How to be Vulnerable: Community Edition

Updated: Mar 2, 2021

Vulnerability is an odd thing.  It feels like weakness but looks like bravery. It’s the only way to push relationships deeper, but it might also lead them to die an inglorious death. It’s scary and daunting and necessary.   It’s also highly delicate. Vulnerability requires a fine balance somewhere between being too closed and sharing too much. Too closed and you risk never getting close to people and missing out on receiving empathy and support. Too open and you risk oversharing, overburdening others, or coming across as needy, manipulative, or attention seeking. This balance becomes yet more complex when considered from a community perspective.  Being vulnerable in a community context means being vulnerable in - gulp - public. And being vulnerable in public is tricky. Is it possible to be truly vulnerable if it’s to a large, faceless group? Is it just a bid for attention? Does it seem dumb to those you’re trying to be vulnerable to? Is it courageous and encouraging? What even is the goal?  So many questions.  That’s where I come in. I like conducting research to answer questions. 

Why you should care

Why would you want to learn how to be vulnerable? Simply put, you can’t have meaningful relationships without it. Vulnerability is what brings people closer in an authentic, deep way. If relationships like that are something you want, then vulnerability is what you need. Vulnerability is sharing yourself and without sharing yourself healthily and effectively, you can’t become known by others which means you can’t build deep relationships.

Are you following this glorious stream of logic? Great.

Also you’re on social media. You wouldn’t be reading this otherwise. And people share on social media. Now, let’s be honest: sometimes it’s a bit too much sharing. You don’t want to be that oversharing person. It’s awkward.

What you want is to share wisely because you like taking the wise route.

Fabulous! You’ve come to the right place.

Where all this brilliant info is coming from

You. Or more accurately, the Unbound community, through a survey of 37 people and five interviews. The five interviewees are among those community members most frequently mentioned by the 37 survey respondents as being vulnerable in a healthy, worth-emulating kind of way.

I distilled the interviews and all the insights I got from them into the top five ways you can become more vulnerable, more effectively, specifically in a community context.

(Also I’ll call upon the brilliance of Brené Brown, shame and vulnerability researcher, as needed.)

But first…

What vulnerability really is

Always define your terms! And in this case, defining vulnerability makes a big difference in how we approach the questions posed at the beginning of this piece. Superficially, vulnerability would seem to be the act of opening up and sharing things about yourself and your life. But that isn’t quite it.

Based on the survey responses, vulnerability is sincerity.

It’s purposely setting yourself up for potential hurt. It’s the act of diving deeper into relationships by being honest, showing your flaws, saying the hard things, and going beyond small talk answers.

Vulnerability is about feeling fear but moving through it in order to bridge the gap between two people.

It’s bravery.

To Brené Brown, vulnerability is, quite simply, “uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure”.