No, Being Open and Being Vulnerable Aren’t the Same Thing—Here are 4 Key Differences

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I don’t know who needs to hear this (or if the headline tipped you off) but being open is not the same as being vulnerable. Being open isn’t a bad trait by any means—openness can make you more open-minded to ideas, to adventures, to life. But openness in the guise of vulnerability is tricky. It’s the the intentional shouting of things that might be considered taboo or not typically disclosed, but you’re the alpha in a social power dynamic when you’re “open.” What does it mean to be vulnerable, then?

Vulnerability is a sacrifice of comfort, of the ego, allowing yourself to be potential prey to emotional velociraptors. So yeah, that sounds scary. But there’s a major relationship payoff: Vulnerability is the catalyst to true intimacy, that thing we all crave, that thing that makes us feel, in a round-about way, safe.

“True intimacy demands vulnerability,” says Carla Marie Manly, PhD, clinical psychologist and author of Joy From Fear. “It’s by sharing our innermost selves with another loving, safe soul that we build trust, safety, and the deepest of connections. When we are vulnerable with another person, we are saying, ‘Here I am; this is me. Do you love me? Do you accept me for all that I am?'”

It makes sense, then, that people would want to retain a sense of power and control in their relationships by volunteering information versus revealing it. Look, we’re a big fan of boundaries here, boundaries are what keep us mentally well. But thinking you’re vulnerable when you’re actually just a selective oversharer doesn’t do you or your loved ones service. Allowing room to be vulnerable will set you free.

“When these often-silent questions are met with unconditional love, acceptance, and integrity, the bond of intimacy—and the depth of the relationship—grows,” says Dr. Manly. “Being vulnerable requires a willingness to give access to one’s most sacred and sensitive inner spaces.”