Vulnerability Is Power — Remove Your Armour

Glob­al defense spend­ing is high­er than ever, with USD 1.822bn, or 2.1% of glob­al GDP. With over 200 mil­lion sold SUVs, the share of big­ger and heav­ier cars has reached its all-time high rep­re­sent­ing 40% of annu­al car sales, today. We hide behind armored cars, but: Vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty is power — why not remov­ing the armor, stop­ping play­ing a role, and start­ing to be authen­tic, with strengths and weaknesses?

We tend to defend our­selves and to hide behind the armour. Dri­ving an SUV, might — in a way — be com­pa­ra­ble with dri­ving a tank: sit­ting in an ele­vat­ed posi­tion that pro­vides a good overview of the sur­round­ings, shield­ed by a spa­cious vehi­cle with a typ­i­cal­ly aggres­sive appear­ance and a high engine per­for­mance. One needs only to think of the lat­est Tesla model, the Cybertruck

Liv­ing in the most peace­ful peri­od of time in his­to­ry, we appar­ent­ly feel a need to pro­tect our­selves from threats, or, the other way round, we want to demon­strate strength, dynam­ics, and will­ing­ness, or to reck­less­ly pur­sue our per­son­al interests.

The psy­cho­log­i­cal expla­na­tion of this behav­ior is sim­ple: it’s fear. We live in fear of los­ing some­thing, of falling behind, of not win­ning, or of being over­looked. Can we gen­er­al­ize this diagnosis?

At the age of 15, I quit­ted clas­sic gui­tar lessons and start­ed play­ing the elec­tric gui­tar in a school band. Before our first gig, the band was ultra ner­vous. How would our class­mates and other concert-goers react? Would they be friend­ly and applaud, or would it be the great­est dis­as­ter of our high school careers? After 90 min­utes, there was a relief: It was a great suc­cess — after a few songs, we were get­ting cool­er and per­formed well. The audi­ence cheered — sim­ply because we had over-delivered based on their non-existing expec­ta­tion level. 

What I per­son­al­ly learned from this and sub­se­quent con­certs is the power of vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty. Imag­ine some 15-year-olds enter­ing the stage and per­form­ing a few Rock’n’Roll songs with their rather thin high voic­es, imi­tat­ing famous rock stars. There is a fine line between look­ing silly or cool. And the hard­er we had been try­ing to look cool, the fun­nier it would have looked. Instead, we did not try to imi­tate AC/DC, but to be our­selves and to inter­pret the songs the best we could. Appar­ent­ly, this authen­tic­i­ty was the key to our suc­cess, not nec­es­sar­i­ly the qual­i­ty of our per­for­mance. We were vis­i­bly vul­ner­a­ble, and the audi­ence dealt with that in a friend­ly, open, and sym­pa­thet­ic manner. 

This was my first per­son­al expe­ri­ence with open vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty. Later on, I learned that the art is not to active­ly expose one’s vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty but to let it be dis­cov­ered by remov­ing one’s armor. Today, I would not nec­es­sar­i­ly tell every­body all about my faults. How­ev­er, if some­one real­izes a fault or weak­ness of mine, I don’t try to hide it, but I allow it to be and to be accept­ed — or not. 

Vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty is power, not weak­ness — it might take some time to under­stand this con­cept. We all are vul­ner­a­ble, even Achilles was. So why hide behind armor? Why not remov­ing the armor, stop­ping play­ing a role, and becom­ing authen­tic, with strengths and weak­ness­es? Just try it — allow your­self to be vul­ner­a­ble! It‘s good for your health, you‘ll feel less stressed, and your part­ner, kids, and friends will love it!

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