What does Vulnerability have to do with Strength? And Why Do We Care?

Vulnerability is a necessity for strength. I heard that the other day and it made me sit straighter. It was intriguing for me because vulnerability is one of my challenges. I wonder if its a gender thing for business women because vulnerability can mean many things in many situations. I don’t thing it is crazy to think that being vulnerable will set us up for failure. 

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines vulnerable as being capable of being physically or emotionally wounded. To be open to attack or damage. Reading it makes my lip curl. I don’t like the idea of it and I don’t like thinking about moments in my life when I was vulnerable and someone did attack and how the result was my feeling stupid for giving them the opportunity.  

I think we are born vulnerable, and our environments and circumstances teach us not to be; that what we experience helps us make our own set of survival rules. How can vulnerability have anything to do with strength?

Strength is defined by Merriam-Webster as the power to resist force and attack. So, being vulnerable is being open to attack or damage and strength is the ability to resist it? And you would think that strategy would prevail and we would not put ourselves in a position of vulnerability, that we would then have to resist? 

There are times and events that force us to be vulnerable and create the opportunity for strength. If you are never vulnerable, how can you ever show strength? If you never open yourself up to attack or damage or wounding then how can you resist any of it? If you never take chances how will you know what overcoming them feels like? If you have never felt bad how do you know what good feels like?

Part of leadership is doing what’s right not what’s popular. So with every unsavory right decision there comes a certain amount of vulnerability which of course is open to attack. The approach a Leader shows when faced with this attack, whether warranted or not, is an opportunity for strength. 

We love it when people are strong, we marvel at how they persevere and hang on in tough times, we show compassion and champion their efforts in the midst of strife and peril. And I bet if you ask them, most would say they did not feel strong at all in those moments of vulnerability, that they may have felt convicted but not strong, and yet we see them as strong. 

Vulnerability may be essential to strength, and I can see how both are building blocks for a solid Leadership approach. There is beauty in vulnerability, there doesn’t have to be weakness. The reality is that you may have to be vulnerable in situations when you do the right thing. The key is surviving the right thing and not setting up rules that will ultimately prevent you from realizing who the right people are; because the ones who stand beside you as you navigate inevitable attack or injury are the same ones who will help you find your strength in the vulnerable moments. They are the same ones who are the gift of vulnerability; along with discovering your own strength and your own power. 

Think about Malala Yousafzai a young girl from Pakistan who demanded that girls be allowed to receive an education. At 14 the Taliban issued a death threat against her. At 15 Malala was shot in the head by the Taliban when she was walking home from school because of her outspoken beliefs and public demands for a girls right to education. She survived and continued to speak out, only this time, she spoke louder. At 17 Malala was nominated and won the Nobel Peace Price. She is the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Doing the right thing put her in a position of vulnerability which gave her the opportunity to show strength. 
So go on, be vulnerable, test drive that weak spot. Take a chance, experience the risk and then be calm, be settled and be sure that the right thing has everything to do with being vulnerable and that being vulnerable has everything to do with showcasing your strength. Just think of what a beautiful example you can be…just think about Malala.


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