On Being Vulnerable in Life & Love

Life can certainly be serendipitous.

Without trying or looking, I happened upon this TEDx Houston video about vulnerability. There’s a moment early on when Brene Brown pokes fun at the “life is messy, learn to love it” people – ironic given my recent “life is messy (and that’s okay)” post. Not surprisingly, Dr. Brown finds that life is indeed messy and that it’s in the messiness – and specifically in being vulnerable to life, and being courageous enough to be open to the mess – that people find their whole hearts and their most beautiful, authentic experiences of living. She talks about being willing to try relationships that may or may not work out. And being open to trying things that have no guarantees attached to them.

Many of us struggle with being vulnerable to others. I certainly have, and do. And yet I’ve found that when I’ve been able to say how I feel, to put myself out there, that I’m happiest. It doesn’t always work out as I’ve planned, but such is the messiness of life.

When I think of my favorite experiences of life, they center around vulnerability. With family, with friends, sitting next to strangers on airplanes who somehow I connected to, and with those who I have loved with all my heart. The times when I took a breath and went for it are the times that I’ve felt most connected to meaningful aspects of living.

I think too of the times I hid from people, uncomfortable with the openness and authenticity someone was offering me. There are a number of reasons I’ve hidden, some of which I’m not at all proud of. Even when I can understand why I’ve hidden or kept myself back, the effect was the same: it was still a less rich experience of life.

Recently I’ve been struggling with some interesting new challenges that relate to living an increasingly public life. In my newest book, Sex Made Easy, I chose to include some personal stories for this very reason of authenticity. In spite of the fact that a friend’s reaction to this choice was “Why would you do such a thing?” (yes, really), I stand by my decision to share more of myself in Sex Made Easy than I ever have before, but with the book not yet out, I’m still standing a bit in the shadows, wondering how it’s going to go. The TEDx video above is a good reminder for me that it doesn’t matter so much “how it’s going to go” (in other words, the outcome). What matters more to me is the sharing of myself, the decision to more wholeheartedly live who I am, which is what makes life, and love, and my very enjoyable work, worth living.

How can you be vulnerable?

- Take a deep breath.
- Say the thing you think you cannot say.
- Say “I like you” and “I love you” sooner.
- Ask yourself what you would regret not doing or not saying if you no longer had the chance tomorrow, for whatever reason.
- Hug and hug some more.
- Kiss and kiss some more. The world won’t end because of your kissing.
- Let someone know if something is hurting you.
- Ask someone to like or love you back.
- Reach out to hold someone’s hand.
- Put your arm around someone’s shoulders or back.
- Tell your parents that you love and appreciate them.
- Look directly into someone’s eyes.
- Smile and mean it.

And if you’re afraid of being rejected? Or trying something like this and being thought a fool? It’s okay; we’re all afraid too.

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About Dr. Debby Herbenick

Dr. Debby Herbenick

Dr. Debby Herbenick is a sex researcher at Indiana University, sexual health educator at The Kinsey Institute, columnist, and author of five books about sex and love. Learn more about her work at www.sexualhealth.indiana.edu.

  • http://yogabeautylife.wordpress.com/ Kait

    OMG I love this talk!  I watched it right after watching Lissa Rankin’s.  :)   Beautifully written post.