This year, my word of intent is “nourishment.” The goal behind this intention is to ensure that the activities I expend energy on and the people I interact with enrich and fulfill my life, rather than drain it. Part of this process involves reevaluating the relationships in my life to determine their value and whether our interactions and behaviors toward each other are genuine and supportive.
During my reevaluation, I observed that I had several relationships lacking a real connection. Even though I had known some of these individuals for years, I didn’t truly know them. Our relationships were superficial and lacked genuine emotional investment. While some relationships are not intended for deep intimacy, I had categorized some of these individuals as friends or romantic partners. We could recount day-to-day events, but our connection felt hollow.
Although the concepts of openness and vulnerability may seem similar, there is a clear distinction between them. While both involve exposing oneself, there are differences in the level of exposure and the intent behind it.
Openness refers to being transparent and honest about one’s thoughts and experiences, involving sharing personal information and engaging in honest communication with others. Open communication aims to establish and build trust, but it often stays limited in depth during the initial stages of a relationship.
Vulnerability, on the other hand, is where profound connections are built. It entails exposing oneself to potential emotional harm or risk, requiring emotional courage and a willingness to be seen in a less-than-perfect light. Vulnerability means sharing your fears, insecurities, and experiences that have shaped you, as well as emotions like joy and happiness.
Understanding the differences between these concepts can be challenging, especially when you’re in a relationship with an oversharer. These relationships may seem deep because stories or experiences on vulnerable topics are shared, such as embarrassing moments or past breakups, but they often avoid sharing the uncomfortable feelings associated with these experiences.
Openness is the willingness to tell your story, while vulnerability is the willingness to let others be a part of it. Vulnerability represents a deeper level of exposure, requiring a willingness to risk rejection, criticism, or failure. Confessing romantic feelings, admitting mistakes, and sharing emotional wounds all require vulnerability.
Recognizing when and with whom it’s safe to be vulnerable can be challenging. As Black women, we often find ourselves at the intersection of multiple identities and experiences that can impact our ability to be vulnerable. Historical trauma, the “strong Black woman” stereotype, and societal norms rooted in patriarchal archetypes can hinder our ability to foster authentic relationships. However, vulnerability can lead to supportive tribes that heal, restore, inspire, and empower. Communities can not flourish without deep connections. Be open to sharing your story and pray for a supportive group of intimate relationships. Pray for discernment about those with whom you can be open and vulnerable and protect yourself from those who may not be safe.
Do you have a supportive, intimate relationship in which you can be vulnerable?