The practical truth of life and living it is that we all vulnerable — but many of us are trying very hard to hide our imperfections instead of choosing to live fully despite their insecurities.
The relentless pursuit of perfection — in relationships, at work or home — often leads to stress, anxiety, depression and hasty judgement.
Brené Brown, PhD, wrote in her book, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.”
Embracing your full self is as easy (or as difficult) as understanding and accepting yourself — despite your vulnerabilities.
It’s about being compassionate with yourself as you are, and building on whatever that is — not feverishly trying to rebuild yourself in order to pose as something else entirely.
Being vulnerable means knowing you suck at something (writing, learning, connection, etc.) but still choosing to take action to make progress or asking for feedback or advice to get better.
Stephen Russell, an author explains, “Vulnerability is the only authentic state. Being vulnerable means being open, for wounding, but also for pleasure. Being open to the wounds of life means also being open to the bounty and beauty. Don’t mask or deny your vulnerability: it is your greatest asset. Be vulnerable: quake and shake in your boots with it. the new goodness that is coming to you, in the form of people, situations, and things can only come to you when you are vulnerable, i.e. open.”
This is a reminder of what actively vulnerable people choose to do despite their imperfections, flaws, weaknesses or fears.
1. Vulnerable people give themselves permission to be themselves
They’ve embraced the perfection of being imperfectly themselves. This mindset allows them to relax, slow down, step back from the hectic modern world and find enjoyment and gratitude in everything they do.
When you choose to reveal your authentic self — your weaknesses, insecurities, imperfections, brokenness etc, you do more of what makes you come alive instead of wallowing in self-pity.
When you follow your own true north you create new opportunities, have different experiences and create the life you want.
Make no mistake. The world is waiting for you. Waiting for you to stop asking for permission to be your true self. Waiting for you to pick yourself up and do more of what makes you come alive. Waiting for you to stop questioning yourself.
2. They learn, grow and shift their mindsets to keep moving
Our minds are full of cognitive biases that have been shaped over time by personal experiences, events, and memories.
Over time, your beliefs can cause your brain to draw false conclusions about yourself. This mindset can affect your perception of yourself.
Carol Dweck, author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, writes, “For twenty years, my research has shown that the view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life. It can determine whether you become the person you want to be and whether you accomplish the things you value.”
The stories you tell yourself and the things you believe about yourself can either prevent change from happening or allow you to live your best life.
Actively vulnerable people systematically learning about who they are, what most matters to them, what makes them come alive, what feeds and drains them, and how to know the difference so they can choose to move forward in life despite their insecurities.
If you don’t know yourself well enough, you will be pursuing society’s idea of success instead of doing more of what brings out the best in you.
3. They fully embrace their feelings and appropriate action despite their emotional flaws
Being honest about everything you feel is tough.
But the ugly of life is that negative feelings can steal your best life, dreams, crush your ideas, and change your priorities if you don’t control it.
Repressed emotions can destroy our relationships, and make us miserable. “In other words, deciding to bury your feelings, ignore them, internalize them, pretend they didn’t happen, or convince yourself that there is no need to deal with them can literally make you sick from the stress,” says Emily Roberts, M.A., LPC a psychotherapist.
To better manage your emotions, move with them. Instead of hiding your emotions, accept that negative emotions are a natural part of our experience, and be more open and curious to work with them.
The more vulnerable you are — both with yourself and others — the better. Researchers call this the “beautiful mess effect” — other people view our vulnerability more positively than we do. Sharing your feelings may seem like a weakness to you, to others it seems courageous and builds trust and connection. If something feels way off, don’t be scared to get help.
You can also use journaling to learn more about your feelings. When you miss an opportunity to be vulnerable, write everything that went through your head and what you felt before, during, and after. Knowing your signals and triggers will help you stop them the next time around.
To fully live, be vulnerable — strive to make it habit by changing a few things at a time. Make it manageable by taking small steps towards your full self — it’s one of the best approaches to give full efforts to the things in life that matter to you.
4. Vulnerable people expose themselves to new experiences
As humans, our vulnerability is inevitable. It’s simply part of the unalterable framework of human existence.
If your foremost desire in life is to keep yourself safe and secure — as invulnerable as possible — you’ll miss out on so many of the gratifications and joys that otherwise await us.
Trying new things can be undoubtedly daunting for people with a lot of insecurities. More often than not, they keep asking themselves: “Should I be doing this? Can I do this? Do I look stupid? What am I doing!?” While it may not feel like it, this is normal — and it’s good.
The courage to let yourself be seen despite your fears is a powerful motivator. Switching things up can help to keep you inspired and motivated.
“I can honestly say that nothing is as uncomfortable, dangerous, and hurtful as believing that I’m standing on the outside of my life looking in and wondering what it would be like if I had the courage to show up and let myself be seen,” says Brené Brown, PhD.
Ask yourself — What’s the probability that what I’m scared of will actually happen? If the probability is low, what are some more likely outcomes?
Embracing new experiences is probably one of the hardest things to do, but it’s also one of the most important characteristics of vulnerable people.
5. Actively vulnerable people stop worrying about what others think
It is human nature to want to be liked and accepted, hence the insane pursuit of conformity. But if you can make a conscious effort to stop giving a damn, you will set yourself free.
Your fear of being criticized or having someone highlighting your faults, mistakes, errors, and many more vulnerabilities is holding you back. Chances are you are paying too much attention to negative information.
Here is the thing: that fear is almost always completely non-existent. People are too focused on their fears and themselves to notice yours anyway. Psychological research suggests that there’s a mismatch between how people perceive their vulnerabilities and how others interpret them.
To stop worrying about what others think of you, reframe the situation — tell a different story to yourself. “You can cultivate a little psychological distance by generating other interpretations of the situation, which makes your negative thoughts less believable,” says Bruce Hubbard, the director of the Cognitive Health Group and an adjunct assistant professor of psychology and education at Columbia University. This is called cognitive restructuring.
Cognitive restructuring can help you to change the negative or distorted thinking that often lies behind your fears or negative feelings. Find a constructive way of processing your worries or negative thoughts. Learn to filter when others criticize you and you will most certainly be able to gain something positive out it.
6. They practice self-compassion
Vulnerable people are kind to themselves.
When your insecurities get the better of you, your mood can quickly change. The feeling can significantly affect your progress in life — you can easily question your choices, ambitions, self-worth, and your abilities. That’s why it’s important to be less critical of your flaws.
In the past decade, self-compassion has emerged as an important quality for mental health and well-being. Respond to your inadequacies or disappointments with understanding, patience, and acceptance, rather than with harsh self-criticism.
Dr. Julia Breines, who studies how social experience influences the way people treat themselves, explains, “The ability to forgive ourselves for mistakes, large and small, is critical to psychological well-being. Difficulties with self-forgiveness are linked with suicide attempts, eating disorders, and alcohol abuse, among other problems.” People who have higher levels of self-compassion tend to handle stress better — they spend less time reactivating stressful events by dwelling on them.
We are all a “beautiful mess” in one way or another. We all have our insecurities and flaws. This is nothing to be ashamed of. When you are comfortable with your insecurities, that gives other people permission to be comfortable with their flaws and imperfections as well. And that can be a powerful thing that helps us build a stronger connection with everyone.
To live your best life, choose to be authentic — be more concerned about your personal truth than other’s opinions of you. Get to know who you are and be that person. Be awake to your own feelings and manage them better instead of allowing them to stop you from living. Love yourself enough to let people know who you really are.
This article first appeared on Medium.