If you look it up in the dictionary, the definition isn’t pleasant:

\ vul•ner•a•ble: capable of being physically or emotionally wounded or being open to attack or damage. \


Well, I disagree with the dictionary.

Granted, there is a kind of vulnerable that is truly dangerous. It involves walking alone down a dark alley in the middle of the night. That’s physical vulnerability.

Emotional vulnerability or physical vulnerability?

But physical vulnerability is not the same as emotional vulnerability.

Too many people believe being emotionally vulnerable is dangerous. We fear it opens us up to attack or physical or emotional damage.

To protect ourselves we put up a persona of perfection, likeability and/or selflessness. We hide Who We Really Are underneath this façade. We think we’re protecting ourselves.

So here’s the REAL truth about emotionally vulnerability:

1 ) When you hide Who You Really Are to avoid being vulnerable, you pre-emptively reject yourself to avoid the possibility of rejection.

The logic goes something like… I don’t think I’m good enough to write that post so I’ll pass at it because no one will like it anyway.

Do you see the flawed logic? You reject yourself to avoid the very possibility of rejection.

2) You’re already uncomfortable!

You avoid vulnerability to avoid rejection but all the while you feel highly uncomfortable avoiding emotional vulnerability by trying to be someone you are not.

See the flawed logic with this one as well? You want to avoid discomfort hence you hide but the persona you use to hide is the root of your discomfort.

3) No one can emotionally wound you. Only you can do that.

Say you have a wild wish to wear that purple dress that feels 100 % like you and you haven’t had the nerve to do it until now. Then while you’re out and about, someone approaches you and tells you look fat.

Now granted this is a very rude person, she did not wound you. What if she came up to you and told you your hair was on fire? You would probably laugh. But when she says you look fat, you feel wounded.


Because you believe some kind of lie that has to do with the idea of fat. You believe that it makes you less worthy. And this very rude gal is simply holding up a mirror to your own belief system. She is reminding you that you think fat = unworthy. And when you feel wounded, you wound yourself by making “fat” mean you are not worthy of your favorite purple dress.

4) Emotional vulnerability is key to connection, in your relationships, and most importantly with yourself

Think about your closest relationships, they’re close because you’ve allowed these people to see beyond the façade, to really see you. When you pretend to be perfect, when you strain to be likeable, when you go to great lengths to demonstrate your selflessness, you cut other people off from the real you. You render yourself invisible to your tribe.

Last and most important:

Emotional vulnerability connects you to yourself. It’s only when you give yourself permission to be vulnerable, to make mistakes, to fail, to have “flaws” that you can grow.

When you allow yourself to be vulnerable to yourself – without beating the crap out of yourself in your head — you can heal, change, transform. When you buy into “the voice,” when you believe that you have to have your shit together (and why isn’t my shit together and what the hell is my problem, and you must be joking if you think you can pull that off…), you will never be able to connect with yourself long enough to get clarity about your real desires, your true purpose or the unique contribution only you can make. Because who wants listen to that voice?

5) Emotional vulnerability is fascinating

A students in my five part coaching series, Be Brazen, wrote  some very flattering things about me in a blog post. She said I’m photogenic, good at stuff, the life of the party…

BUT, she wrote, it’s my honesty– about my struggles, my many mistakes, my shortcomings — not my success that makes me so loveable in her eyes.

If she hadn’t mentioned my willingness to be honest about all that stuff, I would have probably appeared a very dull protagonist – one you wouldn’t connect with or root for.

And this is my point about vulnerability. We human beings love it when other people are  vulnerable. It gives us the courage to be vulnerable too. It’s also just a lot more interesting because REAL fascinates us.

So there you have it. Don’t you think it’s time to drop that shiny and sparkly façade and show us who you really are? You’ll be glad you did.

Start here. Tell us what makes you feel vulnerable? Why?

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6 Responses

  1. Jon says:

    Great article. So true it is that the only way we can see our true self is to remove our protective walls. A big part of this, as you know, is because of our past hurts. We hang onto those hurts because, I believe, if we hang on, then we can go back and-in a twisted sort of way (which I understand)-try to alter the event from a painful one to a more pleasing one. To me, the solution is to simply acknowledge that it was a painful event; then, recognize how much we have moved beyond that pain. Doing so will often demonstrate that “Hey, I really have moved beyond it”; thus, enabling the event to drift even further from the true us.

  2. Brandy R. says:

    This was so real and right on time. I’ve been discouraged from being my self for so long, that its always difficult to press thru the rough self-judgment to even get to know myself. I’m grown now so I can’t blame it on my household. But I will say this article, clearly articulates where I am right now and the journey i’m going on to find me. Truly.
    Man, getting to know yourself has never been so hard, especially when you have so many people trying to tell you who you should be or what you SHOULD want or heck, what THEY want from you.
    Thank you for being so darn transparent. IT means the world to me.

  3. Denny Vo says:

    I still keep this wall between me,myself, and my friends and family, so I think that if I open up my mind and heart, they’ll reject me, out of fear. Or that if they find out who I am, there’ll be no hiding. I’m always hiding what I am.once I start doing that, I cannot stop.

  4. Denny Vo says:

    So I’m like confused, but unwilling to show or open up myself and won’t do anything about it because as what I am, I can be rejected, ignored. So I chose to become an outcast, emotionally.

  5. Garey says:

    Just by leaving this note I am opening myself to be vulnerable! I agree with the writer, but have not let myself live it. It is only of late that I am beginning to recognize that by being vulnerable I can get past all of the negativity. It is not being vulnerable that is negative, it is the fear and and shameful feeling that is keeping you from being vulnerable that is the negativity! I hope I can grow in my vulnerability.

  6. Aja says:

    But what about when u realize vulnerability has its place but every time you attempt it, you’re reminded of why you built up that wall in the first place? You give all of yourself… Completely open up to the ones that you think know you best… Just to be reminded that nobody appreciates a cry baby. And that is coming from one very stoic individual. Everybody talks carp when you don’t cry or show emotion… Then act like it’s a joke when you do. I’m at a loss.

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