Lessons I’m Trying To Learn: Transparency is Not Vulnerability

This is part of Fire! Ready! Aim! Series: Essays on Lessons Learned by an Enneagram Social 8w7

My best friend Darryl put me onto the idea that the way to true community and self awareness was vulnerability. Mixed with Brene Brown and Parker Palmer going on about vulnerability from their platforms, I knew that vulnerability was the next “thing” that I needed to get into. So I started my trek towards being vulnerable with no understanding beyond the word itself. I started a Men’s Vulnerability Group where thirteen of us guys got together to explore what it meant to be vulnerable with one another. I shared my fears, I shared my mistakes and I shared my hopes for the future. I blogged about it, I talked about it and I gave advice to others that they really needed to get into this vulnerability thing too.

I had always thought that the more willing I was to be honest (invited or not), the better person I was. I projected this onto everyone around me as well. I find joy in exposing the truth, discovering it or forcing it to the surface and I look down on those that are indirect or manipulate through lies. I look at people who are honest as being courageous and having the most integrity, and those that are dishonest as being cowards and weak.

So I went into my search for vulnerability thinking that I just had to be more honest, be louder about my honesty and make sure that there were never any hidden agendas or secrets in any room I was in. What a joy I must have been! Somehow I have been able to take so many good and wonderful concepts, and twist them into my own thing that is the complete opposite of what it intends. It took me a long time to realize that just because I’m the loudest and most transparent person, doesn’t mean I’m the most vulnerable. It’s likely that Eights are the only types to not innately understand this for themselves.  A lot of us Eights have convinced ourselves that our willingness to confront directly, our love of truth, our transparency is being vulnerable. As Beatrice Chesnut says that Eights “strength and power often represents overcompensation for not wanting to feel weak or own their vulnerable feelings….and they often fail to see the negative effects they create by expressing too much power without a balanced recognition of normal human weaknesses.”  Of course, I managed to do this while hiding under the term ‘vulnerability.’

I realize now, that being vulnerable isn’t a choice that I can just make one day to share something that I did in the past, or an embarrassing moment. Being vulnerable for me is to stop pretending that I haven’t hurt people and learning to live in the reality that I am complicit in the suffering of people I love. Being vulnerable is accepting that I am weak and I don’t have it put together. Being vulnerable means that I allow myself to be offended and hurt. Being vulnerable is accepting that I haven’t earned the love of my friends, but they love me anyway and admitting that I need that love – that I am dependent on their love for my own stability. Being vulnerable is getting close enough to someone that they can hurt me and not keeping them at a distance to protect myself. Being vulnerable means admitting that I am not strong, that I am not OK and that I need things and people too. 

Beatrice Chesnut has a lot to say about Eights and vulnerability and most of it went in one ear and out the other.  I’ve been trying to learn to embody her insight in my own life but I often get sidelined. However, I’m convinced it’s “very important for Eights to try to recognize the truth of the counterintuitive idea that it takes a great deal of strength to allow yourself to be truly vulnerable.” I want to continue to look for genuine places that I can be vulnerable in my life and practice allowing myself to depend on others and voicing my needs. This is what it truly means for an Eight to be vulnerable, is to admit to ourselves, and to others, that we need them, that we can’t do this on our own.

This is part of Fire! Ready! Aim! Series: Essays on Lessons Learned by an Enneagram Social 8w7

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