Feeling Vulnerable? Use it to Your Advantage

dealing with vulnerabilityA wonderful woman came to me one day and said,

“James, I want you to fix me.”

I was taken aback. She explained:

“I want you to tell me everything I’m doing wrong. I want to know the right way to do it. I’ll change, and then I’ll finally meet the right man. I just know everything will work out once I know what’s wrong with me.”

I sat in silence for a moment. This woman was attractive, friendly, and confident. She had a decent career and good people skills.

“Okay,” I said. “Tell me what you think is wrong with you.”

She pulled out a list. She’d had it since New Year’s Eve, when she spent a few hours thinking hard about her life and what was stopping her from having the life she wanted.

She read it out loud to me. The list included being too nice, too talkative, too naïve, and falling in love too fast. She also considered it a problem that she was too heavy around the hips and thighs, was starting to show her age and didn’t know how to dress for dates.

“Can you fix me?” she asked again. “I’m tired of going through life like this.”

“No,” I said.

She looked shocked. “But why? Am I too far gone?”

Then I told her what I’m going to tell you now.

Each flaw we think we have is a beautiful imperfection.

Brené Brown has a wonderful book, The Gifts of Imperfection, in which she writes that wholehearted living requires us to stand up and proclaim:

“Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging.”

We often think we must fix every place we are imperfect or broken to stand a chance at love. Men are no different. We all want to hide the places we feel vulnerable so that the opposite sex only sees the shine and polish of a perfect potential mate.

The ironic thing is…

It is those places in which we are vulnerable, imperfect or wounded that endear us to the right mate.

Imperfection is endearing. It’s beautiful in its own way. The Japanese have a phrase for it: “wabi sabi,” or the beauty of that which is imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.

From a masculine perspective, the feminine is always flawless.

A woman thinks she’s showing her age around her eyes. A man sees a smiling woman with a twinkle in her eye.

A woman sees a few extra pounds around the hips and thighs. A man sees an hourglass figure.

A woman spends hours selecting the right outfit for a date. A man sees a nicely-dressed woman.

It’s hard for women to see themselves as men do. If a woman is friendly, nice, confident and chatty, then a man feels good in her company. He’s not noticing all the 1001 mistakes she thinks she’s making. He’s just there, with her, enjoying the experience of her.

And here’s the real saboteur.  It’s her thinking that results in a bad feeling.  Her feeling that she must be doing something wrong.

Maybe they say goodbye, and she immediately notices he didn’t ask for her number. She berates herself for coming on too strong. She feels depressed, goes home, and eats a pint of ice cream in front of the television. Meanwhile, he’s strolling home with a spring in his step, feeling happy because he enjoyed himself talking with an attractive woman.

Everything is perception.

“Why do your flaws have to be fixed for you to have a chance with men?” I asked my client. “Perhaps, if you could learn to love your imperfections, a man could, too.”

She nodded slowly. I could tell she wasn’t convinced.

“Perhaps,” I told her, “trying to be perfect is what is pushing men away. A man needs to know you’re not perfect in order to be imperfect around you.”

We all need permission before we can show our true selves around others.

dealing with vulnerabilityThe easiest way to give someone permission to be authentic is to let down your guard first. Stand in your imperfection. No need for apologies, humility or self-effacement. Simply be who you are, even if that’s not who you think he wants.

It’s incredible how fast people connect when they drop their defenses early in a relationship. They get to know each other at a deeper level. As a result, they can make better informed decisions about whether a romantic relationship is possible.

The chink in the armor is where the light gets through.


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13 thoughts on “Feeling Vulnerable? Use it to Your Advantage

  1. Lisa said:

    Hi James… I’ve read quite a few of your topics but I have to say that this one hit home… I just met a great guy and on our second date, I put it all out there… flaws and all, and basically said, this is me so if any of this is a deal breaker, let’s end it now before someone gets hurt. He just said, it’s all good, held my hand all evening and was very attentive. I’ve seen first hand that not being perfect really does work to attract someone. Thank you so much for putting this info out there for everyone!

    • James Bauer said:

      People like you make it a pleasure, Lisa. Thanks for your encouraging feedback.

