Why We Should Normalize Vulnerability In Our Relationships And Where To Start

“What if when he sees me, what if he doesn’t like it? What if he runs the other way and I can’t hide from it?” bemoans Dawn in Broadway musical Waitress, fretting over the idea of going on a blind date as encouraged by her friends.


We’ve all been there. Maybe not in the exact same situation, but at one point or another, we’ve probably been terrified at the thought of being seen for who we really are. Vulnerability can be one of the most challenging things to pursue within a relationship— platonic, romantic, or otherwise. It involves unmasking ourselves from the illusion of ultra-confidence, forcing us to reveal our flaws and quirks to another. It puts us at risk of rejection or negative judgment.


And anyone who’s ever gone through the experience of being rejected or judged knows just how unpleasant it is, so it’s no wonder so many of us put our walls up fifty feet high just to keep others out! But in doing so, we’re also limiting our chances to have fulfilling relationships with the people around us.


Here are several reasons why we should embrace vulnerability in our relationships instead of shying away from it.


Empowering ourselves through connectedness

Building up walls may seem like a foolproof way to keep ourselves safe, but it can actually be a step backwards in maintaining our wellbeing. Bassel A. van der Kolk says it best in The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma: “Being able to feel safe with other people is probably the single most important aspect of mental health; safe connections are fundamental to meaningful and satisfying lives.”

Genuine human connection where people are able to reciprocate the feeling of being truly seen and heard is vital in healing past trauma and feeling more secure in ourselves moving forward. Knowing that another person has our backs is not only reassuring but also empowering. It helps us be stronger to face any challenges the world may hurl at us.


Getting your needs and wants met

Being vulnerable requires us to be honest about our thoughts and feelings. It involves trusting that the other person will receive our feedback with an open heart and mind for the sake of maintaining a healthy relationship. And as with any relationship, each of us will have our own set of needs and wants which the other person can help fulfil.


Cultivating openness helps communicate and address the needs and wants of both individuals within the relationship, resulting in a mutually satisfying experience. When two people are on the same page and are clear about it, it creates a stronger relationship in which there can be a good amount of give-and-take without the drama that comes with misunderstanding one another.


Making room for the things that make us human

Oftentimes, we’re scared to be vulnerable because it means accepting ourselves as imperfect beings. Embracing our weaknesses helps us see that they are very human qualities which exist in everyone. When we do come to accept this very real and indisputable fact, we’re giving ourselves room to be kinder to ourselves. It also helps us be more compassionate and forgiving of others’ shortcomings.


So now that we know being vulnerable has its benefits, where do we even start?


1. Examine where the fear is coming from

Our fear of vulnerability doesn’t just come out of nowhere. This fear likely stems from painful past experiences that have left a deep and lasting impression on ourselves. Letting go of deep-seated anxieties about being rejected or judged is difficult, but identifying the source is the first step to acknowledging and confronting them.

2. Accept others as being as flawed as you are

To practice vulnerability, it’s essential to do away with the need for perfection. It’s unattainable— no matter what that Instagram influencer with the hourglass figure and jet-setting lifestyle wants you to think — so keep reminding yourself of that. It helps to know that everyone else is just as filled with insecurities as we are — yes, including that influencer — even if they don’t look like it. This makes it easier for us to be comfortable in exposing our imperfections to another, knowing that they, too, will have their own baggage to bring to the table.


3. See acts of vulnerability as opportunities for genuine connection

If someone starts opening up to you, try to resist pulling away from the situation. It’s likely a plea to be heard without judgment, and choosing to provide them with a listening ear can be an invaluable point of connection between you and them. Plus, it can prompt us to open up, too. Vulnerability is relatable— feelings of insecurity are universal, and seeking comfort in sharing it with others can be an incredibly powerful experience. This just goes to show that vulnerability is far from a sign of weakness— rather, it’s a sign of strength in togetherness.


4. Start small, and the rest may follow

Normalising vulnerability doesn’t mean you have to spill your deepest, darkest secrets to the next stranger you meet. Start with those closest to you. Be honest with yourself about what you want from the other person. Even asking a sibling to help you do the dishes because you’re stuck at work is a step towards acknowledging your incapacity, which is a key part of being vulnerable. Find people with whom you feel safe, and confide in them about a problem you faced during the day. If they respond in an empathetic way instead of being judgmental, try building upon that by providing them with the space to share too.

Embracing vulnerability may seem daunting, but it’s worth pursuing for the sake of our wellbeing and improving the quality of our relationships. Our attempts may be clumsy and awkward, but that in itself shows the very essence of our imperfect existence— at the end of the day, we’re all just human, after all.

Unapologetic pop music enthusiast hoping to one day own a black cat named Cosmo. A mental health advocate with a fondness for horror, history, and human relationships.

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