Embracing vulnerability header shows a woman holding up a sign saying "LOVE SHOULDN'T HURT"

Embracing Vulnerability

Embracing vulnerability header shows a woman holding up a sign saying "LOVE SHOULDN'T HURT"
Photo by Anete Lusina
Affiliate links have been used in this post. For more information please see my disclosure page.

Yesterday I wrote about how things have changed for me recently, how the future is very much unwritten and I’m enjoying not knowing where my path will take me. Over the last few months I’ve come to realise that I’m not altogether comfortable with my vulnerability and so I wanted to take the opportunity to face that as A-Z April has now come round to V. To ask the questions: “What if I do want to make those connections? How can I do it as safely as possible?” This won’t be a sexy post, but maybe it will help me unpick a few things. And anyway, I do like to mix things up a little with my writing.

Pillow talk with a friend who has also been through the ringer, relationships wise, said they have huge difficulties with trust. I realised that, while I don’t have that problem – instead choosing to trust that people are who they show me to be – I do hold people at arms length. I have a very close circle that I can express those vulnerabilities with, but only platonic relationships. However, I’ve been reluctant to venture into the romantic as, historically, I’ve always been burned. Realising this made me want to dig around in my brain. To see if I can understand the fear of, and the need to, share those most secret parts of me.

I have to start somewhere so let’s pop onto the internet to define the term. According to the Cambridge dictionary being vulnerable is “the quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally”.

Physical and emotional vulnerability – two different sides to the coin?

On being physically exposed to attack?

I have often admired my bravery and boldness in the face of pulling together sexual fantasies. I’ve even deigned to suggest (to myself) that I’ve made myself truly vulnerable through exploring and enjoying these desires. Truth be told though, I’ve gone to great lengths to be as bulletproof as possible. Like with my first Bukkake party, where the vetting system and information gathering in advance of the event was executed with military precision. And over the years, I’ve possibly become more guarded with my physical safety a I’ve gone deeper into my kinks. Giving the illusion of vulnerability without really ever letting go. Though technically I am vulnerable in group sex situations, anonymous encounters and turning up to events solo. I am not showing my soft side, I manage the risks by remaining present and in control. A force to be reckoned with.

Now I’ve sorted that out… it’s time to get all emotional.

Emotional? That doesn’t sound like me! At least not unless someone knows me really, really well and I am able to show those vulnerabilities. As I’ve mentioned before, there is a wonderful crew of friends that I know have my back. And I know which one of those to call on when I have something come up in my world. Following the end of my dynamic with sir I have been reminded that my wealth comes from the love of this group, and more that I hadn’t even realised cared. Or at least I didn’t know they were as invested in our friendship as they are. This outpouring of love for me has probably caused more tears than the split itself.

Having spent February Photo Fest trying to find the beauty in myself – and largely struggling – perhaps I should have asked these wonderful folks? But no, to do that would have been to admit I needed help. Support. Love. Kindness. I can hear some of my more forthright friends asking “isn’t that what you spend your life dishing out?” And I guess they’d have a point. But where do I draw the line? When does asking for help become relying on others to carry me through? Why can’t I just bask in my own resilience, be a martyr to my demons, or even just deal with it?

What about vulnerability and intimacy. Surely they go hand in hand?

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.”

Brene Brown

Accepting that my friends love me because I’m me has been a hard lesson. That they like the authentic me that shows up in the world. I’m soft and caring, warm and loving, silly and serious. But I still struggle to receive that level of intimacy. I’ve been trying to get the hang of platonic intimacy, my kink world has become a playground of learning in this area. But romantic intimacy terrifies me. Will I be too much, too boring, not clever enough? Will I be too demanding of time and affection? Practise leads to pain? Or is that just a sweeping generalisation? I have no desire to hurt anyone, least of all myself. But it’s what I do, isn’t it?

If I didn’t cause pain my husband would never have been appalling.

Now, I know that is nonsense, but it’s the kind of chatter my Mind Monsters offer up at unhelpful times. And when she (the loudest demon) starts ranting I hide.

I pull back, withdraw and slink into the shadows where everyone can forget about me.

Because that’s the best that I deserve. (Again, I know this is bollocks. But I’m not in the middle of an emotional up swell.)

I hide behind my children – they’ve had enough hassle in their little lives – or my mental health, or my hobbies, or my dynamic with sir, or my busy plans. And I keep people at arms length.

Because it’s easier, safer, less scary.

If I show them the authentic me, before there is much closeness, I can hold them at arms length. They can take themselves away pretty quickly, when they see that I’m a strong, independent and bloody minded woman. A force to be reckoned with. But what if they don’t. What if they take a peek over the brick walls I’ve built around me? Maybe they even offer me a step to peer over their walls? Let me glimpse their challenges and where they might struggle? And if those mirror mine, and I share a little, what if they welcome me into their space to sit and view the world through that shared lens. Not consumed, nor defined by it, but in the easy company of someone who gets it.

