Jane Corsellis – Two Figures in an Interior, Venice
“And sometimes, you are going to be
as fierce as a dragon
armed in scales of impenetrable gold
and sometimes you are going to be
as vulnerable as a lamb,
soft and comforting in newborn wool.
Both versions of you deserve to be loved.
Both versions of you are needed.
Both versions of you are beautiful.”
- What Is Vulnerability? What Is Strength?
Rebecca Campbell – Persephone  Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr
who said you can’t wear a flower crown
& still remain a
fearsome thing? – make persephone proud.
(by amanda lovelace)
Strength and vulnerability are two sides of the same coin. If we are able to show vulnerability, to reveal our ‘weaknesses,’ our fears and our insecurities, then, paradoxically, we will need courage and resilience.
In this post I will explore these two apparently contradictory features of our personality. I will intersperse my writing and quotations with some artworks which represent people who are revealing different moods and aspects of themselves.
Mia Bergeron – Following Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr
Allowing oneself to be vulnerable is not for the faint-hearted. It is to be admired.
“We are at our most powerful the moment we no longer need to be powerful.”
Eric Micha’el Leventhal
If we are able to be with other people without being overly defensive about our vulnerabilities, we are showing strength.
We are demonstrating that we have come to terms with the very essence of our humanness, and have accepted that fact that we can never be totally in control of our lives, of ourselves, of the world.
As we all currently know only too well in this tragic global situation, things go wrong…. and, inevitably, we suffer.
Pretending we are ‘fine,’ or putting on a false front, is a defensive strategy based on a wish not to be seen as we really are. It is not about strength of character, but about fear and denial.
Ultimately it prevents us getting close to others.
“You can’t find intimacy—you can’t find home—when you’re always hiding behind masks. Intimacy requires a certain level of vulnerability. It requires a certain level of you exposing your fragmented, contradictory self to someone else. You are running the risk of having your core self rejected and hurt and misunderstood.”
“Embracing our imperfections all comes down to our willingness to be vulnerable, to show our soft underbelly instead of working so hard to hide it.”
Edgar Degas – Double Portrait, the Cousin of the Painter [c.1865-68]
“Vulnerability is not a weakness, a passing indisposition, or something we can arrange to do without. Vulnerability is not a choice. Vulnerability is the underlying, ever-present, and abiding undercurrent of our natural state. To run from vulnerability is to run from the essence of our nature…….. “
In this present crisis, we are all experiencing some kind of vulnerability, as we wait for the next stage in this awful Coronavirus ‘journey.’
It is unreal to deny that the combination of wintry conditions, the fears about new variants of the virus, lockdown and the lack of contact with others, together with uncertainty about the future, are not affecting us all in different ways.
The vaccine may make us feel more hopeful now, but there is still some way to go, some more time to wait before the situation might begin to ease.
Sampsa Sarparanta – Time Is Long When Waiting. Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.
The Importance of Integrating Different Aspects Of Ourselves Into The Whole.
Michael Todorovitch – Echo Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.
Gustav Klimt – Portrait of a Woman 
In order to be a more ’rounded’ person, it is important to strive for a balanced personality. Achieving a healthy balance between emotional vulnerability and confidence is not easy.
Over-confidence can be seen as arrogance; we tend to value those who can show humility and admit their mistakes.
Nobody can be sure they’re always right.
The ones who are fullest of themselves that way
Are the emptiest vessels.”
Knowing what one does not know, and owning this, reveals both strength and an awareness of our limitations and is a part of achieving healthy psychological balance.
In addition, being able to cope with uncertainty and not rushing to find quick answers shows a strong character that can wait for clarity and admit to not-knowing.
Similarly, strength may be found in an acceptance that continually fighting some battles is not helpful. Letting go, in some circumstances, perhaps of a relationship that has run its course, does not have to be regarded as a ‘weak’ option.
“Life is balance of holding on and letting go.”
Portrait of Jeanne Hébuterne. Modigliani. 1919. Wikimedia Commons.
- Strength Comes From Being Vulnerable.
“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.”
It is true that we gain strength and power through having experienced suffering and having been very vulnerable. Out of our weakness emerges the kernel of our strength.
When we are courageous, it is because we have been able to withstand our original fears and to resiliently forge ahead despite these fears. This is what makes us real and whole human beings.
“The frail, vulnerable sounds of which we are capable seem to be essential to a later ability to roar like a lion without scaring everyone to death.”
- Vulnerability, Honesty And Openness.
“All of us would like to have been born
Infallible, but since we knew we weren’t,
It’s better to attend to those who speak
In honesty and good faith, and learn from them.”
Allowing oneself to reveal vulnerabilities means that we are being honest about ourselves. We become more real.This will allow us to heal fractures within our emotional selves, and we are likely to be stronger as a result.
Our openness will also allow others to share their vulnerabilities, and, equally importantly, to know that they are not on their own with their problems and fears.
This has been particularly important in the pandemic, for it is easier to feel isolated and alone with one’s problems during lockdown and quarantine.
Sharing feelings on social media has been doubly relevant. Knowing others feel similarly about difficult situations is comforting; it is strong and healing to show vulnerability in this way.
“Everyone has their moments of solitude, difficulties, and vulnerability.”
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
Victoria Novak – Window Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.
“What happens when people open their hearts?”
“They get better.”
Ling Jian – Air Purifier Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.Oil on Canvas.
“When you let me see you, you give me permission to be seen.”
“The strongest love is the love that can demonstrate its fragility.”
- Vulnerability, Strength and Creativity.
Vincent Giarrano – East Village Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.”
In allowing ourselves to be vulnerable, we open the pathways inside ourselves to uncertainty, to ‘playing’ with new ideas, new dreams, new ways of thinking.
“The faking of feelings is a sin against the imagination.”
We open ourselves up to the magic of creativity by letting go of familiar patterns and risking something new.
How many writers, artists, scientists and innovators have produced wonderful new works through allowing themselves to be vulnerable and uncertain…. What strength does this involve…..
“Art evokes the suburb of our experiences, emotions, and longings; it is transcendence beyond personal preference. Art is vulnerability. Art is intimacy. Art is mystery. Art is indefinite. Art evokes the truth.”
Weeping Nude. Edvard Munch. 1919. Wikimedia Commons.
“It’s very hard to have ideas. It’s very hard to put yourself out there, it’s very hard to be vulnerable, but those people who do that are the dreamers, the thinkers and the creators. They are the magic people of the world.”
Henry Scott Tuke – Half Length Study of a Boy. Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.
“We need to rebrand vulnerability and emotion. A vulnerable man is not some weird anomaly. He is open to being hurt, but also open to love.”
The Green Cushion by Irving Ramsey Wiles. Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.
‘“Get a one-inch by one-inch piece of paper and write down the names of the people whose opinions of you matter … the people on your list should be the people who love you not despite your vulnerability and imperfections, but because of them.”
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