In the first episode of Season 3 of The GenTwenty Podcast, Nicole and Marina discuss what it means to embrace vulnerability and live vulnerably in all seasons of our lives. The world needs us to be deeply human and to be ourselves, unapologetically.
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This transcript has been gently edited for clarity.
Nicole Booz: Welcome back to the Gen Twenty Podcast I’m Nicole…
Marina Crouse: And I’m Marina! Today we’re talking about vulnerability, what it means and why it matters. So what is vulnerability? What does it mean to be vulnerable? We have all these questions and I looked up the definition with Merriam-Webster online: vulnerability is the quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed either physically or emotionally.
So to me that means that basically when you’re vulnerable, you are opening yourself up to criticism or rejection by sharing your honest thoughts and feelings. And when you’re vulnerable you offer more of your authentic self which can be really scary. Nicole what does vulnerability mean for you?
Nicole Booz: I think that a lot of times we put vulnerability together with the word weakness and we think that when we’re showing how we’re vulnerable that that makes us weak or that we’re going to be perceived as weak or our vulnerabilities are are weaknesses and I don’t think that’s true.
I think a lot of times like when you imagine the word vulnerable what I see in my head is kind of we’re sitting in a dark room next to each other. You know we’re telling our deepest darkest secrets and I’m just hoping and praying that you never repeat them. You know? But I think that it’s it’s more important now than ever that we start to embrace vulnerability in our everyday moments and our everyday conversations and our relationships, especially.
Marina Crouse: Oh absolutely! I want to laugh when you’re talking about that image of sitting in the dark because I feel like in high school when you’re making these bonds with your high school friends that’s what you do. You’re getting a whisper of independence too… I remember I would ride in the car with friends… I had a best guy friend and we would go on these long drives and just talk about our biggest fears and it was so exhilarating and validating because I grew up kind of being shown that I wasn’t allowed to have big feelings.
I had anxiety and I had all these big feelings and I was kind of shown that in order to make it through I shouldn’t have them and so “vulnerability” seemed like big professions of deep fears. When really, it’s it can be so small.
Nicole Booz: Well you you were just very vulnerable when you said that you grew up with anxiety to me. That’s an example of vulnerability.
Marina Crouse: Yeah, but I talk about my anxiety all the time. I’m an anxious person we know. I’ve been working really hard in the last year just to learn my boundaries and set them and that to me is is a vulnerability. You know you’re putting yourself out there for a potentially negative response when you set a boundary because oftentimes when you set boundaries, it’s because the people in your lives need them to be set and they don’t like it.
Nicole Booz: Yeah, it doesn’t have to be like this big grand confession where like only 1 person or 2 people, 3 people know these secrets about you. I think you know that you’re about to be vulnerable when you feel like a little uncomfortable about what you’re going to share. And you get a little bit of that like anxiousness feeling. There are a lot of examples of vulnerability in daily life. For example: asking for help.
Marina Crouse: Oh yeah, Oh yeah. Especially because if we’re growing up in the subscription of vulnerability equals weakness then asking for help equals weakness and spoiler alert we don’t subscribe to that at this podcast. Let’s ask for help. Let’s shout our vulnerabilities or whisper them, whichever. But yeah asking for help can be so hard because it could be that you have a problem at work and you need help, or you have a problem with one of your friends and you need help, or just admitting that something’s wrong. That’s vulnerability.
Nicole Booz: Yeah, and something that comes to mind when you mention work now is, I think you’ve mentioned this in several episodes we’ve already recorded, I’m not sure if people have heard them. But you’ve mentioned when you’ve asked for feedback at past jobs and you’ve gotten really negative and really useless responses.
It’s hard to say “hey person who is supposed to be leading me, how can I do this better?” and they say just do X, just do Y, just do Z. And then that’s not helpful and it just makes you feel worse about yourself and I think it makes you not want to seek out this feedback and open yourself up to that kind of thing in the future.
Marina Crouse: Right? Asking for feedback is being vulnerable because you’re admitting that there’s room for you to grow… and that’s a beautiful thing. (Side note we want to grow we want to have room to grow if we’re not growing. We’re basically no longer of this living plane.)
I think admitting you don’t know something is really is a vulnerability, I remember once admitting I didn’t know something and being told by my manager that I shouldn’t do that… and I was just thinking “okay??” FYI it’s okay to not know things.
The great thing about knowing not knowing things is that you get to learn them and so I hope we can all work on being a little bit more vulnerable in sharing what we do do not know.
Nicole Booz: Yeah, yeah, and giving “I don’t know, but I can find out” is a really important pivot. Especially in your mindset. For me, having kids… my son’s almost three and he asks a lot of questions. And I think “I have never felt more dumb than I do right now” but I tell him “I don’t know we’ll have to figure it out” and that’s really humbling, I have to say.
Marina Crouse: Yeah I like the “I don’t know, what do you think this reason is?” because then you get weird “toddlerisms” and they’re great.
