How to Be Vulnerable and Strong

The happiest people know when to be strong and when to be vulnerable.
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Vulnerability and strength may seem like opposite qualities, but that depends on what type of vulnerability you're talking about and what type of strength you're talking about. The type of strength that comes from shutting other people out is a brittle strength, and it leaves you without the emotional connections that support true resiliency.

1 Vulnerability and Weakness

People who are afraid to be emotionally vulnerable usually think of it as a type of weakness, like leaving the drawbridge down on your castle so the enemy can come in and pillage it. However, the strongest castle ever built would still fall if it had no allies, so keeping the drawbridge up all the time is not a winning strategy. People need other people, and there's nothing wrong with that. If weakness is anything that makes you more likely to be hurt, then refusing to ever be vulnerable is a type of weakness. You can be vulnerable and strong at the same time because those words are not opposites.

2 Vulnerability Can Make You Stronger

You don't want to be so open and trusting that you expose your inner self to everyone, but you don't want to be so closed off and defensive that no one can ever get close to you either. Letting yourself be vulnerable requires trust, and trusting the right person makes you stronger because you can turn to that person for support when you need it. This doesn't mean you should have no boundaries with other people, but that you know when to lower your boundaries for the right person.

3 Vulnerability Requires Courage

Vulnerability requires courage because it makes you feel exposed, and because it always involves some level of emotional risk. If you show someone how you really feel, that person may reject you or disappoint you. On the other hand, that person might open up to you and you might get closer. Letting yourself be vulnerable is a gamble, in which you risk your sense of self-confidence and self-esteem to take a chance at finding greater intimacy with a friend, family member or romantic interest. You have to have a certain level of inner strength before you can take a chance like this. You also have to use your judgment, because not everyone can be trusted. Learning how to tell the difference is a strength.

4 Strength to Lend

When you close yourself off to potentially painful emotions, you can lose the ability to give love to others when they need your help. You might not be easily hurt, but you also won't be able to feel tenderness or compassion for others very easily. If someone you care about is suffering, and you want to help him, you need to be able to open up to lend him some strength. The key to being both vulnerable and strong is to accept pain as a normal part of life rather than something to be avoided by any means necessary. If you can accept both your own pain and the pain of others, you'll have true inner strength.

Scott Thompson has been writing professionally since 1990, beginning with the "Pequawket Valley News." He is the author of nine published books on topics such as history, martial arts, poetry and fantasy fiction. His work has also appeared in "Talebones" magazine and the "Strange Pleasures" anthology.