The Act of Vulnerability That No One Talks About

When we think of vulnerability, we all too often think of sharing our insecurities, anxiety, and stories of shame.

But that type of sharing is only one out of the 5 ways to be vulnerable with others. It’s certainly important to deepening relationships to know we can reveal what we fear is our worst and be reminded we’re still loved and accepted; but it is such a limited definition of vulnerability.

Relational vulnerability, in general, is anything that exposes more of who we are to others; and specifically, the actions we take to share life more widely and deeply with others.

Perhaps the Scariest Act of Vulnerability?

And while I teach 5 different pathways, or acts, of vulnerability in my book Frientimacy; there’s one of the acts, in particular, that I think could drastically improve our friendships, our self-esteem, our contributions in the world, and our joy, if we practiced it more regularly.  But not only do we not engage in it often enough with our friends, the truth is that most of us don’t even know we should be!

What is this secret act of vulnerability, if it’s not bringing our skeletons out from our proverbial closets?

It’s the act of Shining in Front of Each Other.



One of the most undervalued acts of vulnerability is supporting each other’s success in this world. Being willing to shine in front of our friends by sharing what is going well, why we are proud of ourselves this week, and what we do like about ourselves. It takes courage to be willing to shine fully in front of our friends, and take in their affirmation, cheers, and love.

And it takes just as much vulnerability to encourage our friends to shine in front of us!  Why?  Because often their shining may trigger our own feelings of insecurity or envy. It can be hard to cheer for her pay raise if we’re barely paying the bills, and painful to celebrate her new boyfriend in the midst of our break-up.

But we’re called to feel that vulnerability–both of sharing and cheering–and rise the occasion of being women who can shine in front of each other.

When we talk about feeling safe and loved by others we often say, we want to be accepted for “the good, the bad, and the ugly,” but most of us actually feel more practiced and comfortable whining about the bad and the ugly, and not being as forthcoming with the good.

5 Ideas to Practice Shining With Our Friends

  1. CHERISH YOUR LIFE: While we want to be honest about the fact that some areas of life aren’t ideal, we also want to actively identify the areas that are good—and be honest about them. Practice saying, “I’m really fortunate that I don’t struggle with X, but I’m sensitive to those who do. And while I certainly struggle in other life areas, in this one I want to appreciate what I do have.”
  2. AFFIRM HER LIFE: Whenever you think of it, affirm everything you can think of about your friend. The number one value of friendship is to boost positivity by communicating acceptance—so cheer for her parenting style, her work ambitions, her beauty, her big heart. Everything.
  3. INVITE HER BRAGGING: We need to practice owning our strengths and joys, but we’re all scared to do it, afraid people will think we’re arrogant. So help encourage it in her by asking her questions that invite her to share what she’s proud of. (“When do you feel most powerful at work?” “What makes you feel the most beautiful?”) Encourage her to really feel her successes!
  4. INVOKE HER GRATITUDE: Women are known for brushing off compliments or dismissing praise. So, when our friend deflects affirmation, we can gift our friendship with positivity by playfully making her say “thank you” or by saying, “Wait, that was a huge thing you just accomplished; are you taking it in and really feeling it? Because you deserve it!”
  5. REVEAL YOUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS: Our friends should be those with whom we feel the safest celebrating our successes, so we need to practice sharing those successes—without being asked. Text her, “Just wanted to share: X just happened!” Or tell her, “I’m feeling more scared than excited that I just bought a house. Any chance you’re free to help me step into celebration mode? Takeout at my place?”

Why We Have To Shine

The biggest reason of all is that this vulnerability leads to greater intimacy and feelings of love with people because we’ll feel more expressed, more seen, and more celebrated.  Sharing our woes, bruises, and disappointing circumstances can only take us so far– it’s when we start whispering out loud our biggest dreams, the difference we want to make in the world, and the personal growth we see happening in our lives that we become more of our best selves.

But honestly, another motivation for me is because our world desperately needs more people willing to shine!  And if we can’t practice it with our friends, then what chance do we have of feeling more comfortable doing it in this world that desperately needs the best of all of us?  If I can’t admit where I think I’m amazing, to the people who claim to love me, then chances are high that I won’t be able to fully own that amazing-ness and shine it to a world of strangers and doubters.

This holiday season when you see twinkling lights and shiny stars– I hope it’ll remind you to think of something good in your life that you can share with someone!



