As we entered the first lockdown and the world as we knew it ceased to exist, I advocated an experiment in the spirit of change; to practice more vulnerability in dating and relationships. (Dating hasn’t died with corona) I confess, it was an alien concept to me and despite my idealism, I wasn’t entirely sure what shape it would take in practice, let alone if I would have the guts to actually try out the theory. Letting your guard down to reveal your true self and share your innermost thoughts, fears, dreams and desires with another human being leaves you feeling exposed and at the mercy of their judgment and approval. Being vulnerable I had always imagined strips you spiritually bare, leading to weakness and wounds. Vulnerability takes you to a place from which there is no return and having already been indelibly scarred, allowing anyone close enough to be in the powerful position of being able to hurt me again was undoubtedly terrifying.
And yet, I took the risk anyway and followed my heart. For the first time ever, I entered the abyss and embraced complete and utter emotional vulnerability. Simply for the joy of the ride with little care or consideration for the destination – and it taught me some major life lessons.
Firstly, I found out that there is a lot of wisdom in the old adage that there is nothing to fear but fear itself. Sometimes, confronting your fears leads you to the greatest discoveries about yourself and your behavioural patterns with others. Hurling yourself out of your comfort zone uncovers parts of your personality that you may never otherwise have tapped into and forces you to see the world with fresh eyes and a more open mind.
Furthermore, it turns out that shining a light on the darkest parts of your being rather than debilitating can be a pretty empowering process. It paves the way to understanding the reasons for the choices we make as well as the source of some of our greatest pain. There is nothing more identity affirming than the ability to be wholly and unashamedly yourself, regardless of the consequences and coming to the realisation that you are beautifully unique and were created to be exactly as you are. Accepting and being accepted for your individual talents – as well as flaws – is arguably the greatest gift there is.
On the topic of gifts, opening your heart to giving generously and unconditionally without agenda or expectation for anything in return is humbling and hones your skills of selflessness and appreciation. Kindness nourishes and expands your soul and connects you deeply with those on whom you choose to bestow it.
Vulnerability commands compassion and empathy in spades. If someone is willing to entrust you with their personal experiences and most heartfelt emotions, it behooves the listener to lend a sensitive and understanding ear free from prejudice and bias. If that does not come naturally, it is an art which can be improved with practice and patience.
Finally, I learned never to underestimate the power of humour. Often, a smile and a few light hearted words in jest can go far further towards restoring trust and faith than hours of wrangling trying to impose your views. Most battles are just not worth it and laughter can prove the best antidote to anger. There is no place for ego or pride on the road to vulnerability.
When both partners show up with honesty, respect and vulnerability, it ignites an emotional intimacy so fulfilling, passionate and inspiring that you’d never settle for the superficial again; living this way has a healing magic all of its own. I have yet to determine if being authentically vulnerable paid off in this particular instance. Gambling on people is high stakes as human nature is so complex and unpredictable but if the price to be paid for attaining a higher level of consciousness and having richer, deeper and more satisfying relational experiences is daring to let go and be fully vulnerable, then I’d risk it all again in a heartbeat.