balloon. It can only hold so many thoughts and feelings before it pops. If, on the other hand, you are vulnerable and express your thoughts and feelings, there’s a peacefulness and relaxation that is very good for your mental health. Anyone’s who’s ever had a heart-to-heart talk with someone they love where they finally got to unload their feelings knows how peaceful they feel once the talk is over. On the relationships issue: a relationship involves an emotional connection between two people. If you’re not being vulnerable, if you’re not expressing what you think and feel, you’re not part of that equation. Your friend or partner or family member might be in a relationship with a fake version of you, but it’s not you. Most people already know that relationships are very important to be happy. (Have you ever tried being alone for a long time? You’ll know it’s horrible for most people.) Therefore, because relationships are important to be happy, it stands to reason that being vulnerable is also important to be happy because you must be vulnerable to truly be in a relationship. Anyone who has ever been in a relationship where they knew they were being fake knows how lonely it feels; being yourself is essential to really reap the beauty and value of relationships. It’s simple logic.

But being vulnerable is hard.

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Being vulnerable is hard because being yourself is hard. Most of us filter our thoughts and feelings without even realizing it. What I say here cuts deep. It sounds easy to be vulnerable, to express without filters, but in practice it’s very hard.

Most of us have a set of filters we pass our thoughts and feelings through. Here’s a few of my filters. Intelligence filter: I filter what I think and feel through the lens, “How do I make this sound intelligent?” For example, instead of saying, “I’m sad that more people aren’t vulnerable,” I might say, “Vulnerability is a pressing issue in our society.” I’ve intellectualized what I feel into a public topic, a matter of academic debate, not something that eats at me and contributes to my loneliness. Or my disinterested filter: I filter what I think and feel through the attitude, “No matter what happens, I’m not affected by this in any way.” So, instead of saying, “It hurts so much that you won’t listen to me,” I say, “OK” and walk away.

Almost all of us have filters, and they’re very hard to take off. We’ve built up a lifelong habit of expressing through these filters—so much so that most of us don’t even acknowledge we have them anymore. Some of us use filters to look good, some of us use filters to protect our hearts, some of us use filters just because we don’t know any other way. Like any habit though, once you acknowledge the habit, it takes intense effort and focus to change them. Ask any addict. All habits are effortful to change.

Here’s some tips I think could help us be more vulnerable.

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Here’s some tips that won’t necessarily make you vulnerable but help you towards that path. The journey to being vulnerable is one you have to take yourself because your filters are unique to you. You’ll have to work through them yourself.

1. Use simple language. Talk to most children. They’re vulnerable. They say exactly what they think and feel (unless they’ve been trained out of it). For whatever reason, going back to more basic language helps bring you back to more of a state of vulnerability. Need empirical proof? Look at the baby talk in romances. Deeper connection tends to come with baby talk. Try it for yourself. Limit yourself to the vocabulary children use. I spoke about simple language in another post, so if you want more detail, check it out. 

2. Speak without ulterior motives. Your only motive in conversation should be to express. Don’t load your conversations with ulterior motives like sounding cool, sounding smart, sounding tough, sounding pretty, sounding funny. Allow your thoughts and feelings to guide you.

3. Listen. Being vulnerable goes both ways. You can’t just express everything yourself but then block out everyone else. You need to let people’s words into your heart and mind and genuinely consider them. Otherwise, you’ll find that no one will want to listen to you anymore, and you’ll lose relationships.

I’ll add more to the list as I develop my ideas more…


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