P.s. I’m also teaching a 1-hr class called “Vulnerability: The 5 Pathways to Deeper Connection” (complete with a bundle of friend-u-vulnerabilityresources, such as a personal application worksheet and monthly challenge) for all members of this month so feel free to join us (for only $20!) and access the class with your membership!  In a month where we can feel inundated with busy-ness and people, it’s ever more important to practice adding Meaningful Moments to our interactions!



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9 Responses to The Act of Vulnerability That No One Talks About

  1. maureen says:

    I’m all in favor of letting people shine, helping them shine, TELLING them when they shine (even if they don’t realize it themselves). Have you written at all about the problem of trying to be supportive, giving compliments, telling a friend what you appreciate about her, and having that friend constantly bat away the positive remarks? It’s depressing and exhausting.

    • ShastaGFC says:

      It’s a great question– as I say above– I handle it by starting with light-hearted invitations that call my friends on their dismissal: “Wait! Try again… the right answer is ‘thank you!'” and waiting patiently for them to receive the compliment. A few times of this and most of my friends start catching themselves in the act.

      On occasion, with one or two friends, I’ve said to them in one of those moments: “It’s a hard habit to break, huh? For you, what’s the most difficult part of receiving the appreciation of others?” and trying to open a conversation about it. Far too many women don’t even KNOW that they “should” be practicing this as they’ve been taught that “humility” is to brush it off. We can give them permission to practice on us! In a deeper conversation, I think we can say “I wish you could see me the way I see you… is that something you want? Is that something you’re willing to practice? It sometimes feels like I’m pouring my affirmation into a bucket that is leaking which leaves me feeling like I can never fill you up….” (I talk about that a lot in my book Frientimacy– so that might be a good gift to give to those women?)

      I LOVE that you’re willing to keep holding up the beautiful vision. And I hope that you can see a way to show up slightly different to hopefully produce results that are less depleting of you!? Hugs and courage!!!!

      • Angela Wilkinson says:

        Loved your response, I’ll never forget a delightful woman I met complimented me and I was in the process of brushing it off and she said “say, thank you”. I’ve never forgotten that. Who doesn’t like compliments? Even if we naturally want to brush them off it is SO much more beneficial to us if we take them seriously and appreciate that someone noticed. I never have a problem accepting a compliment for say -my shoes. Why not accept one about me?

    • terry kocjan says:

      I have had this experience, it went on and on, then one day she called and wanted to share Thanksgiving with me. We talked, she is beginning to make some positive changes in her life. She thanks me now for my support, but it has been years where I listened and nothing happened.So, please, let us learn patience and empathy.

  2. Kitty says:

    This is a very beautiful article and something that has always been on my mind. We (the world) are conditioned to believe that you have to be a good friend “in the tough times” but what happens when the your friend is going through a really good time? There are no quotes saying how you should support your friend when her life is going well. We women are always afraid to shine in front of others because we don’t want our friends to feel any less than us which is why a lot of successful women are secretly lonely. My spiritual teacher once told me if you find yourself constantly feeling like you have to apologise to your friends for your success, it just might be time to find new friends that mirror back that positive side of you.

    • ShastaGFC says:

      Your point is well made about the quotes! There is way too often more drama between friends around times of joy– like weddings!– than around losses, like funerals. Although I’d slightly adjust the advice of your spiritual teacher to say that it doesn’t have to be about finding new friends as much as helping grow our current friendships into healthier relationships. Most women haven’t been taught how to be good friends and it’s amazing how much influence we can have by modeling the behavior we want, asking for what we need, saying things like “I want to make sure we’re the kind of friends that support each other’s best, too– maybe we should start a tradition when we get together for lunch of toasting one good thing in each others lives?” and basically trying to “fix” the relationship before discarding it!

  3. Ordered my copy of Frientimacy today! Can’t wait to dig in! Thank you Shasta for your passion and teaching!

  4. terry kocjan says:

    Shasta, I agree, we need to learn how to deepen our relationships before discarding them, I have tried it and it works. I regret not working harder on past relationships. Thank you Shasta

    • ShastaGFC says:

      Oh that’s so encouraging to hear! It is so disappointing to us to experience how few of our friends have been taught how to be good friends… I love that you aren’t easily walking away from your investments now! Xo