Doing the job I do, means people meet me at their most vulnerable. Usually, clients will have taken time and often significant effort to consider seeking psychological therapy. It might have involved difficult conversations with family members or friends and perhaps even more difficult conversations with themselves. It might also have involved previous attempts at help seeking or a few false starts. People can be scared, angry and sometimes at a loss what to do by the time they meet me. I see my job as firstly building their trust in me so they can be authentically themselves. After that, the therapeutic process should bolster both their understanding of their difficulties and their agency in changing what they wish to change.
What my clients all have in common, is that in coming to therapy they have made a decision, whether conscious or not, to be more vulnerable. Sometimes, their stories are painful and traumatic. What they always are, are stories of humanity. We are all fallible to fluctuations in our mental health, adverse childhood experiences, circumstances out-with our control, health crises, making poor choices, unemployment, the end of a relationship or the death of a loved one. It is all part of this thing we call life.
Allowing yourself to be more vulnerable involves feeling discomfort and sometimes emotions which initially seem intolerable. We don’t like to do new things and telling someone our innermost thoughts and feelings is exposing. Therefore, why do it? Well, here’s why.
As a society, we think vulnerability and weakness go hand in hand. We avoid it for fear of appearing lesser than. Comparing ourselves to the examples others set, usually means we are attempting to appear strong, competent and satisfied. However, when we give ourselves the option to be vulnerable, paradoxically, what we learn, is that it is our vulnerability which strengthens us. In the beginning, it can feel anxiety provoking. However, opening yourself up to truth can also be transformative. Rather than it being an act of weakness, it is in fact an act of strength. Taking ownership for yourself and your patterns of behaviour is key.
In my own journey through spousal loss, what I am finding time and again, is that the more I model vulnerability, the more opportunities for growth I attract. Growth in the way I think and feel and in what I believe is possible. Take writing my blog, for example. I have always loved writing, but would tell myself that I had nothing to say that would be of any significance. What would I even write about? I am now writing weekly. I love doing it. I am writing about what I know. What I write about won’t be for everyone and that’s fine. It doesn’t have to be. This is the same as people making a choice to be vulnerable. Your choice and the things that come of it might not be for everyone, but it will most definitely benefit you.
More than that though. What my writing seems to be doing, is inviting other people to pause, reflect and sometimes step into their own vulnerability. Some reach out to discuss it more with me. Maybe some discuss it with friends or family. I am seeing the evidence that my choosing to write, even though it is new and I am often sharing my own vulnerabilities, gives other people the permission to do the same. Think about that for a minute. If you can see the value in vulnerability, it makes it more likely that those around you will step into theirs and meet you in that place. This is the place where the hard work is done.
It is where you address the impact of past experiences.
Its where you decide that you’ve had enough of feeling a certain way and believing that’s how it will always be.
Its where relationships become more honest and improve beyond what you believed was possible.
Its where you finally say out loud what is making you unhappy or keeping you stuck.
Its where you identify those limiting beliefs that you hold about yourself and begin to break them down one by one.
Its where you say no to that which doesn’t serve you and yes to that which does.
Its where you realise you can expect more.
Its where you identify what you truly want to do with your one precious life.
Being vulnerable doesn’t always involve a psychologist or therapy, of course. It can just be about developing an awareness within yourself of what feels challenging, choosing something new and being consistent in your resolve to change it over time. There is strength in that. And there is vulnerability.
Let’s celebrate and embrace our vulnerabilities. Because that is where we will find true strength.