Is Vulnerability Really a Choice We Make?
I recognize the feeling of vulnerability. It’s like when you decide to write a blog about vulnerability and the voices in your head start gently suggesting you’re an idiot. That you know nothing and that people reading what you have written are going to see that you are clueless. They are going to wonder how you got this far in life while completely missing the plot line?
And yet, there is another voice that says, but if I struggle here, don’t some other people? And isn’t it important to try and talk about this so those of us who don’t really understand the concept of choosing to be vulnerable have a chance to sort it out?
There is a third, most cynical voice, that pipes in to say that choosing to be vulnerable is the latest pop craze and NO-ONE really knows what is involved and how to do it, except when they do. That saying happiness comes from choosing to be vulnerable isn’t helpful because either you are naturally willing to be vulnerable in a given situation or you have no clue what anyone means by that idea. And it’s time we call our culture out for adopting philosophies we don’t understand and pretending that we do because it makes people feel bad about themselves.
And the winner is…Shut up, all of you. It’s just a blog and maybe no one will read it. Let’s just take a closer look at vulnerability as a choice and stop pretending we’re talking about world peace!
The times that I can bring to mind, where I have chosen to be vulnerable, have a certain pattern. First, there is a known potential win on the other side of the risk. I’ll suck up my anxiety to go for coffee with someone I find interesting because maybe we could find a connection. Or I’ll ignore my pounding heart and go into a meeting with a presentation because maybe I’ll get the opportunity to do more. That kind of thing.
Second, the risk is less like a giant leap and more like the next step. Like choosing the next step when you’re climbing a steep and jagged hill. It takes some courage to take action and shift your weight but it is just the next step in a series of steps.
And third, the alternative, at this point, isn’t going to work out so well. It’s not like nottaking that step on the steep and jagged hill would work out well. How would I feel if I turned down the coffee date? How disappointed would I be if I bailed on that meeting?
So, to me, vulnerability just happens along the route from one place or thing to another. And we all make choices to be vulnerable in a million tiny ways every day. But this can’t be the type of vulnerability pop culture is talking about can it? Because if this type of vulnerability feels too big, like you have a great idea but the ultimate imagining of presenting at a meeting stops you from starting, I say dumb it down. Don’t even consider the meeting. Just find a pen.
No, I’m pretty sure that popular culture is under what to me looks like a misconception. I feel like there is a belief that there are those who choose to take risks to enrich their lives and those who don’t. And those who have experienced enrichment through vulnerability are shouting to the rest of us to hurry up and try this because it leads to amazing things!!!!
Who are these people not taking these risks? What do they say to themselves? Where are they stuck? I don’t think the problem is that there are people sitting in their homes, consciously choosing to not be vulnerable, thereby condemning themselves to a life of mediocrity. I think at times in our lives, every one of us has had no clue what the next step might be. We’re half way up that steep and jagged hill and we have no idea where to put our weight next. Hearing “Choose to be vulnerable!” gives us no information we can use to move forward.
I think vulnerability is an experience that may be a bi-product of a choice. But the challenge is in finding what choice we would like to make and being sure enough that the choice is worth a shot that we are willing to endure the vulnerability that goes along with it.
So, no, I don’t think vulnerability is a choice.