Of the three amigos (my main girls: Bea, CC and SWL) we bonded over our shared lives, our histories and our current lifestyles as well as drive for the future. It is safe to be vulnerable, good things can (and do) happen when we are.

But why does it make me feel so ugly? Especially when I see it as beautiful in others.

Is vulnerability attractive?

For me, authenticity is attractive. Honesty is beautiful. Being a kind, empathic soul with a warm heart, and being open to adventures are on my very long list of traits that spark joy in my heart. Without these even the most classically beautiful person will appear ugly to me, for example, one woman who used to get my juices flowing told a silly lie and suddenly I could only see her physical flaws. I was immediately turned off. All of the traits I find beautiful make up a person’s true self, which is a hugely vulnerable way to expose yourself.

And yet, showing myself as vulnerable makes me feel ugly. I guess twelve years (and then a short but horrid relationship in the middle) provide strong evidence that my showing the softer side leads to ugly situations, pain and suffering. For me and my boys. Which is, unsurprisingly, going to leave me with negative links to my sharing things. But reading the previous paragraph through, I’m having a chuckle at myself. One of those ‘Barefoot, why didn’t you write this post ages ago?’ moments. Showing the wrong people my vulnerabilities doesn’t make me a bad person. Rather that I showed up, was brave, tried and (sadly) got burnt. Is that a good reason to shut myself off?

If I’m not showing up and sharing my vulnerability perhaps I’m not being authentic?

Or honest?

And if I keep potential lovers at arms length, by not showing my perceived weakness, am I showing them a warm heart, and the kind empathy that might take us on a wild adventure? No. I really don’t think I am. And maybe it’s that lack of authenticity which has led to me feeling ugly the last six/seven months. I always thought it was because I don’t see me, but perhaps I wasn’t even being vulnerable with myself.

Again, I’ve been leaning into friendships, sharing my fears and listening to their thoughts. I’m taking baby steps to be more emotionally open in situations where it hasn’t always been safe to be so. Offering little bits, safely, rather than a word vomit of my historical flash points and fears for the future. And while I may still struggle with the feeling of weakness that comes with being vulnerable, I’m trying hard to retain a level of calm. I’m doing a pretty awesome impression of a swan about now.

Why would I want to show my weakness?

Lets look at this objectively and instead ask “is vulnerability a weakness?” I don’t think that, in and of itself, vulnerability is a weakness, rather a collection of our weaknesses offered up bravely.

For this strong, independent and bloody minded woman, my vulnerabilities are my soft underbelly. I haven’t always been safe to expose it, and when I have often times I’ve rolled over and offered up the whole area to harm, pain and suffering. Romantically, aside from Sir which was a very different relationship, each time I’ve done this I’ve been hurt badly. And yet time and again, I am willing to try. To love, to trust, to put my faith in people. In my friendships I have challenged the evidence successfully, that people are good and kind, loving and trustworthy.

As a woman whose heart and soul have been battered and bruised by many who’ve claimed to love me, perhaps I could forgive myself for guarding my vulnerability for so long. Actually, there’s no perhaps about it, I choose, right now, to forgive me. But finding the balance between holding someone at arms length and letting them in too quickly is a skill I’ve yet to learn. And being vulnerable does not make me defenceless. Rather, sharing that side of me – with someone safe – is a strength?

Yes, I think it must be. And only from opening up can the magic of connection happen. True, honest and authentic connections, where maybe both parties need to be brave.

Further reading from an expert in her field.

I love writing that comes from the heart, but when I’m figuring out the spaghetti of my brain, I need heartfelt, factual works. Brene Brown’s book – Daring Greatly – is very much worth reading, and if you’re looking to take a dep dive into the world of love, vulnerability and (self) acceptance then start here. I’m going to leave you with The Power Of Vulnerability, a TedTalk by Brene Brown. Her research based talks and writings are one of the great pleasures of my life.

This links up quite nicely with Mrs Fever’s inspiring 43 ideas for ’23, I’m adding this for 37 – What if…?

#AtoZChallenge 2023 letter V

Join me as I fly by the seat of my pants for the A-Z April Blogging Challenge 2023. You can find all of my posts for the month here. And you can also find previous years here. 2019 came first. I skipped 2020. 2021 was a full month of photography themed posts. And 2022 was a sparse collection of Q&A style writing, but there were plenty of boobs!.


  1. Vulnerability is subjective; what I consider vulnerability — or behaving vulnerably — is, for others, sometimes not even a blip on their radar. And vice versa. Which probably is implicit in the definition you gave, to some degree. Because what can harm us, outside of obvious physical assaults, varies greatly from person to person. But if *feeling* vulnerable is what you want (or don’t want), or having others perceive your actions as ‘displaying vulnerability’ is a thing that matters (positively or negatively), those subjective views are going to come into play.

    1. I was thinking on this in bed last night. Vulnerability doesn’t disappear because you can manage the risks (as with my anonymous play) but the risks that come with physical play are (in my experience and my warped mind) much less harmful than displaying emotional vulnerability.

      Definitely subjective, but I’m glad to have untangled some of my thoughts around this. Probably means one less therapy session!!!

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