Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work and the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling book, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, describes vulnerability as “uncertainty, risk, and, emotional exposure” (brene-brown-how-vulnerability-can-make-our-lives-better; brene_brown_the_power_of_vulnerability).
We are all vulnerable in some way. We all face uncertainty and risk, daily. And we are all emotionally vulnerable too if we let our guards down. Our strength and power lie in admitting this fact to ourselves and to others and in learning to stand up for ourselves in an assertive way. Brown has written extensively about the link between vulnerability and shame. Vulnerability is about showing up and being seen, says Brown. Too many of us fear, far too much, what other people will think of us if we admit our vulnerability. Brown often quotes a passage from Theodore Roosevelt’s speech “Citizenship in a Republic”:
“It’s not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly . . . who at best knows the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”
In order to dare greatly, we need to learn to stand up for ourselves.
Gary Uzzo suggests ways in which to stand up for yourself if you are feeling vulnerable (standing-up-for-yourself-the-right-way-to-be-assertive).
- Address the problem
If someone crosses your personal boundaries, is aggressive towards you, or his/her behaviour is unacceptable to you, do not ignore it in the hopes that it will go away. Set up a time to address the problem with the person concerned.
2. Delay your response
We can always choose whether we react instantly to a boundary invasion, aggressive, bullying or unacceptable behaviour. Delaying a response, will give you time to come to terms with how you are feeling and prepare for a conversation appropriately. Uzzo writes that you can respond by saying that you choose not to respond immediately but will get back to that person.
3. Determine how you feel
Take the time to allow yourself to feel whatever emotions are coming up for you and give yourself permission to feel that way. Say to yourself “I am angry” or “I am frustrated”. Ask yourself how you would want to feel instead.
4. Determine the desired outcome
Uzzo suggests that you ask yourself the following questions:
- What injustice do I feel took place and why does this matter so much to me?
- What values, ethics and morals do I have that are being violated here?
- What should/should not have occurred?
- What is the outcome I desire?
These questions will help you to formulate your response.
5. Initiate the conversation
This is your time to be your own advocate, to show up for yourself and address the problem. Uzzo suggests that the conversation is spontaneous, if at all possible, so as to give yourself the upper hand. Allow yourself to be vulnerable in this conversation so that the person knows how he or she made you feel. Once you have addressed the issue, assertively, not aggressively, you should begin to realise desired outcomes in all relationships.
Being vulnerable takes strength and courage. Learning how to be vulnerable and stand up for ourselves in difficult situations can be a super power if we develop this skill.