Why Vulnerability May Be The Only True Definition Of Strength

The time your game is most vulnerable is when you're ahead, never let up. ~ Rod Laver Click To Tweet

The stiff upper lip is not entirely British. It has roots in almost every culture in the world. As a child, how often have we been told not to ‘be a sissy’, or something along these lines? Most of us grow up believing that it’s shameful to express emotions in public — or even in front of family and friends — and that vulnerability shows absence of strength.

Hurt yourself? Oh come on, it’s not that bad.

Grown men don’t cry!

This is nothing! What will you do when you really have problems?

Please! Go to your room and come back when you are in control.

Drama Queen!

Generations have been irreversibly harmed by this faulty social diktat. There is actually nothing wrong with showing your feelings. It is a great cleanser, removing from your body, mind and soul all the negative and stunting feelings that hold you back from being truly happy. Here are some tips to get you going:

1) It Is Natural To Be Vulnerable.

Each one of us is a bundle of emotions. We go through the whole gamut over the course of our lives. We can’t just decide on a few that we think are good – strength, courage, control, calmness,  and try to feel or do only those – sometimes, as humans, we find ourselves in situations or do things that don’t fit into our perfect notion of life. Is that a problem? No. The words, ‘we are only human’, make it clear that human feelings are not just this or that – they are a whole deal more, and every feeling is very natural.

2) Strength Or Weakness Is Only A Perception.

We look at the world around us as being ‘fair’ or ‘unfair’ and our reactions to the stimulus from it as being ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. Depending on our state of mind at the point in question, our reactions make us feel strong or weak. In reality, there is no right or wrong way to react to a situation. It is just a perception. So, don’t beat yourself up about having a weak or vulnerable moment. It’s OK.

3) Don’t Be Browbeaten By Others.

Many a time, we base our reactions on what our family or friends convince us to think. My friend burst out at a New Year’s party telling her husband to stop putting her down in public. She was fed up with his behavior. Her mother immediately berated her for being weak and having no control over her emotions. She stormed out in tears expecting it to be the end of her marriage. But surprise – the next day her husband came home with a sheepish expression, apologized and said he hadn’t realized he was hurting her feelings. Her outburst, unable to be contained any longer, had actually helped her marriage.

4) Strength In Times Of Weakness.

Sometimes it is only when you are weak that you can truly be strong. You have to experience certain feelings to honestly be able to see and process the truth. I remember this quotation from school: “If you go as far as you can see, you can see further.” Sometimes it’s only possible to understand a particular truth once you’ve actually tread the path. If you hadn’t been weak, you wouldn’t have gained the insight needed to make you strong.

5) Bottled Emotions Don’t Age Well.

Unlike wine, which becomes better with age, emotions that are bottled up affect the body and mind and leave you weakened. Worse than this, they can often lead to disastrous behaviours down the road, sabotaging our best efforts in a sudden emergence of our shadow sides.

When my husband suddenly had to be operated on for appendicitis, I put up a brave front and efficiently went through all the formalities in hospital. I refused to let myself think of the operation or the result. My family was surprised at my strength. Only I knew that inside, I was a quivering mess. I just thought that if I keeled under pressure, there would be no one else to take care of things, so I brushed my emotions aside and held on. However, the moment the doctor came out and told me all was well, I couldn’t control myself and burst into tears.

Strangely, I didn’t feel embarrassed about facing my family after that sob session. I felt strangely relieved and at peace. I was able to go on. Letting go or being weak and vulnerable doesn’t make you any less of a person. It just makes you more human and liberated. Try it!

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Shanti is a seasoned educationist who has been a front runner in the educational renaissance in India. An avid traveler, proverbial bookworm, and an extreme foodie, she writes passionately about all that is wonderful with the world.