Nicole Booz: Yeah, yeah, that’s fabulous. That’s exactly the answer I was looking for. I think just yes, admitting that you don’t know something. It’s not even admitting it’s just “yes, no and I don’t know” are perfectly fine answers. It doesn’t make you weak to not know everything, we we all don’t know everything because yeah, we’re humans.
Marina Crouse: There’s one philosopher and I always mix him up because I’m not a philosophy expert. But Socrates I think or maybe Plato, basically his whole mantra was “I don’t know what I don’t know”…
Okay, I’m going to get emails about this, but I remember thinking about how the only thing I know is that I don’t know everything, and that’s really humbling. And it makes it okay to be curious! I’m a very curious person, I love that about myself, and I love that about other people who don’t just accept something as baseline, but who think “let me learn more about it, let me poke at it.”
That’s great that’s a great thing. So yeah and I think we have to be a little bit vulnerable when we’re doing that for the first time because we’re growing up in a society where you’re supposed to do everything and you can’t have any weakness.
Nicole Booz: Exactly, and jumping back to what you were saying earlier when you were driving around with your friend in the car when you would share like your deepest fears where like in high school your deepest fears feel so heavy. But we don’t really know what heavy is at that time in our lives. Honestly, has anyone sent you a bill yet?
Marina Crouse: Have you had to decide between paying for gas and buying groceries? No.
Nicole Booz: Right. So, sharing your fear of being rejected or being told “no”… and those are perfectly acceptable and valid things to be afraid of, but they don’t define who you are as a person.
They don’t define your worth and for just as many “No’s” as you hear you’ll hear just as many “yes’s.”
Marina Crouse: Exactly and I think about vulnerability a lot in dating because I am always like open to the opportunity to meet someone, right? For so long my thought process was “if someone sees me, they won’t like me, so I can’t be myself” and you just fail by default with that method. So now I try to just be really honest because when we come back to this idea of rejection, if I’m myself and it’s not for someone, that’s okay. Because that means that there’s somebody else who it is right for who will have space to be part of it and so I think vulnerability could also be likened to Authenticity.
So if you know who you are, and what you stand for, and how you want to live your life, and you act that way, that’s acting very vulnerably because you’re just accepting that you don’t have to put up a front to be accepted. You’re just going to be yourself. And you might be rejected. You might be ridiculed, or all of the negative verbs that could be associated with vulnerability.
But if you do that and you live with this authenticity of “I’m going to be myself,” you live better and you make deeper connections. It’s not necessarily trauma bonding where you both are talking about something horrible that happened to you that’s really deep, or your biggest fears. It’s “oh, wow, you’re a little bit weird in this way, and I’m weird in that way, too, and I’m so glad you showed me your weirdness so that I can show you mine, and let’s go be weird together. We’re vibin.”
Yeah so I think about vulnerability a lot. So I have a lot of opinions about it. It’s a hard thing to do and you have to practice at it. But it’s so rewarding.
Nicole Booz: Yeah, and I think it’s really easy to be more vulnerable with your inner circle, like your core circle of friends. So much so that like I don’t think there’s anything that I would ever tell Marina that would feel uncomfortable telling her.
Marina Crouse: The things I’ve told Nicole guys… the things I’ve called her about… I love it. I think our friendship has gotten to the point where like the weirder it is…
Nicole Booz: I know, it’s basically just like talking to myself at this point but in a good way.
Marina Crouse: The weirder it is, I immediately stop and call Nicole about this thing. Which is beautiful. I love you and we’re not friends. We’re sisters. It’s and deeper and but I think that relationship we built took time and vulnerability.
Nicole Booz: Yeah, that’s true. That’s true. Yeah I Love you! Oh yeah, it’s deeper than friendship. Yeah, we have been working on this friendship since 2013.
Marina Crouse: We didn’t meet in person until 2016. That was only 5 years ago! I I feel like we’ve been friends my whole life.
Nicole Booz: Yeah, it feels like a whole lifetime.
Nicole Booz: What I really hope that people get out of this episode is that it’s okay to open yourself up to other people. And it’s okay, if people don’t vibe with you. No skin off your back, just keep moving, keep really being authentic to who you are and what you want out of life and to your boundaries and just sharing yourself in the truest way possible.
Marina Crouse: One more thing I want to add to that is that, at least for me in the last we’ll call it 2 years, I’ve been getting to the root of who I am, and why I do things, and what I want out of life. And in doing that I’ve practiced being vulnerable in really small and medium sized ways with my family, friends, and strangers.
In being vulnerable with people, I’ve learned to be vulnerable with myself, which has led to me accepting myself and loving myself for exactly who I am, good or not as great qualities, and so being vulnerable isn’t just something that you extend outward, it’s something you can hold inward.
This comes back to that word authenticity. The more authentic you are with yourself, the less you hide from yourself, the happier you’ll be. I think we hide from the things we’re afraid of, and then the fear is a heavy, painful thing. But you don’t have to be afraid to be yourself. You don’t have to be afraid of who you are. You’re inherently valuable, and worthy, and important, for all of the weird, all of your quirks. So if you are vulnerable with yourself too, you’re just going to get so much more out of out of your life.