Social Question

wundayatta's avatar

How much do you show your vulnerabilities?

Asked by wundayatta (58571points) April 30th, 2010

In the list of topsy-turvy things in the world, I put the conundrum of vulnerability fairly high up. Perversely, it seems like it takes strength to show your vulnerabilities, and hiding them indicates weakness. How can this be? Don’t we want to appear as strong as possible so no one will mess with us? Don’t we look down at people who display their vulnerabilities; see them as weak and incompetent?

When I was applying for my current job, which required serious statistical knowledge, I told them, right off the bat, that that was a major weakness. But I was willing to learn. One of my interviewers said, “at least he’s honest,” in a very approving tone of voice. The fact that I had little statistical knowledge was a weakness, but the disclosure of the fact was seen as a strength of another kind—honesty.

Can vulnerability be strength? Do you tend to show your vulnerabilities or do you hide them? Why? What do you think of other people who show their vulnerabilities? What are the consequences in various kinds of relationships of showing vulnerabilities or not?

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55 Answers

thriftymaid's avatar

I don’t hide them from those I trust.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

In real life I hide everything, strengths and weaknesses. Here I let it all hang out.

Sophief's avatar

With my s/o I probably show 99% of them. He knows them before I tell him anyway, so I couldn’t hide them if I wanted to.

jfos's avatar

Real answer: Only with friends and enemies (People who see me as their enemy. I don’t feel that I have any “enemies”.).

Fake answer: Whenever I’m on ChatRoulette.

wonderingwhy's avatar

In business I find honesty is usually the best policy, yes it can cost you work and money but at the same time lying can cost you reputation which is much harder to earn. We must each understand the limits of our capability so as to better grow and be successful in our fields.

In personal relationships, it’s similar, honesty breeds trust and facilitates communication which are both critical to a healthy bond between friends and loved ones. It is a matter of revelation to an extent, trust as well. I don’t go around displaying my weaknesses but when brought to the forefront I don’t shy away either.

I know I have weaknesses, everyone does, but I don’t fear them, nor do I fear others trying to take advantage of them. Rather I try to understand them and improve upon them, turn them to strengths, or learn how to navigate safely with them.

Scooby's avatar

I’m really a big softie! Deep down…. But I’d never show it again… :-/

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

In general I don’t. I talk to my girlfriend about my vulnerabilities, because we share everything, and I am not afraid to ask questions about things I do not know, but I like to keep people guessing at what I am really capable of. Honesty is usually the best way to go, but the truth must be cast in a favourable light. In your example, I would have phrased it in such a way that communicated both my ignorance of exact theorems in statistics and my ability to learn quickly. Since all communication relies on the perception of the recipient, it is usually best to cast the truth in a manner that will still create a favourable perception.

Silhouette's avatar

Like you said a vulnerability is just a vulnerability unless you let it be a weakness. If you focus all your attention on your weak spots you leave the rest of yourself exposed to dangers. You could have lied and said you were very strong in the statistical knowledge department but time would have told on you and then they would be wondering what else you lied about. Bunnies are a pretty vulnerable creature but they aren’t weak.

marinelife's avatar

It depends on where I am and who I am with whether or not I show my vulnerabilities. For example, with my family of origin I try very hard to hide them, because they will pounce on them and exploit them. With my SO, I feel free to be who I am, vulnerabilities and all.

Showing vulnerabilities is a strength, because it leads to greater intimacy. It propels honest communication.

Cruiser's avatar

I believe showing or being vulnerable is a honest attractive trait of simply being human. If you hide your vulnerabilities you are withholding a valuable component of human interaction. If it is carried too far though to where it becomes self-deprecating like a Woody Allen type neurosis, than it is a huge liability and very unattractive IMO.

OneMoreMinute's avatar

I find that when people are really honest in THEIR display of vulnerability quite admirable. There’s a glow in that maverick. I will pay attention to that, even just to learn how I can do that better. I wish I knew how to do that without getting the ax. But all too often, I only bring out their jealousy or I bring out an argument in someone, or someone put’s me down as some rule breaker, or I’m bad or odd or crazy. People don’t want me to be different, have too much or be too happy with myself. I think otherwise, that they don’t want to look at themselves. And I’ve hit a nerve of theirs.

It depends on who I’m around to determine how many cows I let out my barn. And most people are still sheep when it comes to anything different. It’s like thin ice, I have to always test them first to see how thin they are before I go skating out into the middle.

Because I just want to be happy all the time, so I’m not quick to make waves.
No one wants you rooting for the other team.

