By now, most people I know are familiar with Brené Brown and her work on vulnerability. (If you haven’t yet watched her spectacular TED talk on the subject, please go watch it now.) And now that many of us can at least start to understand the concept of vulnerability, we can start to see how it fits into other aspects of our lives. I am particularly interested, for example, in how vulnerability in relationships can benefit creativity.
Let’s start with a brief overview of what vulnerability is and why it matters.
Vulnerability is, essentially, exposing yourself. It is opening yourself up to any and all possibilities that may come about because of how you think, feel, or behave.
Vulnerability can look like:
- Letting yourself be seen
- Asking for what you need
- Admitting when you are wrong
- Loving with your whole heart
- Believing that you are enough
- Taking a risk
This matters because while vulnerability exposes us to the possibility of sadness, disappointment, or loneliness, it also opens up the possibility for happiness, connection, love, success, and belonging.
In short, vulnerability matters because it is an essential ingredient for creating a happier, more fulfilling life.
Vulnerability in relationships
Vulnerability is also an important part of healthy, thriving relationships. This applies to any relationship, whether with a romantic partner, a parent or child, a sibling, or a friend.
When you are vulnerable in a relationship, you open yourself up to another person. You share with them the good and bad parts of yourself. You allow them to get to know the real you on a deep and meaningful level.
Again, this is risky. You might end up heartbroken or betrayed. Or you could end up in a loving, lasting, fulfilling relationship that brings you more joy than you thought possible.
If you avoid the vulnerability, you’ll avoid the heartbreak. But you’ll also deny yourself the possibility of joy.
Learning to be vulnerable in your relationships is one of the hardest things you can do, but it’s also one of the best.
Vulnerability, relationships, and creativity
So what does all this have to do with creativity?
The fact is, learning to be vulnerable (at all) can help improve your creative efforts. And vulnerability in your relationships can benefit your creativity in unique and powerful ways.
It builds relationship support.
The closest relationships are born from vulnerability. That means that learning to be vulnerable in a relationship is going to make it stronger than refusing to be vulnerable ever could.
This matters, because solid, dependable relationships give us a sense of personal worth and security. When we feel like someone will always love us—no matter how badly we mess up or how many times we fail—we are more willing to take risks.
Having a support system we can count on in good times and in bad will give us the mental security, and therefore the freedom, to take creative chances.
It encourages collaboration.
When you are trying to collaborate with someone creatively, it’s important that you are willing to talk openly with that person about your expectations, ideas, and hopes for the project. This requires vulnerability.
Vulnerability not only allows you to share your ideas with others. It opens you up to hearing their ideas, too. That means that vulnerability can encourage creative collaboration that is useful and productive—not passive-aggressive, directionless, or full of resentment.
It helps you embrace uncertainty.
Vulnerability in relationships is scary. As I mentioned before, you are opening yourself up to potential hurt and heartbreak. You don’t know how your vulnerability is going to be received. There is a lot of uncertainty there—and there’s a lot of uncertainty when you’re creating as well.
Practicing being comfortable with uncertainty will help you both in your relationships and in your creative efforts. The more comfortable you are not knowing the right answers, the more comfortable you will be taking risks and enjoying the journey of creating, not just the result.
It brings emotions to the surface.
When you are vulnerable in your relationships, it can end up being a very emotional experience. Emotions you didn’t know you had may be brought to the surface or strengthened as you express them to the other person.
Emotions power creativity. As you practice identifying and processing your emotions through your vulnerability, you’ll come to know yourself more deeply and fully. You’ll be able to use those emotions to your advantage in your creative work.
It helps you practice self-exposure.
Creativity exposes you. When you create, you open yourself and your ideas up to criticism. It takes a lot of courage—and a lot of practice. It’s important for creatives to practice vulnerability and self-exposure, simply to get used to how it feels to put yourself out there.
As one of our biggest opportunities for vulnerability, relationships can help you practice the self-exposure that will benefit your creativity.
It leads to more open thinking.
Vulnerability in relationships isn’t just about sharing your thoughts; it’s also about listening to the other person’s thoughts. That’s because when you’re vulnerable, you are open to the possibility that you might be wrong. And you feel secure enough in your own personal worth that you are willing to engage with others, rather than put down their ideas, assign blame, or insist on your own rightness.
This type of open thinking is a huge asset to your creativity. When you open yourself up to new ideas, your brain starts thinking in new ways, and you’ll open the door to more creative possibilities and directions.
Vulnerability, relationships, and creativity can all work together to “create happy” in your life. It’s not always going to be easy—putting yourself out there rarely is—but being vulnerable will pay off if you let it. So take a risk, be vulnerable in your relationships, and open yourself up to the creative experiences that come because of it.
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