How to Practice Vulnerability

Recently, the Blush Book Club chose The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown. It will come to no surprise that we loved the book, we pretty much love everything Brené does, but we were especially attracted to her message about vulnerability. As counselors and life coaches, Blush is keenly aware of how important vulnerability is to everyday life. In order to be fully “you,” vulnerability is a must. But we loved how easily Brené conveyed the role vulnerability plays in our relationships with others, and with the relationship we have with ourselves. And so, we became inspired. So inspired, that decided to channel our inner Brené and share our favorite five tips for how to practice vulnerability.

If you’re more a video type person, no worries. Coach Elise recorded her favorite five tips below, so give that a watch. But if you’d rather read, let’s get started.

Identify Any Hurdles to Vulnerability

In order to practice vulnerability, you first need to be aware of what vulnerability is. So we don’t totally botch this, we decided to borrow Brené’s definition verbatim. She defines vulnerability as “The definition of vulnerability is uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.”

She goes on to say, “But vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our most accurate measure of courage.

When the barrier is our belief about vulnerability, the question becomes: ‘Are we willing to show up and be seen when we can’t control the outcome?‘ When the barrier to vulnerability is about safety, the question becomes: ‘Are we willing to create courageous spaces so we can be fully seen?”

So we want you to do just that – and answer those tough questions. What is your hold up with vulnerability? Are you afraid of uncertainty (like the rest of us)? Are you unwilling to create safe spaces for yourself to express yourself fully? Are you surrounding yourself with a support system that doesn’t respond well to vulnerability? Get as specific as possible!

Vulnerability and Connection

Now that you’ve pinpointed why you may be avoiding practicing vulnerability, it’s time to understand why you’d want to continue practicing vulnerability over and over again. Because, frankly, practicing vulnerability can be really exhausting. Bearing your soul, walking into uncertainty willingly, and trusting others to respond appropriately is tough. Really tough. But without vulnerability, there’s no connection.

That’s right. All of your “deep” relationships would be nothing without vulnerability. And if you are desperate for deeper relationships, what you’re actually saying is that you’re desperate for more vulnerability in your life. And you’re going to need to lead by example.

Brené’s research shows a direct correlation between vulnerability and connection. When we put ourselves out there, risk being seen in a different light, and allow others to show up for us authentically, we are actively practicing connection. This is how people begin to feel really CLOSE. They share embarrassing experiences, admit that their lives aren’t as they seem, and bond over feelings of fear, doubt, and shame. Sometimes the darkest emotions are the same ones who bring deep connection into our lives.

To sum up – if you want to experience true connection, you’ll have to practice raw vulnerability early and often.

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Get in Tune with Your Emotions

You’ll never truly learn how to practice vulnerability if you are completely out of touch with your emotions. Practicing vulnerability requires emotional exposure – so it doesn’t count if you’re just rambling about what you’re thinking. Nope. You’ve got to be sharing what you’re *feeling” if you want to REALLY practice vulnerability.

So let’s get in touch with your emotions. What are you feeling? If that sentence has a “like” in it, such as “I feel like this is uncomfortable” – that isn’t a feeling. That’s a statement. Try “I feel uncomfortable” or “I feel exposed.” Those are feeling words. The simpler, the better. Angry. Sad. Jealous. Excited. Surprised. Betrayed. Envious. Depressed. Hopeless. Scared. Nervous. Happy. Those are all feeling words that can absolutely describe your emotional markup.

If you need, you can even use a feeling wheel to try to identify the tougher emotions you’re experiencing.

Write it Out

Practicing vulnerability doesn’t have to immediately start with sharing. In fact, sometimes it’s better to become super familiar with how you’re feeling before you decide to share your story with someone else. And one of the most efficient, thorough, and private ways to process your emotions is by journaling.

It might seem weird at first, but if you are *super* uncomfy with emotions, this is the best place to start. Just get a pen and paper and blurt it out. Write as many feeling words as you can. Don’t worry about how it sounds or how it looks or how anyone is going to react – because this is just for you. There is POWER in processing emotions. I find that when I get my scariest, gnarliest, most shameful emotions out into the world (whether on paper or through another medium), I instantly feel lighter. And a good chunk of the time, that emotion has left my body. I’ve released it, set it free, and now I have the space to process the easier emotions.

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Be Intentional With Your Story

What I mean by this, is be intentional with who you *share* your story with.

When you practice vulnerability, it’s important to have a caring, supportive, non-judgmental audience. Vulnerability is not meant to be practiced with everyone. Unfortunately there are plenty of situations where practicing vulnerability isn’t appropriate in the least. For instance, I don’t think your bank teller really needs to know the intimate details of the last fight you had with your partner.

And even worse – some of your friends and family might not make the best candidates to hear your vulnerability. It’s a sad fact, but some people are extremely uncomfortable with negative emotions and won’t know how to respond without shaming you for having them in the first place.

Those people are not the audience for you. And unfortunately, those people will miss out on an opportunity to truly connect with you as well.

Their loss.

So think about the people in your life who will be in it WITH you. Who can you share your pain with who won’t try to airbrush it away? Who can offer you a safe space to process? Who can relate to feeling out of control, uncertain, ashamed or angry? Who do you wish to connect with and cultivate a deeper and more meaningful relationship? Who can offer empathy and compassion instead of judgment and scrutiny?

Choose that person. And if you have more than one in your life, consider yourself so lucky. But don’t be afraid to turn what might have been a superficial relationship into a truly authentic one by practicing vulnerability first. Sometimes all it takes is one brave soul to grant permission to introduce vulnerability and completely transform a relationship!

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