Redefining vulnerability during a pandemic
I hadn’t counted on vulnerability being such a difficult topic to talk about until I had three people cancel my podcast discussion, one cancelling an hour before we were due to record. I have to say it threw me, but it also made me realise how vulnerability can hit us from out of nowhere, when we least expect it. Rather like an intruder you are too scared to challenge.
It left me with two people for a panel discussion, not ideal but I didn’t want to cancel. Vulnerability is a topic that needs exposure because our instant reaction is to retreat, close up, let the intruder take over. But when we open up to our vulnerability it can bring in many gifts such as our courage, more meaningful conversations, letting go of the ego, connecting with people, taking us out of our comfort zone and, being authentic. Ultimately, the act of opening up is very empowering. Although, of course, a pandemic has had a helping hand in shifting the view I previously had on the topic, that of weakness. As it turned out, with some last-minute calls I did manage to get four women for this panel discussion and having told them all about my challenges with getting people to talk about vulnerability, the consensus was that surely talking about vulnerability is a good way to get out of feeling vulnerable? After all, isn't the whole world feeling vulnerable?
Having uncensored conversations As it was, I was, bringing four women together via Zoom, none of whom knew each other and, answering questions on the topic of vulnerability, which ultimately exposed them to their own vulnerability. This was already putting them all in a vulnerable situation. The irony. But it was all part of my series of discussions called ‘Uncensored Conversations’, although, perhaps naively of me, I hadn’t really thought about whether it would be difficult to talk about.
As it turned out, it became a lively discussion which started with a thought-provoking comment from one of my podcast guests, Stacey, a singer, songwriter, and producer who said; “Vulnerability is like a paradox, something to be avoided because we’re afraid of exposing herself but when we do expose ourselves it can be a very powerful and positive force.”
Although with three mothers on the panel (including myself as the podcast host) we all agreed that as parents we felt the need to be invulnerable and often adopt a persona of strength, with Stacey even admitting; “In my songwriting, I have explored really difficult themes but there are some stories I feel I can’t tell like the vulnerable stories because it affects my child and the people in his world. So, I have many songs that I have never released.” This, I could relate to. It is similar to my journal writing, my innermost thoughts coaxed out from vulnerability. Exposing those thoughts that expose the rawness of vulnerability, another reason we try to avoid vulnerability because it can make us feel naked. Once the mask and the ego are dropped, it’s the real us, a scary concept for many.
Vulnerability…our biggest strength? But as Oddny, an Icelandic chef and forager pointed out; “Vulnerability is connecting with your inner voice and connecting with yourself, so we need to own our vulnerability.” Of course, in owning our vulnerability we also need to be aware of who we share our vulnerability with and how much of it we reveal, which prompted Oddny to ask a thought-provoking question; “Could it be that people use your vulnerability against you because it is your biggest strength?”
I think she has a point. Vulnerability can awaken so many things inside us, we just have to change our relationship with this feeling to benefit from it. As Stacey relayed on the podcast; “I used to struggle with stage fright and being vulnerable until someone said to me, whatever you are feeling in that moment, use it on stage. So, I used that vulnerability and brought that feeling outside my body. In doing that, I found I connected much better to my voice, a more authentic part of my voice and people and audiences could connect to that.”
It was a podcast that got me thinking many days after as I realised, more than ever, how the power of vulnerability is underestimated. Of course, we have in many ways been forced into feeling vulnerabile by this pandemic, but it has also made us reflect more on who we are becoming. Vulnerability plays a significant role in answering that question. It’s not only about redefining vulnerability but redefining ourselves through our vulnerability.
Uncensored Conversations is a new series on the podcast Empowered Thinking at Play on redefining vulnerability.