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Emotional vulnerability is one of the greatest ways to connect with others, it’s an indiscriminate force. We’re all deeply impacted by vulnerability whether it’s in sharing our own or accessing the vulnerability in others. Fundamentally, it’s how we show our humanness and how we see humanness in others. This can trigger people in a bad way, and it can deepen and strengthen relationships for others.
Understanding our own relationship with emotional vulnerability allows us to evaluate that piece of our emotional framework and determine whether it promotes or prohibits healthy connections.
Building awareness around our feelings regarding another person’s display of vulnerability can be a great indicator of how we feel about being vulnerable.
What is Emotional Vulnerability?
What does it mean to be vulnerable? Simply put, it’s expressing feelings you’d rather hide. This can apply to many different situations:
- letting someone know we have romantic feelings for them
- asking for help; communicating being unable to do something alone, whether it’s carrying a box or sorting through mental turmoil
- admitting wrongdoing or acknowledging responsibility for negative impacts
Our relationship with vulnerability depends on so many things but mainly, it depends on how we feel when we make mistakes or appear weak. If we have a poor relationship with the concept of making mistakes, we can see vulnerability as weakness.
If we’re of the perception that weakness is human and everyone experiences this at one point or another, vulnerability will be a connection point where we let people in. Being vulnerable can improve our relationships but it can also damage them if we’re unaware of how our emotional mass is being impacted.
Is Vulnerability Good or Bad?
Being vulnerable in certain ways allows us to share feelings we discover in ourselves and verify with people in our care community that the feelings are natural and relatable. If we’re struggling with having feelings because we believe we’re not supposed to or we have guilt and shame around the topic of the feelings, our vulnerability brings support in to help us process the turmoil. It’s a healthy behavior that lets us get to know ourselves deeper and identify our needs more easily. Emotional vulnerability lets us know what makes us feel happy, stable, safe, and secure.
However, sharing our vulnerability in unhealthy ways, or processing and identifying other people’s vulnerability in unhealthy ways can drain our energy. Releasing too much vulnerability or accessing too much in others leads us to create care communities which are draining and destabilizing rather than supportive. We begin to expend our energy in non-productive or ineffective ways with unhealthy interactions.
Vulnerability is a Force Best Used Intentionally
Have you every known someone who appears gloomy and emotionally—not physically—emotionally, fragile? Or maybe someone who shares struggles often in groups or on social media, someone who seems to be energized particularly by empathy. Interactions with someone who exhibits this behavior can be exhausting and lead to residual feelings of sadness or unhappiness because of the hopeless state of mind that their unintentional or unmanaged vulnerability can cause.
Hearing about or reading about turmoil can evoke feelings of empathy but when someone is expressing uneven or unbalanced amounts of victimhood without equal demonstration of emotional stabilization, we find ourselves feelings bad for them. When we’re feeling bad for someone, we feel bad. Their vibes rub off on us.
This behavior impacts how we feel about the other person but more subtly how we feel about ourselves. Questioning whether or not we should care about someones feelings, especially their turmoil, can cause us to question the kind of person we are. We wonder if we have the right amount of care and concern. If our initial reaction is to roll our eyes at yet an another social media post full of struggle or turmoil, it can subconsciously cause us to feel that we’re being harsh or uncaring. We may see ourselves as an outsider to the people who are offering empathy and kind words.
Emotional Vulnerability and Self Worth
The whole dynamic creates layers of questions around our feelings, needs, and ability to care for others. Questions that weigh on us in different ways, like feeling physically sick or tired when thinking of or interacting with someone who exhibits unfettered vulnerability. We may practice avoidance behaviors that are directly related to how interactions with someone else make us feel.
The way we process other people’s vulnerability can become a measuring stick for our worthiness. If we’ve been participants in unfettered vulnerability past or present we may have ongoing struggles related to the worthiness of our feelings because of how others may respond to us now.
Protecting our energy from the negative impacts of unmanaged vulnerability lets us invest healthy stable energy into the people or relationships that are most important to us. We can preserve personal space for strength to support the vulnerability of our choosing. Doing so demonstrates to ourselves and others that we are good support, we’re reliable and we’re worthy.
Alternatively when someone in our care community provides us with stable selfless support during our time of need or turmoil we develop a deeper and more genuine connection to that person. They become trusted deeper because of their strength available to assist in sharing the weight of our feelings.
Identifying Toxic Vulnerability
We can get lost in a pattern of feeling bad for someone too often, then withholding empathy, and potentially resenting them for needing so much. We may not be fully aware that our inability to offer empathy is because this person is constantly draining our empathy first.
Because vulnerability is something that helps people connect so easily, we can quickly connect with the wrong energy. We become drawn in to vulnerability displays if we’re not mindful of how we process the display and offer empathy in return. We need to have established emotional boundaries so we don’t let too much of the wrong vulnerable energy in.
Knowing vulnerability is not always managed and processed in healthy ways allows us to forgive ourselves when we choose distance from someone who drains us.
Preserving Our Energy
Our care communities are there to help us see ourselves better. They’re meant to support us when we’re in need. We have the same responsibility to provide this support in return. Having the energy or capacity to support others depends on how well we’re able to guard and manage our own energy.
Releasing too much vulnerability without being intentional can attract the wrong support. Processing too much of someone else can draw us into a community we don’t have the capacity to participate in.
Mindfully releasing our vulnerability to the right people, who are open to communicating their vulnerability in a stable, managed way strengthens our support systems. We create stronger care communities where we can exist as our genuine and authentic selves.