Value in Vulnerability
by Taylor Slattery | March 9, 2023
As creatives, being vulnerable is part of our jobs, it’s an inherent part of what we do, whether that’s photography, design, dance, or any one of the many other creative fields in which we as practitioners engage in the act of producing something from nothing, offering up a piece of ourselves for the world to judge. Creative fields offer some of the purest, most complete expressions of what it means to be a part of the human species. Our creative output is imbued with equal parts intricate technicality, unfettered imagination, and resilient ingenuity, the same qualities that have seen our species ascend from seeking shelter in cave dwellings to sending explorers to space.
These qualities are a part of what it means to be human, found deep within our DNA. At the center of everything we do as a species is vulnerability. The willingness to try, fail, and try again. This is perhaps our most important quality as it’s what enables us to excel at our various pursuits.
Creation is an act of self-reflection. We take a piece of ourselves and externalize it—giving it form and asking the world to view, receive and judge it. The key to tapping into the power of vulnerability is learning to detach from our ego. To be effective in our creative practice, and to grow as creators, we need to be able to tap into a place that’s highly vulnerable and accept that the product that emerges is a reflection of us, while not taking criticism of that thing as criticism of us personally.
These two seemingly contradictory truths can be hard to reconcile, and finding a way to balance honesty in expression with resiliency against the harsh sting of judgment is challenging, to say the least. The difficulty of this task and painful memories of past burns leads many of us to subconsciously take the easier path, presenting what we believe the world wants to see from us rather than an authentic expression of ourselves, creating from a place of fear and complacency rather than honesty and vulnerability.
However, it’s only by being honest that we can push ourselves to be better and continue to grow. True progress demands honesty, both with ourselves and through our work. That means taking chances and learning how to be comfortable not knowing the answers. This can be a scary space to be in, but it can also be liberating and even cathartic. By overriding the fear of judgment and presenting something honest we can express ourselves in ways that are only possible by allowing ourselves to be vulnerable. It’s through these authentic self-expressions that we’re able to connect with others through the things we make, providing inspiration or offering a means of processing experiences others may have been unable to articulate on their own.
Taylor is the Managing Editor of Notes on Design. Taylor is a graphic designer, illustrator, and Design Lead at Weirdsleep.