Read time: 9 minutes
One of the hardest things to do is to admit mistakes, let alone express our true emotions. It’s the typical “I have to be right and everybody else is wrong” or “I can’t be wrong and I must always look cool,” along with “It has to be this way.”
We have this implicit idea and conditioning that we shouldn’t be wrong; otherwise, we’ll lose others’ respect and lower our sense of self-worth and coolness. And we feel like we must always be perfect and certain to get what we want out of life.
As a friend of mine joked, we behave as if we don’t make mistakes and the only mistake we made was when we thought we made a mistake but we didn’t.
Or we think we’re always cool and the only time we weren’t cool was when we thought we weren’t cool but we actually were still cool.
We shun vulnerability because we think it sucks. It’s all about showing a tough or cool exterior, and showing our imperfections is automatically considered a weak thing to do. We tend to focus on what’s on the outside rather than what’s on the inside.
Also, we cover up most of our problems, treating only the symptoms but not the root causes.
It’s all about winning and the appearance of winning.
We then end up being unstable from within where true growth happens. We end up not really growing because we couldn’t even take the slightest criticism. We’ll even blame or scapegoat others for our mistakes. Everything then is just a display and there would be no congruence or synchronicity between what’s on the inside and what’s on the outside. This inequality then drives disconnection from others and especially from reality. We’ll be lying to others and in the process to ourselves. These then make us uncool. Dating or relationships would suck. Businesses and careers would fail. Growth in life would be limited.
We’re conditioned to think that we can be likable and be happy by being externally validation driven.
But what happens in reality is the opposite.
It is actually those who are willing to admit mistakes who gain genuine respect and have healthier self-esteem because they address their mistakes and work on correcting them.
It is actually those who acknowledge that they don’t know everything that get to learn or discover more things and thus cope better in life.
It’s actually those who are willing to express their emotions and imperfections with truth that end up being more likable. People are not stupid. We know or we’ll know when someone’s hiding something. We even know or find out when we’re hiding something from ourselves. People in general like someone who’s open, honest, and trustworthy.
Vulnerability means the willingness to be authentic. To be truly honest and open. It doesn’t mean being weak, self-pitiful, or telling sob stories.
It’s also about being comfortable with reality and knowing that it’s not all about the easy and good stuff but the hard and uncomfortable stuff as well.
You see, the paradox of personal development is that it is only when you say to yourself and to the world “This is who I am and I’m comfortable with myself, I admit my mistakes, and I’m honest about my needs” is when you truly grow and not because you keep telling yourself “I’m amazing.” When we acknowledge all of ourselves, be it our needs or flaws, that’s when we’ll be able to work on them.
As a guide, here are nine things you’ll learn from vulnerability.
1.) WE NEED MISTAKES. WE NEED TO BE WRONG.
We can only arrive at the right answers by making mistakes and being wrong. Everything in the grand scheme of things is a byproduct of trial and error. It’s all a process. Despite all what humanity has accomplished, despite the many precise bodies of knowledge we have, we’re still figuring out a lot of things. The same can be applied to many things we do, be it about discovering whether a relationship would work, if a business will be sustainable, or whether a certain career path is worth taking.
What happens when we avoid making mistakes or being wrong is they pile up to make room for bigger mistakes. And these bigger mistakes are what mess things up. We see these all the time among controlling perfectionists who try to keep everything perfect and avoid even the slightest of uncertainties and mistakes, thus they don’t get to discover more and truly improve on what they’re doing. Instead, they end up making catastrophic mistakes. Granted, nothing is ever certain and we won’t be able to foresee everything – mistakes can be managed. The unfortunate thing is when they’re no longer manageable because learning was limited and nothing was improved in the first place.
Now, it’s important to note that this must not be taken the wrong way; don’t admit a mistake even if it’s not your mistake, because doing that would still be external validation-driven. It only means one is pretending to be at fault so that he or she appears authentic, which means they’re still being fake. If this is confusing, let truth or what really happened be your guide. This is typical to a lot of guys who try to emulate authentic behaviors to get what they want but they’re still scheming, like pretending to have emotions and “being nice,” which means they are still not being authentic. At times, they actually come off as self-pitiful. In other words, they’re still not being honest which is key to authenticity.
2.) WE ALL HAVE NEEDS. IT’S NORMAL.
We all have needs, such as the need to be loved and accepted. We need to tell ourselves that we do deserve them, not because it’s sounds nice to say or hear but basically because we need them. Our needs are part of what makes us human. Those who say they don’t need anything because they think they are cool are in reality just afraid because there’s no such thing as not needing anything. They’re using a front of being cool, but all it really is underneath is that they are still afraid of opening themselves up due to whatever shame issues they have. They’re still afraid to face the many fears they have.
Shamers gonna shame. Haters gonna hate. Ainters gonna ain’t.
