There is a mismatch between how people perceive their vulnerabilities and how others interpret them.
You tend to think showing vulnerability makes you seem weak, inadequate, and flawed, a mess.
But when others see your vulnerability, they perceive something quite different, something alluring.
When you think about your own vulnerability, it is more concrete and real, because you are so close to it.
Under that magnified perspective, your imperfections are clearer, and it is easier to identify everything that might go wrong.
But when you think about another person’s vulnerability, it is more distant and abstract. You can take a wider perspective that allows you to see not just the bad, but the good as well.
When you share your hopes and anxieties, or admit to a mistake, or profess Love to a friend, you are doing something risky, but the possibility of being hurt helps open the door to a more genuine, intimate interaction.
Things might not work out in your favor, but there is something rare and, indeed, beautiful about the gesture.
Vulnerability is the driving force of connection. It is brave. It is tender. It is impossible to connect without it. Vulnerability is openness to experiences, people and uncertainty.
It is terrifying at times, and brave always. Without vulnerability, relationships struggle, you struggle.
There’s an optical illusion that’s easy to fall for, even if you know the trick. The more distant you are from other people, the more invulnerable they appear.
You see yourself as you are, with your flaws just as clear as your successes, but you see most other people on their terms, only from the side they present to the world, stoic and confident. And at first glance they’ve got everything figured out, with everything set in stone, securely embedded in their community, wrapped up with their loved ones, their lives like a finished work of art.
But it’s only just a trick of perspective: everyone else seems to be doing better than you, because you can’t see the cracks from so far away. How insecure their footing, how malleable they really are. How many years of effort went into shaping their persona into something acceptable, how many other hands it took to build their lives, which are still only ever a work in progress.
It’s the kind of basic human vulnerability that we’d all find familiar, but is still somehow surprising when we notice it in others. It’s an open question why we have such public confidence, and such private doubts.
Maybe that contradiction is what keeps us moving, wanting to be more than what we are, and never be satisfied. Maybe it lets us keep our distance, to avoid too much friction as we brush past each other.
Or maybe it’s what draws us together, the only irreplaceable thing we still need each other for, just one last excuse to keep stopping by, so we can prop each other up, and remind us that nothing is set in stone, not even who we are, or who we pretend to be.