Winter Wellness: Sharing Our Full Humanity, On Vulnerability

07.12.21 05:00 PM By Theresa Yu

  • Sharing Our Full Humanity On Vulnerability

In this Winter wellness series, I will go over qualities of combating winter blues, sluggishness, and mental freeze during these cold months.

Note: This post contains audio for those with visual disability or for those who prefer to consume audio information. Sit back and turn the volume up!


    Vulnerability creates connection.

    I mean REAL connection.

    This is one of the reasons why humans are considered the most elite race. A really, super long time ago, when Homo Sapiens ruled the land, we used connections to form intimate bonds with one another. We still do. This resulted in packs, tribes, and relationships between each other. We learned who we could trust and who we could not. We learned information through gossip: who slept with who, who offered the best back rubs, and who had the best campaign to be the alpha male to lead the group.

    In present day, these bonds are hard-wired in our being. Studies showed that just having a 45-minute conversation with someone and sharing deep, personal information builds a deeper connection with a stranger than with someone you have known for a long time. These participants continued to have a relationship even after the study!

    You can build a meaningful connection with someone by showing your vulnerability. Through sharing intimate, deep talks with someone at the right place and the right time, you could be able to effectively build a relationship with a complete stranger that may last for a very long time.

    Now that more businesses are opening after the pandemic, you may be finding more things to do with friends, family, and colleagues. You may even be able to meet new people, see new faces at parties, and build intimate connections with them. You could even mend old relationships with people at these gatherings –it has been two or more years—and re-build your connection with them through showing vulnerability.

    After all, this is what humanity is all about. You wear your heart on your sleeve and others show reciprocity to do the same.

The Other Side of Vulnerability

    What if there are people in your life where you could not display emotional vulnerability? What if there are people, especially those closest to you, where the risk of displaying emotional vulnerability doesn’t mean a closer connection; it means harm and risk?

    Vulnerability can be a challenging concept to different people, depending on who you’re talking to and their worldview and environmental and social conditions, along with their background, socio-economic status, and exposure to risk factors. I still prefer Brené Brown’s definition of vulnerability in her famous TED Talk as “uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure” and this is certainly the case for all relationships that experience vulnerability.

    Vulnerability is complex. It’s a main driver of why we continue to have disparities. It is why a person of darker skin is more likely to get pulled over by the police. It is why women have lower wages than their counterparts. It is why people seemingly overweight could be considered as “lazy,” “poor,” or “uneducated” in some cases.

Vulnerability means something different to everybody.

    For this holiday season, the terms are no different. I am sensitive to the fact that not everyone will have the privilege to share vulnerability to build close relationships with their family and friends. When your aunt looks at you up and down, comments on your weight, and tells you to stop eating, this vulnerability comes from a place of negative, emotional trauma. People then become more emotionally closed off the more this happens.

    This becomes a vicious cycle of vulnerability. The more emotional trauma one receives, the less they want to open up and even less connection happens. This results in closed-mindedness and more vulnerability (and not the good kind).

    Isn’t it ironic? What builds relationships also tears it down.

Vulnerability Matters And How to Get There Safely

    Vulnerability matters as this is one of our ways to understand susceptibility to negative impact but also on how to build resilience. Unfortunately so, these populations live in hazardous conditions in which to make them more susceptible to lower quality of life and a greater risk of vulnerability. With increased efforts of resilience, vulnerability eventually becomes an asset where shared experiences become opportunities to connect with other people who have similar experiences. The hardest part is developing this resilience when you’re, well, not in the best of situations.

    I actually touch upon this topic in one of my LinkedIn posts, “Resiliency Among University Students”, describing my experience tutoring students that come from a variety of backgrounds. While everyone has their own path to develop resilience, the most resilient of people tend to show a number of characteristics breaking them free from the mold. One of them is finding a support group that they trust to talk through their issues. It’s great to find a community that accepts you and your experiences; from there, you can find the vulnerability to open up to people and build meaningful relationships again.     Once you are able to find others that resonate with you, you then find a sense of worthiness, an experience that indicates “you matter.” This breaks the vicious cycle and you can then again open up and be vulnerable to more people. 

    Another characteristic is being pro-active to kick out the negative stimulus in your life. Once you realize the one thing that is triggering negative thoughts and reactions—such as, your aunt from the story mentioned above—then leaving that situation would be the best decision. Doing these things will need to come from a place of self-awareness. Realizing what side of vulnerability you’re on will decide on what you need to do next to get to a place that you’re comfortable with and thrive. This is excruciating difficult but it cultivates self-love and self-worthiness, critical traits needed for the path of healing.

    Takeaway: Our humanity is built on empathy and the vulnerability to look past perfection and our mistakes to build connection with others. We were born in this world to struggle and to rely on others, not to achieve perfectionism or other unhuman expectations. It takes courage and risk to build a relationship with someone without guarantee; we put ourselves out there only in hopes that it is reciprocated in order to grow. Vulnerability takes part in this cycle of relationship-building in which it is neither good nor bad; it only exists to fulfill our purpose in humanity.

    “Vulnerability is the most active measurement to courage” – Brené Brown

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Winter Wellness Series: 

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Theresa Yu