Captain_Fantasy's avatar

They’re there. I just don’t advertise what they are. It would be impossible for me not to be me.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

Self deprecation can be an effective defensive weapon. People are less likely to criticize you if you’ve already publicly criticized yourself. Of course I don’t go to extremes like Woody Allen, but he’s doing that to be funny, earning his living that way. I’ve found that keeping quiet about my strengths is most effective; just let actions speak.I want a quiet, peaceful life; rather be ignored than praised or involved in conflict.

CMaz's avatar

I keep them under total control.

Ponderer983's avatar

I hide them from people who I am not close to, however I don’t think this is a concious things I do. If I don’t know you well, I only let the person into my life and knowing me so much. Therefore, they don’t have the chance to know me in and out. I seem on the outside a very confident and strong woman (as others have brought to my attention). I walk with confidence and conviction and am always put together well and present myself with dignity. I am all of those things, but unless you get to know me, I am obviously vulnerable in some ways, just like everyone.

zophu's avatar

too much

To hide yourself from others is to hide yourself from yourself. Stoic is just a word that means you eat shit without cringing. It’s rarely synonymous with strength.

slick44's avatar

Dont ever let em see you sweat!

BoBo1946's avatar

when i’m wrong!

zophu's avatar

Since weaknesses are always present in one way or another, showing them freely and proving that you can deal with them is a part of the ultimate expression of strength. one that’s often mimicked

Rangie's avatar

I really don’t think about showing either. I would spend too much time worrying about the consequences. I am just me. I pretty much wear my vulnerabilities and strength in my actions.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

People that matter know which things make me vulnerable – there aren’t many.

Dwaddzy's avatar

Except to my parents and one or two really good friends, I almost never show them. This is not because I want to look strong, but I don’t want to bother people with that. For example, there are things about me my brother and sister do not know, because I don’t want them to be worried.
Sometimes, I can’t do anything but letting people see them. But I don’t like talking about myself, neither about my strengths, nor about my weaknesses.

BoBo1946's avatar

always when i’m caught with my pant’s down!

janbb's avatar

@BoBo1946 Is that what you call ‘em – your vulnerabilities?

Generally, I have to trust someone before I will show them my vulnerabilities, but I am not certain I am always in perfect control of whether they are showing or not. My blushing face will often give me away even if nothing else will.

evandad's avatar

Except for work the only people around me are people I’m close to. I let them see the real me.

stardust's avatar

Generally just with people I trust. It really depends on the situation too I suppose

SeventhSense's avatar

Not half as much as I used to although it’s true that it can be an asset at times. It’s refreshingly disarming in a world where people are covered in armor. But at the same time even the most professed candid people among us rarely show their real vulnerability. That’s often elusive even to ourselves and why we are blindsided by life at times.

ratboy's avatar

I can’t help it. I weep openly whenever I see beer spilt.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

Although this is not a religious debate, I think Nietzsche had some interesting ideas on weakness becoming strength in his book The Antichrist.

ftp901's avatar

I don’t tell anyone about my vulnerabilities, including myself…it’s a problem.

Rangie's avatar

So why should we worry if someone sees our vulnerabilities? What are they going to do?

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@Rangie Knowing someone’s vulnerabilities is the first step towards taking advantage of them.

Silhouette's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh “Knowing someone’s vulnerabilities is the first step towards taking advantage of them.” This is true but, people tend to guard their vulnerable spots with bigger guns.

Rangie's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh It is my job not to allow that. I am aware that people will try to take advantage of others only too well. I have 3 sisters. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t be yourself, and when you see it coming, WHAM, nip it in the bud.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@Silhouette That is true in some cases, but not others. A reformed alcoholic may be wary of someone who offers them a drink, but a playboy businessman would rarely reject a beautiful woman. I rather like the example set out in American Gangster. Being a drug dealer makes you vulnerable to the law, so if you want to survive you don’t advertise it.

SeventhSense's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh
As per the alcoholic vulnerability does not equate to powerless to make a decision. Vulnerability in that case would be the capacity to admit freely that one doesn’t drink regardless of how one is perceived. Vulnerability is strength not weakness. The embarrassment of ones reception is the crutch.
In the gangster case it presupposes a criminal or unsavory lifestyle. The innocent contrarily can be transparent with no qualms nor fears and sleep soundly.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

I feel no obligation to conceal tender feelings and I will always admit it when I come across something I don’t know enough about. Honesty serves me well and does not require me to remember my false or misleading answers. Should someone ask me some question, I can always reproduce my previous answer by just telling the truth again.

