Is Vulnerability weakness or superpower?

What’s your superpower?

I’ve got two kids. My daughter is a force of nature, a bundle of fearless energy. She has never met a stranger and would throw caution to the wind, but never had any caution to begin with. Her willingness to be all in all the time is her superpower. My son is completely different. He is incredibly detail-oriented, wants to do whatever he is doing perfectly every-time, and is beautifully sensitive and empathetic. That deep tuned-inedness is his superpower. Their superpowers are incredible strengths, but the flip side to their superpower (like those of comic-book heros and villains) is that powers are neither good nor evil, but can serve either purpose.

If you asked my friends what my superpower is, they would probably tell you that I “tell it like it is,” or that I can be a ferocious beast-mode bitch/badass hybrid. Which I get. In my late teens and early twenties I punched people to finish arguments. It made an impression and while I’ve got some deep sentimental and feminist attachments to being thought of as a bitch, which lingers, it’s not the power I want to cultivate.

What I want to cultivate is vulnerability. Vulnerability insists I bring all of myself to the table. Vulnerability requires confidence and resists fear. It is sometimes confused with weakness or naivety and at times, when I will myself to be vulnerable, it is difficult to resist the urge to chastise myself as stupid. But it isn’t naive to choose not to be guarded. It isn’t stupid to represent the truth as you know it. It does risk offending others and in unsafe environments being vulnerable may be unsafe.

If I put all these thoughts in a pan and boiled it down, it’s reduced to this: our organizations, families, companies, communities should not be unsafe. Choosing vulnerability, knowing that we should expect safety, takes a stand against letting fear define us. I look for, and follow, leaders that are powerful by virtue of their willingness to be vulnerable. Vulnerability is a litmus test to the quality of the culture. It is also a superpower that sparks that same power in others. When people are powerless they lose the capacity to allow themselves to be vulnerable. If this is the case, does practicing vulnerability then not also exercise power?

I think so, and hope to master this superpower. Even more so, I hope it is one we can all embrace.


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