The Power of Your Vulnerability

by Caitlin D'aprano, CEO of Willpowered Woman. Originally published here.

Vulnerability is about being honest about our past life events that have shaped who we are and what we may be feeling in the moment. Personally, admitting how much I want something and going for it makes me feel vulnerable.

Let me put it in to context. Five years ago I booked a one-way flight from Melbourne to London. I went there to start a shoe business and to work in the fashion industry. I landed amazing jobs with the Headquarters of Burberry, Harrods and REISS. I ensured that I got different jobs to gain experience for my shoe business. After I gathered enough experience, I ventured to do the shoe business alongside my own sales and business consultancy. I worked hard to make these things a success, but then came “my quarter life crisis”. I started to question everything, I felt like my life had no meaning, so I started searching. 

After a series of events, one of which I ended up in a violent marriage, along with my husband’s comments pertaining to something along the lines of, “I have the power to screw up your Green Card”, I escaped to a shelter for intimate partner abuse survivors. It was only then that I realized I had been a victim of violence my whole life. My father had been cruel and violent towards me my whole childhood and adolescence. It was at the shelter, with nothing, no visa, nowhere to live and very little money that I had to try and find all the solutions to my problems. It was there that I gained insight in to what it was like for a woman trying to get away from a violent partner. I quickly found out that essentially, without children, there were very few long-term housing resources available to me. ​

The only thing that kept me going through that very difficult period of my life was that I was going to do something about this. Women without children should be represented and I was going to be the one to bring it in to fruition. That is what I am doing now and I do notice that I feel extremely vulnerable asking for donations, putting our organization out there and sharing my story. At the same time, I think to myself who better to do it than me? I have so much insight and I have been through it all, so I can use that to help other women and create a community of survivors who were able to get their lives back. 

Vulnerability is tricky. It’s not black and white, it’s grey. We want people to know who we are, but it’s also important to let trust build before we share our vulnerabilities. On the other hand, if we have been vulnerable with someone and in a disagreement, that person uses it against us, that gives us information that the person may be untrustworthy. It’s at that point we have the power to distance ourselves.

Through my experiences, I have learnt to observe what people do to better understand their intentions, as they may not have my best interests at heart. The one thing I can say for certain is, people often want clear-cut answers to life and I am here to say, it’s never clear-cut, it’s grey. It seems that most people view vulnerability as an impediment. What we don’t realize is, in using both our vulnerability to feel more connected and our intuition to sense misguided intentions, we have the power to steer the direction of our relationships with others.

We are human, we will sometimes face hardship, that’s the reality. In those difficult times where we have been taken advantage of, we can realize that we are more resilient than we realize and hardships enables us to grow stronger. You will never know your own strength until you are faced with hardship and only then, will you be able to take that strength and do things you never thought you could do. In our culture, there are perceived stereotypes that men need to be strong and fearless, and women need to be meek, polite and caring. In reality, a healthy life for men and women is to learn how to use both types of attributes interchangeably.

Another thing I have become more aware of is how I use things outside of myself to feel better, weather it be shopping, food or alcohol. Yes, I used to be a shopaholic and I don’t mean that I could tick a few things off the list, I mean that I could tick everything off the list. Then my Papou (grandfather) who was very near and dear to my heart passed away and I had a very strong reaction to my wardrobe. I felt suffocated by all of the clothes and shoes. I couldn’t use them to mask my pain anymore, it was no longer effective. So I gave my whole wardrobe to Goodwill and endeavored to live a life of simplicity. All I can say is I have never felt more free. Thinking back, my wardrobe was my mask, I was more like a mannequin to be admired as opposed to a flesh and blood human being, one that felt her humanity and her vulnerability. ​