It’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to express our needs and be comfortable with them. What’s important to note is to get them from someone who could give them and not from narcissists who use giving help as a means of external validation, which means they’re actually still taking just to pump up their egos. They are the types who use the help they give as a means to control and shame. This is where it gets confusing and why many are afraid to ask for help or express their needs.
3.) HOW WE EXPRESS OURSELVES DEFINES US.
There is nothing wrong with admitting mistakes and acknowledging our needs. The difference is how we express them. Making mistakes, being wrong, and having needs don’t define us but what defines us is how we express, admit or acknowledge them.
If we express them with honesty, and welcoming of uncertainty, you’re more likely to get a desired response. But if you express them in a manner where you can’t take rejection, that’s neediness. You’re subcommunicating to the other person that you want something to compensate for an insecurity, which means you’re still forcing it, and not because you’re genuinely okay with your needs, okay with making mistakes, and comfortable with being rejected, or comfortable with uncertainty.
We can either operate from fear and scarcity or from the position that it’s okay to have needs and make mistakes. This then leads us to the next lesson.
4.) WE MUST FACE OUR PROBLEMS.
Operating from scarcity subcommunicates that you have a problem that you’re not facing and there’s something you’re still not learning or getting. There’s no other way but to start accepting, facing, and solving your problems in order to start operating from a healthy place of abundance, which would allow you to express your needs in a healthy manner.
Needs are meant to build us up and fulfill us, and not to be used to avoid problems.
This is why neediness is unattractive because it subcommunicates that there is a problem you may not be addressing or facing, and you’re not being honest about. This is why not admitting mistakes is unattractive for, again, it subcommunicates avoidance of a problem. And when problems are not addressed, especially serious ones, they often lead to addiction.
5.) WE NEED TO FEEL BAD. IT’S OKAY TO FEEL BAD.
Negative emotions are part of life. Negative emotions are necessary to arrive at positive emotions. They are there to remind us when something is wrong that must be addressed. We can’t be happy all the time. By focusing on positive emotions alone and avoiding the pain of negative emotions, we won’t learn anything. We need to welcome the uncomfortable to be comfortable. The more we avoid discomfort or feeling bad, the more we’re going to feel bad; these feelings pile up like mistakes to create bigger ones that, again, cause huge problems.
For instance, the “No Fear” slogan can be misunderstood as not having any fear. But fear actually serves a purpose. It’s not about the absence of fear, but rather the process of overcoming it – and you cannot overcome it unless you understand the reasons behind it. It’s the “getting to know the negative emotions” part that is necessary for survival and growth.
Ask yourself if you’re surrounded by friends who avoid talking about the problem in times of conflict or drama. Truth isn’t difficult to figure out. What’s difficult is unpacking things, for it entails dealing with the uncomfortable because we think we should only feel good at all times. That is nothing else but immaturity.
6.) IT’S OKAY TO GET REJECTED.
Rejection is just a part of life. We need to see that rejection has a purpose, which is to lead us to a circumstance or a person that is a better fit for us – or it serves as a catalyst for change. It serves as an opportunity to develop oneself.
Oftentimes we take things too personally. We tend to consider rejection as something that defines us. Oftentimes, it has nothing to do with you, especially if the person rejecting you is doing solely based on fear or out of ignorance; then it becomes that person’s problem, not yours.
It’s a different story for those who constantly get rejected. If a person constantly gets rejected, it is likely that he or she is still lacking significantly in social and emotional skills to connect with others. But then again, that problem is solved by vulnerability.
7.) IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT WINNING.
Like mistakes, we need failure. We cannot arrive at winning without failing.
It’s funny, for recently, the advice of not trusting successful people seems to be gaining steam. While it’s understandable to get the advice of people who have achieved or attained goals, this doesn’t mean we can’t learn anything from those who have failed. In fact, the lessons we can get from those who have failed may actually be more valuable than those who have always won. Winning all the time overlooks many of our blind spots.
Failure is just part of the process. It’s a process that we all have to go through. By denying ourselves failure, we lose the chance to win.
8.) EMBRACE UNCERTAINTY.
We try to be certain as much as we can on many things but at the end of the day, nothing is ever certain. We have to learn to let things take their natural course. The moment we start obsessing over being certain is when we mess things up because we don’t let the unfamiliar become familiar. Certainty means sticking to what we know. Embracing uncertainty allows us to let the unknowns become known to us, thus allowing new knowledge, breakthrough, or discoveries. And that’s how we grow. That’s how life expands.
We welcome love through vulnerability. Without vulnerability, we don’t give ourselves the chance to be loved.
9.) IT’S ALL ABOUT THE CONNECTION
You could make a lot of money in a given year but practically have no time at all to do other things such as forge relationships. Success is also about being aligned with our values, such as human connections. We’re social creatures. We all keep each other in check. We need connection and we thrive on connection.
We’re powerful and we grow when we truly connect with others. And this is the power of vulnerability. You can’t connect with others unless you open yourself. And you can’t open yourself unless you’re willing to risk exposing yourself.