I am proud of my strengths and do not fear my weaknesses.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@SeventhSense The vulnerability does not make the alcoholic powerless to make a decision, but it makes them extremely predictable. Admitting to one’s vulnerabilities is weakness, because it allows people to easily take advantage of you. This is not only true for criminals – a door to door salesman will be more likely to canvass a neighbourhood of elderly people more inclined to believe everyone is good, simply because it will yield better results than canvassing rich estates with their own security.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

@Dr_Lawrence Withholding information about oneself is not the same thing as lying. In real-life situations, I’ve found that revealing weaknesses makes me more likely to be taken advantage of. Likewise, concealing abilities can be advantageous, as others will underestimate or not consider me a threat.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@stranger_in_a_strange_land “Likewise, concealing abilities can be advantageous

Definitely. It is all about judgement – when do you reveal what information about yourself? When do you keep quiet?

wundayatta's avatar

There are some vulnerabilities you can publicize without much harm, and others that do make a huge difference. I’ve admitted to any number of anti0social activities here, but it hasn’t hurt me. People don’t know who I really am, so it can’t get back to me in the real world. And if people judge me here, I figure I can take it. All they can do is type words which most people will forget in a few moments.

SeventhSense's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh
That’s a belief system you have there and says more about your ideas of human nature. Hiding just begets hiding and lies simply beget more lies. If you fear life, pain or repercussions, then vulnerability will seem threatening. It reminds me of the husband who cheats on his wife and becomes paranoid that she is cheating on him. Of course being vulnerable doesn’t mean that you are not circumspect. Not to be religious but as Christ said,
“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@SeventhSense I do not fear life, pain or repercussions, nor am I threatened by vulnerabilities. I am not involved in active deception to hide some great secret about myself, I just see no reason to share certain information about myself with anyone but those closest to me.
Why would a child at school tell the class bully that he wet the bed? It is of no consequence to the bully, and opens up the child to certain problems in the future. You remind me of the movie “The Invention of Lying”, where everyone tells the truth with brutal honesty, whether their input is appropriate or not. I am all in favour of honesty, but that honesty needs to be tempered with a certain wisdom on when to make people aware of your vulnerabilities and when to display your strengths instead.

wundayatta's avatar

If everyone shared their vulnerabilities, we would likely find out that we aren’t the only ones with that particularly weakness. Far from it! People might start to be a little less judgmental about things.

SeventhSense's avatar

@wundayatta
True. The irony is that the defense is actually one and the same as the fear in the final estimation. It’s like the impossibility of both preparing for and preventing war. In the future, if there is to be one, (and I believe there will be) transparency will be the basis of interdependence and mutual trust. How else can it be? How long can we escalate conflagrations based on primitive responses to perceived threats and fears? The cost is getting too grave for humanity. The manifest war is is simply an extension of that inherent within the psyche of individuals operating from these fears.

SeventhSense's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh
Being vulnerable is not synonymous with being gullible nor without boundaries of appropriate times and places. I suppose the question when and how much openness is appropriate is important of course but risk is inherent in emotional growth.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@SeventhSense My dictionary defines ‘vulnerable’ as “Without adequate protection: open to emotional or physical danger or harm.” What you are talking about is acknowledging your vulnerabilities, but maintaining adequate protection. To have a vulnerability, you must not have adequate protection, which means you are open to be taken advantage of and you do not have the appropriate defences to resist such an attempt.

SeventhSense's avatar

Vulnerability is a vast term and encompasses a host of definitions. To clarify the asker’s intent might be in order but I think he’s talking about emotional candor. Perhaps @wundayatta can clarify.

wundayatta's avatar

Yes. Emotional vulnerabilities, or vulnerabilities of a personal nature. Anything you might feel insecure about or shamed about or hope that people never find out.

@SeventhSense Well said about the dangers humanity faces and the importance of transparency in building trust. It is getting too dangerous to allow war.

BoBo1946's avatar

@janbb loll…got’cha!

SeventhSense's avatar

OK giving out ones SS# to strangers notwithstanding, maintaining a healthy vulnerability with persons who one trusts is paramount in my estimation of having a healthy relationship. The problem is that many people extend their defenses to their intimate relationships and this can be stifling not to mention exhausting.

We all bleed and admitting that is only the first step. Putting down the weapon fearlessly is the next. And the human spirit is really good at core so it’s “eventually” disarming to the other as well. Regardless of the exchange there will always be one less body on the floor.
And if I can ever consistently practice this it will be a miracle :)

yankeetooter's avatar

I on;y show my vulnerabilities to those I like/trust. I’ve been hurt way too many times to open up to everyone around me, but if I’m “exposing my jugular” to you, than that’s because I have decided that I can trust you…

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