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Corage: On Being Vulnerable

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Being vulnerable, trusting others, it starts with trusting yourself and ends with a lot of practice.

By Sally Eames

I once participated in a Facebook conversation about cultivating vulnerability. We explored what people need in order to open themselves to trust and to risk, both individually and in a group. It’s an interesting question because I think so many of the issues we face are directly related to our refusal to be vulnerable with people in our lives.

So what is necessary when building trust, when allowing yourself to be vulnerable?

I would say the most important thing you need in order to trust others is to trust yourself. You need to believe you are capable of surviving hurts, that you will not be irrevocably broken when someone else betrays you. This comes with an understanding that you will be better and stronger for having let someone into your heart despite the risk.

All very well and good, but how do you develop that sense of trust in yourself?

I think you practice it.

When I look at my life I know there were many moments when I made a conscious choice to trust. Yes, there were times when I trusted without thinking. Sometimes that worked out for me, other times it didn’t. The more you risk and learn from it – and there’s always something wonderful to learn from risking, even when you get your heart stomped on – the more willing you are to allow yourself to be vulnerable. Start small, with small risks, experience and learn from the results, then move on to bigger and deeper ones. Remember to be willing to tolerate the pain.

And there will be pain. After all, pain is what keeps us from being vulnerable. Let me assure you, as one with her share of broken hearts, loving someone will never kill you. It will, truly, make you stronger. Because you gain all of those things I mentioned above AND the opportunity to connect deeply with another human being.

Now of course, I’m a bit of an exception. I have very little trouble being vulnerable in front of a group. It’s what I do as an actor. Plus, all of that experience with loving and losing has been tremendously educational and empowering. So my tolerance is pretty high.

And how about in larger settings, when you’re trying to demonstrate vulnerability and to build trust in a group, rather than just one on one?

For me, the best way to encourage vulnerability in others is to simply be fully myself in front of them. And to admit how I’m feeling in the moment, whether it’s scared, under prepared, excited, frustrated. Everybody knows how you’re supposed to behave around other people. Rarely does anyone admit to what’s actually going on inside while it’s happening. It’s tremendously reassuring when someone else shares that they’re uncertain or uncomfortable too. Think about the last time that happened to you, how you suddenly felt less lonely and more connected.

I’m not saying this is easy. It’s scary. But there are such sweet rewards for trusting another human being (or a group of them) to accept you in all of your flawed humanity, of accepting them in all of theirs. And if things fall apart, you gain a great deal in the mending process as well. Broken hearts heal, they can even be stronger than the unscarred variety. Because when you put the pieces back together, you learn what you’re made of. That’s tremendously valuable information.

What have you gained from being vulnerable in your life?

What pain has made you stronger?

Where could you choose to trust in your life right now?

Sally Eames, CPCC, ACC operates Corage Coaching. She is a Certified Professional Co-Active coach and a graduate of the Coaches Training Institute. She is also an International Coach Federation Associate Certified Coach. For the full text of this column, please visit her blog. For more information on her work as a Co-active coach, please visit her site at havecorage.wordpress.com.

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Managing Editor at Illinois News Network
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