  2. Sue said:

    James I’ve been friends with a guy for 2 years who lost his wife 3 years ago and doesn’t seem to want to tell his only child about me because he feels she’s going to be really upset! He says he feels like he’s cheating on his late wife! Our relationship has been a totally platonic friendship. My husband died 10 years ago and I’m ready for a romantic relationship… we’re not getting any younger and he’s such a super guy but how long do I wait? I love him and he says he loves me… I know we could be happy but I’m wondering if he wants to be happy or feel sorry for himself?

    • James Bauer said:

      Hi Sue. It sounds like he needs some kind of permission to live fully (including romantic relationships) now that his wife has passed. If you analyze his reasoning process, it seems to come from a strong need to please others (impression management). He’s worried about how his child would react. He’s worried about how his wife would react.

      Perhaps what he needs is permission.

      And for that, one of the best things is if you can get him to talk to his friends about it. His friends will see past the guilty emotions he is having and give him the emotional permission he needs to engage fully in life again. Asking friends to weigh in on the decision will also give him the much-needed social validation necessary so that impression management starts to work for your relationship instead of against it.

      James

  3. Arnette Rodgers said:

    I LOVE James Bauer!!

    Your website (and your insight) is so warm, engaging, and compassionate! Your replies are usually “spot-on”! Thank You for being You!!

    • James Bauer said:

      Aww…shucks. That was very sweet of you to say.

  4. Pingback: How to Be More Vulnerable in Relationships | Your Brilliance

  5. Karen O said:

    “If a woman is friendly, nice, confident and chatty, then a man feels good in her company. ”

    And if she is not “chatty”?

    What I have noticed in such duscussions is that certain flaws are endearing for their human quality or add a bit of quirk that helps you stand out as an indivudual….but then other flaws are seen as annoying, turn-offs, or even deal-breakers.

    So what if a woman is not friendly, not “nice”, not confident, and not chatty (i.e. shy or introverted, with a cool, non-“nice” demeanor, at least initially)?

  6. kimberlyklester Lester said:

    A male friend of mine (after twenty some years) called me randomly and asked me to go out for drinks after work. We had a good time and spent some time together . Then the next weekend we went to his brothers house and we played cards. Then he took me to a movie (holding my hand the whole time). Now I am getting the cold shoulder what do I do. Phone calls or texts every night for three months than nothing what do I do?

  7. Catherne M. said:

    Please tell me more about the writing piece entitled:
    3 Questions to ask yourself before getting involved with him.

    Truth be known, I already am deeply in-like and involved in an exclusively monogamous physical relationship and boyfirend/girlfriend with a man. I use your Be Irrestible pointers to “check in” with how I am doing :-)…wanting this to develop into a healthy, happy and long lasting partnership.
    The question: “Based on my gut feelings, would he be capable of loving someone more than he loves himself? Would he put the relationship first in his life?” …leaves me wondering wha are some examples of how a woman would see these two questions in action? He was married for 26 years to a woman who, no matter what they did – programs, rehab, etc – could not turn away from alcohol, who died of the disease alcoholism two years after their divorce( three years ago) and yet he has two beautiful adult daughters (24 and 29) with whom he is very close.
    Please advise.
    Thank you.

    • James Bauer said:

      Catherine, the answer to your question is hidden within your question.

      He stayed with a woman who put alcohol ahead of everything else in life (even ahead of her own life). He stuck with her and invested in that person as well as his daughters. So that answers the question, “would he be capable of loving someone more than he loves himself?”

      Clearly the answer is yes.

      James

      • Catherne M. said:

        Dear James,
        I love the fact that the answer was, as you so aptly put it, “hidden within the question”.
        A clever way for you to reply, but most importantly the answer is true and bold for all to see 🙂
        You will never know just how much this communication means to me. Then again, perhaps you do have a sense regarding the significance of your guidance.
        Thank you, kind sir. Thank you.
        By the way, are you ever in need of more “staff reply” help? Although still employed at an Australian Active Wear clothing company for women, I am in search of a job which would use my amazing writing skills and ‘gifts of psychology / compassion’ at the same time…
        Might there be such niche working for “Be Irresistable” ?
        Again, my gratitude for your correspondence.
        Sincerely and Blessings Abound,
        Catherine McAllister

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