Why Vulnerability Is the Key to Strong Relationships
We all want to have it together — or at least look like we do. From carefully curated Instagram feeds to surface-level small talk with loved ones, many of us dodge vulnerability to guard our reputations. It makes sense: Sharing our struggles feels revealing, so keeping quiet about them feels like self-protection. But in friendship, your effort to manage your image might be doing more harm than good. While boundaries are a healthy part of any relationship, experts say showing your soft side to your inner circle can create intimacy and build trust, resulting in more rewarding, connected friendships. Curious how vulnerability can impact your relationships for the better? We spoke to a few experts about the benefits of transparency with your besties. Here’s what they had to say.
1. Vulnerability shows your friends you trust them. While keeping quiet about your personal issues might feel more comfortable to you, it can send a message that you don’t perceive your loved ones as trustworthy or safe. Taking the risk to open up with a friend has the opposite effect, says relationship expert and author Brenda Della Casa. “Being vulnerable shows your friends that you care more about connecting than you do showing off, and that you trust them enough to let your guard down and value their insight enough to allow them to be there for you,” she says.
2. Vulnerability empowers your friends to encourage you. If one purpose of friendship is mutual encouragement, then it’s important to be transparent. How can others encourage you or validate you if you’re not sharing what’s on your mind? “There is great comfort in knowing that your values and struggles are relatable, but the only way to get that validation is by letting your guard down and becoming vulnerable,” says social worker Adina Mahalli of Maple Holistics. “The fear that we won’t receive this validation is what prevents us from making true connections and friendships. In attempting to preserve an image of ourselves, we lose out on the fundamental aspects of trust and connection within relationships.”
3. Vulnerability sets the tone for honesty. How rewarding is it to be there for a friend in need? By being courageous enough to open up with your friends about your weaknesses, you set the tone for them to share their struggles too, which gives you the opportunity to care for your friends the way you want to. “One awesome component of vulnerability is that your courage encourages others to show their vulnerability and weakness, which can take these relationships to a deeper level,” says Chicago-based therapist Nicolle Osequeda.
4. Vulnerability creates more authentic friendships. Letting your guard down can feel risky. But making the choice to be your true self, flaws and all, is the only way to build an authentic rapport with your loved ones. “Vulnerability gives your friend permission to be their imperfect self. Who wants to be friends with someone who is perfect all the time and never reveals any flaws? You’ll put your friend at ease knowing that you have struggles too,” says marriage and family therapist Connie Habash.
5. Vulnerability promotes self-love. If you struggle to open up and be vulnerable with people in your life, take some time to reflect on why you feel compelled to protect yourself. By taking steps toward connecting more deeply with yourself, you’ll give the gift of a more courageous, connected, and loving friend to the people in your life. Social worker Rev. Sheri Heller says self-love and strong friendships go hand in hand: “When a relationship of positive self regard is lacking, it logically follows that quality relationships will also be lacking. How we treat others is a mirror to how we treat ourselves,” she says. “If we are accepting and honoring of our strengths, foibles, and idiosyncrasies then we will be receptive to the spectrum of humanity evident in others.”
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