How to Be Vulnerable

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on August 25, 2021
3 min read

Relationships and our ability to connect with other people are vital for a happy and fulfilling life. There are many scientific studies to test this. You may also personally be able to prove how enriching nourishing relationships can be. Yet, there can be a lot of resistance to being vulnerable and opening up your heart and minds to connection.

Vulnerability is uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. It is when you try something new, leave your comfort zone, or put yourself in a situation where you may lose control. It’s like that crazy rush of emotions you get when you first try out yoga and you don’t know what you are doing, but you do it anyway.

Classically, our culture has labeled vulnerability as a weakness. So, when you think back to when you felt vulnerable or exposed, maybe you shudder and feel embarrassed. However, when you think more about it, these were the times when you dared to put yourself out there emotionally.

Perhaps the idea of putting yourself out there emotionally does not carry much appeal to you. However, it would be negligent to avoid the truth that vulnerability is also at the root of everything you crave. It is where love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity all happen. So, whenever you feel vulnerable, remember that this is a natural part of growing and expanding.

However, it is entirely natural for you to have scared feelings. These typically prevent you from pushing past any uncomfortable feelings that arise when you allow yourself to be vulnerable. Therefore, you may start to assemble emotional armor to avoid feeling shame, anxiety, uncertainty, or fear.

While everyone has their own way of doing this, their armor is unique. Usually, the three methods of protection roughly follow these hallmarks:

  • Striving for perfection. You think that if you can become perfect, you can avoid being seen.
  • Numbing out. While this is effective in minimizing the gravity of negative emotions, it also numbs out positive emotions.
  • Imagining all the ways things can go wrong; catastrophizing. Instead of being vulnerable and accepting how precarious your happiness and the things you love are, you beat vulnerability to the punch.

How do you allow yourself to be more vulnerable? The best place to start is mindfulness. Try to be open and aware of when you feel afraid. Notice what triggers it, who triggers it, or when it's triggered.

Once you become more aware of this information, try to actively resist the urge to cover up your vulnerability. Some tips for doing this when you notice yourself covering up your vulnerable side include:

  • Give yourself compassion. Remind yourself of how brave you are to be vulnerable, no matter how small it seems at the moment. Then, be proud of yourself when you take a step in the right direction.
  • Avoid focusing on other people’s opinions of you. Most people are focused on themselves and not you. Plus, what other people think of you is out of your control.
  • Slow down if you need to. Changing your habits can be overwhelming and challenging at first. Remember to take a breath and return to your body if you need a moment.
  • Give up perfection. No one is perfect. The more you abandon ideas of perfection, the more you leave yourself room to be yourself. The more you create an impossible ideal for yourself, the worse you will feel.
  • Be forthcoming with your needs. When you are hurting, it can be easy to close yourself off to the people around you. However, telling loved ones that you need them is an essential part of being vulnerable. It opens you up to them in a way that will bring you closer together.
  • Vocalize your feelings. Sharing how you feel with others allows you to achieve another layer of depth with them. It can also help you to deepen the relationship you have with yourself since it requires a certain level of self-knowledge.
  • Be in the moment. Slowing down the thoughts in your head and living in the present moment with someone is ideal for true vulnerability. Simply looking someone in the eye, listening to what they are saying, and giving them your time will surprise you in how much vulnerability it can bring.