Is being vulnerable a sign of weakness?

When someone shows you their vulnerability, show them your respect and reliability – this is a quote that made me pause and think as I scrolled through my Facebook page a few days ago. You see, for years, I had been afraid and I may still be even now to show my vulnerability, because of past experiences when my being vulnerable had been used against me. And while I thought on the quote, I also came to the conclusion that I had probably failed to be respectful and reliable when others had shown me their vulnerabilities.

When someone shows you their vulnerability, show them your respect and reliability.

Prof. Marian Asantewah Nkansah

I have a younger friend who is actively dating and from some of her experiences – it seemed more and more people are looking for a quick hookup and the casualties in these instances are the souls that are looking for a deeper, meaningful connection. I deduced from my friend’s dating experiences that to share your vulnerability was one of the surest ways to being ‘dumped’ and ghosted without any explanation. In her own words, connections mean nothing when things start to get slightly real. So how do we make meaningful and lasting connections that are non superficial when one can never trust to truly be themself wholly, faults and all? This fear of rejectiona and toxic shame, by revealing too much of one’s self, has bred a generation of people who look for quick connections that have no depth.

Not too long ago, I watched a talk show where the host had gathered men and women in the same auditorium for both sides to share their frustrations when it came to dating. One thing that stood out to me was most men in the group seemed almost offended every time a woman they were dating shared something flawed about themselves too early. This confused me a bit – is someone sharing a part of themselves not a sign of their trust in the person they choose to share this with knowing it may be used against them? It also seemed that while the women in the group wanted to share their vulnerabilities, there was no encouragement for the men to open up about theirs – so while there was a group that did not like to be burdened with the vulnerabilities of the other group, at the same time, this same group were not expected to share theirs. As I watched the show, I remember saying to myself – ‘what a mess’!

Thinking on the various relationships with our friends, coworkers, partners, children and just about anyone we may be in any sort of relationship with – we sometimes don’t take the time to show respect and reliability when others show us their vulnerable side. A few years ago, a friend decided to match me with this wonderful gentleman who lived on another continent – before I agreed to talk to this man, she was already planning our wedding! A few weeks into me talking to this gentleman, I realised that we had nothing in common and shared no core values. In staying true to myself, I expressed these concerns with my friend and also of my fears of long distance dating because of a traumatic experience of someone very close to me due to a long distance relationship. To my dismay, she brushed it aside and said I was thinking too much about what could go wrong even with all the red flags I presented and simply dismissed my concerns. For days I wondered if perhaps I was being unreasonable but the more thought I gave it, the more pronounced my fears became. Sharing this fear led to my being labelled as picky and by the time I knew what was going on, a few people I know were labelling me the same without context – my trust in said friend is now non-existent.

In the same way, there have been countless times when someone had come to me with their fears/concerns and I had brushed them aside because I saw things differently instead of trying to see things from their perspective. I had a friend who was scared of ending up like his father and this was something he never talked about. He decided one day to tell me of the neglect and abuse he suffered at the hands of his father growing up. I tried to put a positive spin on it by pointing out that because he was aware of what his father did wrong, he would not repeat his father’s mistake. Well, a few years down the line, I met him and just as he feared, he was turning into his father; he was now a father himself with multiple baby mothers. This was his biggest fear of all the fears he had about being like his father as he grew up. There were issues that he needed to address which he was embarrassed to share and when he had the courage to share with me, I flippantly diagnosed and tried to resolve his issues in one sentence. I could have simply listened and respected his feelings enough to not try to fix him.

I understand that we all have our battles and go through difficult seasons – but when someone trusts you enough to be open with you, we must show them respect. Sometimes listening to them is all we can do and that is fine and at other times we may need to point them to someone that is trained and equipped to help them. I started by saying I don’t like being vulnerable and that is because I have had people use my vulnerable moments against me – at work, in romantic relationships, in church, in friendships and even in family settings. However, as I grow everyday, I am coming to accept that just because some people weren’t reliable does not mean that everyone will be that way too.

In a previous post about being truly happy, I wrote about seeing a therapist – the sessions were difficult as I do not like being vulnerable and some of the issues I needed resolving required me opening up wholly. As I struggled through expressing my feelings, fears and flaws, a breakthrough came when after sharing a painful moment, my therapist looked at me and said – I believe you, these things did happen. For the first time in a long time, I had let all my guard down and the person who saw me for who I truly was in that moment was not judgemental or dismissive. I felt respected and not weak! It’s the same when what you have shared is not used to shame you or make you seem weak to others. A friend of mine shared the reason why she never shows any emotion at work because she had a colleague who would intentionally use situations she knew would trigger certain people in her team to get them to react negatively. This person had learned of the vulnerabilities of some of her colleagues and capitalised on them at opportune moments to make them look bad for her benefit.

We all have moments when we want to rant, cry, scream out our frustrations, whisper our deepest fears or simply admit that we have failed where we thought victory was sure without being judged in these moments that may be seen as weakness. In people’s vulnerable moments, let’s not use it against them or simlpy dismiss them. There are many people in our lives we may never truly know because of the fear that we may use thier vulnerable moments to shame or make them look weak. Life is hard as it is already and showing our vulnerable side is never easy – so when someone trusts you enough to be vulnerable with you, I hope you know how difficult it is for the person and most importantly how well they view you. Please share your story and lets effect the change we need.

This fear of rejectiona and toxic shame, by revealing too much of one’s self, has bred a generation of people who look for quick connections that have no depth.

3 thoughts on “Is being vulnerable a sign of weakness?

  1. I believe everyone should have a few people they can be vulnerable with, the human being is made of strengths and weaknesses, We have all messed big time once or twice etc
    I have learnt that allowing people to cry is a big relief which is also a first step in letting out whatever pain exists.
    Men are trained to bottle up emotions which is a sort of sign of their masculinity; I have learnt that is wrong and actually makes them very weak, real mean cry!
    Just find the right circle to be vulnerable with and hopefully that circle is made of non judgemental people who can support you all the way

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Also thought to add that being vulnerable also allows for a strong bond, then again we should also be careful to know when to back off, people who have vented need time to heal from whatever hurt them, try not to be too overbearing

    Liked by 1 person

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