I recently had a conversation about vulnerability that has stayed with me. On one hand, it’s clear that a willingness to be vulnerable, to share what’s true for you, deepens intimacy. On the other hand, being vulnerable in the wrong circumstances or at the wrong time can leave you feeling exposed and even more vulnerable. If you are willing to be vulnerable under the right circumstances, you might find yourself feeling closer to the person or people with whom you shared yourself. This kind of sharing is bolstered by your willingness to be humble, discerning, courageous, honest and vulnerable.

Let’s take a brief look at each of these. Humility in relationship means that you are willing to expose your less than perfect self. You show some aspect of your real self rather than holding up some idea of who you think you should be or who you think others think you should be. This kind of holding up gets exhausting and decreases intimacy. Ultimately, holding up these kinds of ideas of yourself begins to feel vacuous. In intimate relationships, it can erode trust. Conversely, a willingness to be humble cultivates trust and intimacy.

Yet, to expose your warts and all in the wrong circumstances with the wrong people can leave you feeling even more vulnerable and exposed. It’s better to discern how much to share and walk slowly, so you feel safe. After all, you don’t dive into a lake without knowing how deep the water is and if there are hidden rocks. In the same way, as you share a little bit and see how the person or group responds, you get a better sense of how trustworthy they are and how well your needs are met once you do share. At the same time, it’s good to be clear on what kind of response you would like from others so you can make a clear request. Discernment is key, for you might decide, out of fear, not to disclose or risk being vulnerable with a group or person who could really support you if you would let them see the real you.

Once you decide that you are willing to be vulnerable and share some truths about you, mine the courage hidden in the cave of your heart. We all have felt scared. We have all felt the fear of exposure and being found somehow less than ideal. However, how sweet the connection is when people are real with each other. It takes courage to be real.

It takes courage to show yourself, warts and all. I read somewhere that courage is feeling the fear and doing it anyway. If you wait until you are feeling fully at ease in all relationships all the time, you might wait a very long time to experience the sweet connections that are all around you.

Of course honesty is one of the cornerstones of meaningful and long-lasting relationships. Yet, this one trips a lot of us up. A small change in a story here or there doesn’t seem to make much difference. However, WE know the difference and that difference can begin to feel like a chasm in relationship. Honesty helps you settle into yourself more fully. It helps you mine the courage it takes to be real.

And being real, showing up in your relationships with a willingness to show your less than perfect self requires a willingness to be vulnerable. Vulnerability is often thought of as weakness, yet the strength of long-lasting meaningful relationships is fertilized by a willingness to be vulnerable — in the right circumstances, with the right people, again, we are back to discernment. Truly, though, how can people really support you if you are not showing your real self? How can others see the beauty that you are if you are not willing to show them the real you?

Over time, honesty, humility, courage, discernment and a willingness to be vulnerable help you show up for your life as YOU, rather than some idea of you. When you show up as YOU, life can feel pretty rich.

I’m curious, what have you learned about the relationship between deepening intimacy and vulnerability. Post a comment and share your wisdom.

Author's Bio: 

Melanie McGhee, L.C.S.W. has more than 25 years experience helping people cultivating meaningful and satisfying relationships. Melanie's clients learn to use relationships wisely - as a spiritual practice for spiritual growth. She is also the award-winning author of "An Illumined Life." You can reach her by calling 865-384-4104 or visiting her website, http://www.peacefruit.com