Harness Vulnerability to Grow

What does it mean to be vulnerable? If you answered, “weak” you would be in good company, as many smart people think of vulnerability as weakness. But you would be missing the point. Yes, vulnerability means you have limits. But how are we human without limits? What living thing, in this world, is without limits?  So how can it be “weak” to be just like every other living thing on this planet?

To be vulnerable is to be affected by factors outside your will and effort. Many pressures bear upon us: the passage of time, the economy, gravity, entropy and momentum and other physical forces, the weather, your DNA, political forces, geography, viruses, aging, other people, and even your own emotions all play a role in how things turn out, or don’t, in your life. Vulnerability is a fact of life. It really is “the” fact of life, because everything alive will die. So “being” vulnerable is constant and inevitable, like a background hum of life.

Your wise body uses unrest to pinpoint the optimal moment to tune inward to foster your growth. Your tightening right shoulder grips – and instead of ignoring it, you pause, paying careful attention to the tense muscles. After a moment of warm interest your muscles release and you feel your shoulder drop slightly. Your body registers your awareness and settles, allowing a channel to open within you. A wave of sadness comes through, carrying you to a truth you have been avoiding. You realize you are working so hard to get everything done, but you cannot do it all alone. You wish you were more efficient and had more time and energy and did not have human limits.

But you are indeed only human. The sadness rises and a heavy pressure pulls on your sternum. You breathe into the feeling as it crests and then ebbs, and you find a space inside yourself where you matter. You accept yourself in your limits. You feel less alone, more capable of giving yourself patience and compassion, and more able to ask for help.

Read on to learn more about the how and why to harness your vulnerability to grow.

Dr. Sandra Parker

You are Vulnerable…So What?
Click on the reel below to learn more.

Unrest announces your point of contact with vulnerability. It disrupts you. Unrest can nudge you with a quiver or a held breath or it can derail you as your heart pounds and adrenaline shoots through your bloodstream. It is trying to get your attention at a key moment as your longing bumps up against limits. Wanting things and wanting them to be a certain way is a beautiful vitalizing force that pulls you to reach for a fulfilling life. At the same time, you are wired with a protective impulse to protect you from harm. The tension between your longing and your limits is simply part of being alive and human: “I want to land that job”, “I want him to love me”, I want her to respect me”, I don’t want to get sick”, I want my dog to live forever”. And you cannot 100 percent guarantee those outcomes.

Unrest is a physical experience in the here and now, in your body, letting you know you are vulnerable and giving you the choice to come home and feel, so you can grow. When you do that, vulnerability becomes not weakness, but the greatest strength you can imagine, and the doorway to your biggest life.

A Ringing Endorsement for my new book, Embracing Unrest

“With keen insight, compassion, and disarming honesty, Dr. Parker has distilled her deep wisdom born of years of clinical practice and personal investigation into a step-by-step guide to authentically connecting with ourselves. This book can help almost anyone live a richer, more engaged, more empowered life by tapping our inner healing potential while boldly facing the enormous challenges of being human.”

—Dr. Ronald D. Siegel, Assistant Professor of Psychology, part-time, Harvard Medical School, Bestselling Author, The Extraordinary Gift of Being Ordinary: Finding Happiness Right Where You Are

Meet my pre-publication cheerleading team, Adeline and Theodore!
They work for treats…and plenty of pets, of course.

Perhaps you might give yourself a moment this week to notice an experience of vulnerability. Start seeing your life through the lens of vulnerability. Let yourself be aware of something you long for (a visit from your kids, a reply to an important email, a good night’s sleep, a sunny day, anything at all) and then see if you can acknowledge at least three factors that could throw a spanner in the works, as they say in England. Then let yourself notice unrest, the signal in your body as your nervous system tightens your muscles and pay your body some warm attention. Just care about yourself right then and there. Show yourself that even though there are limits to making things be the way you want them to be, you still matter. That is success!

Drop me a line to let me know how it goes.


Recent Blog Posts:

Embracing Unrest

I’m excited to announce my first book has a launch date! Out October 18th, 2022, Embracing Unrest: Harness Vulnerability to Tame Anxiety and Spark Growth answers the question: why is it so hard to “be here”?

View my “Embracing Unrest” column on Psychology Today!