Managing Vulnerabilities


We are accountable for living a “No harm” life. We do this by first taking a careful inventory of our character vulnerabilities, noting those that particularly fit us. It is only through self-awareness that we can then take accountability for managing our vulnerabilities. We cannot own what we cannot see. This requires rigorous honesty combined with unconditional self-acceptance. We are not responsible for our character, for our weaknesses, faults, or vulnerabilities, but we are responsible for managing them in order to not cause harm to ourselves or others and to live the best life possible.

The first step in learning to manage our vulnerabilities is to make a solid, unconditional commitment to our basic goodness despite our flaws. We need to make it psychologically safe to make mistakes. We accept ourselves, warts and all.

One of the best ways to enhance our self-awareness is to ask others whom we trust what they think our weaknesses are. We then listen carefully without being defensive. We can then own what fits and let go of what doesn’t fit.

Another technique for developing self-awareness is to reflect on our past and present behaviors, paying particular attention to any areas of conflict or stress. We will always discover our vulnerabilities in our difficulties. As an example, it is natural to become defensive and blame others when criticized. We protect ourselves from feeling bad by making the other person bad. Looking at our behavior, do we defend ourselves out of a need to be right, or do we seek to understand the other person’s concern and address those concerns out of care for that person’s well being? Do we attack and blame, or do we own what is ours to own and work to ease the other person’s concerns? In this case the vulnerability would be insecurity. It is very helpful to reflect, at the end of each week, on the week’s events. What went well? What didn’t go so well? Why did it not go well? What was my role in it? What could I have done differently that would have either avoided or resolved a difficulty or conflict? As long as we give ourselves permission to be imperfect and make mistakes, then we can lower our defenses to look within at what we do to contribute to our difficulties.

The following is a list of character vulnerabilities. A good place to start with self-management is to identify the top ten vulnerabilities that cause the greatest difficulty:

  1. Abusive: Mistreating, hurting, or harming others.
  2. Aloof: Being indifferent to or disinterested in others. Being apart from others.
  3. Angry: Prone to strong feelings of displeasure over a perceived wrong or failure of others to meet one’s expectations.
  4. Antagonistic: Oppositional, hostile, unfriendly.
  5. Anxious: Not as a clinical diagnosis but as a general way of viewing things with an eye toward what is wrong, what might be wrong, what has been wrong or what is going to be wrong. Excessive worry, especially about things one cannot change.
  6. Apathetic: Indifferent, unresponsive, having or showing little or no emotion.
  7. Apologetic: (overly). Apologizing for events beyond our control or for which we had no responsibility.
  8. Appearances: (preoccupied or obsessed with).
  9. Argumentative: Tendency to disagree with or oppose the statements of others.
  10. Arrogance: Offensive display of superiority or self-importance; overbearing pride.
  11. Avarice: Insatiable greed for riches or material possessions.
  12. Avoiding confrontation: Failure to assert one’s needs or to address the harmful behavior of others.
  13. Beating yourself up: Inappropriate self-condemnation and lack of self-acceptance of one’s mistakes and imperfections.
  14. Beauty (obsession or preoccupation with).
  15. Bigotry: Stubborn and complete intolerance of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from one’s own.
  16. Blaming: To hold other’s responsible or to condemn others for actions and events, particularly as a way of avoiding accountability for one’s own role in bringing about these actions and events.
  17. Boastful: To be predisposed to speaking with exaggeration and excessive pride, especially about oneself.
  18. Boundaries: (not setting). Either inappropriately sharing information about oneself or inappropriately asking others for personal information about themselves.
  19. Busybody: Prying into or meddling in the affairs of others.
  20. Cheating: To deceive, defraud, elude, or deprive someone of something that is rightfully theirs.
  21. Closed mindedness: Contempt prior to investigation. Disregarding things and ideas just because they are new and unknown. Being unwilling to try things or follow suggestions. Failing to remain teachable. Having a mind firmly unreceptive to new ideas or arguments.
  22. Codependent: maintaining a relationship that is harmful to oneself out of fear of losing the relationship.
  23. Cold-heartedness: An inability to feel authentic warmth, care, or sympathy.
  24. Communication (avoiding, poor). Not expressing oneself clearly, authentically, and respectfully. Engaging in hurtful speech.
  25. Companions (seeking corrupt/lower). Associating with people with negative or destructive behaviors (either to self, such as with addictions, or to others, such as with sociopathy.
  26. Competitive (excessively). Excessive tendency to strive to outdo another for acknowledgment, a prize, supremacy, profit, etc.
  27. Complaining: Negatively focusing on what is wrong. Lacking acceptance of what one does not like or prefer. Avoidance of problem solving or seeing how a situation can be improved or corrected.
  28. Complacent: Pleased, especially with oneself or one’s merits, advantages, situation, etc., without awareness of a potential danger or defect; unrealistically self-satisfied.
  29. Conceit: Having an excessively favorable opinion of one’s own virtue, ability, importance, wit, gifts, or talents.
  30. Condemning: Excessively harsh negative judgments of others with a lack of compassion and understanding. Lack of acceptance of one self’s or others’ imperfections and humanity.
  31. Confrontation: (avoiding out of fear or a lack of self-worth).
  32. Controlling attitude toward people places and things: Trying to control others by manipulation, bribery, punishment, withholding things or tricking them into acting as we wish, even when we believe it is in their best interest to do so. Failing to be equal partners with others and to consider their knowledge and opinions.
  33. Cowardice: Lacking in courage to face danger, difficulty, opposition, pain, etc.
  34. Critical: Inclined to find fault or to judge with severity, often too readily.
  35. Crude: lacking in intellectual subtlety, perceptivity. Lacking culture, refinement, or tact.
  36. Dependency, over dependency, codependency: Relying on others to provide for us what we ought to provide for ourselves. Feeling we must be in a relationship or must hold on to others who want to move on. Letting others control us to an extreme due to our fear of being alone, abandoned or independent.
  37. Destructive: Causing harm to self or others.
  38. Devious: Not being straightforward with others. Being shifty or crooked in one’s dealings with others.
  39. Different (thinking you are).
  40. Disease (feeling responsible for/taking credit for, making excuses for, not accepting).
  41. Dishonesty: Sins of omission and commission. Telling lies, hiding things, telling half-truths or pretending something is so that isn’t. Withholding important information. Adding untrue details to stories and situations.
  42. Disorganized: Lacking organization, planning in one’s daily affairs.
  43. Egotistical: Given to talking about oneself; vain; boastful; opinionated, indifferent to the well-being of others; selfish.
  44. Envious: Wanting what others have, feeling we don’t have enough or deserve more. Wishing we had what others do instead of them. This applies to material possessions like houses, cars, money and such. It also applies to nonmaterial things like relationships, a nice family, children, parents, friends and partners and fulfilling work relationships. We can envy others—their looks and physical appearance, their talents and physical abilities or attributes such as thinness, tallness, sports ability or musical talent.
  45. Exaggeration: Embellishing or overstating the truth in order to enhance one’s image with other, to impress others, or to make others or events either worse or better than they really are.
  46. Excess: Overindulgence in pleasurable activities. Acquiring more than what one needs.
  47. Exploitative: To take advantage of others for one’s own selfish gain.
  48. Faith (lack of faith). Lacking confidence or trust in others or things. Lacking belief, such as in a code of ethics or in moral principles
  49. Fanatical: extreme, uncritical enthusiasm or zeal. Often in religion or politics.
  50. Fantasizing: Conceiving fanciful or extravagant notions, ideas, suppositions, or the like. Becomes a vulnerability when fantasizing becomes a substitute for reality and purposeful action.
  51. Favoritism (playing favorites). Not treating others equally. Not being impartial.
  52. Fearful: Prone to excessive fear, dread, or apprehension.
  53. Filthy-mindedness: Tendency to think about crude or degrading subject.
  54. Financially dependent on others: Failure to support oneself financially, to stand on one’s own two feet.
  55. Financially insecure: Failure to save and budget.
  56. Following through: (failing to) Lack of accountability to do what one says one will do.
  57. Forgiveness: (lack of) An inability to let go of resentments for the perceived misdeeds of others.
  58. Frustration: Feeling dissatisfied, often accompanied by anxiety or depression, resulting from unfulfilled needs or unresolved problems.
  59. Gluttony
  60. Greed: Wanting and taking too much: food, sex, time, money, comfort, leisure, material possessions, attention, and security. Acquiring things (material things, relationships, attention) at the expense of others.
  61. Gossiping: Speaking or writing about others in a negative manner especially to get them in trouble or to feel superior to them and bond with someone else against the target of the gossip. When I find myself talking about someone I must pause and check out why I am mentioning their name.
  62. Guilt: Feeling excessive guilt about sexual fantasies or other socially unacceptable thoughts; excessive feelings of guilt out of proportion to the act; feeling guilty for things beyond our control.
  63. Harshness: Being ungentle, unpleasant, stern, or cruel.
  64. Hatred: Of self, people, places, things, situations. Showing intense dislike, extreme aversion, or hostility.
  65. Health, (lack of responsibility for or neglect of). Engaging in actions that are harmful to one’s health, such as not getting exercise, eating excessively or eating foods that are harmful to the body, or engaging in addictions, such as smoking, that damage the body.
  66. Help, (refusing/not asking for). An inability to recognize and accept one’s need for assistance. An inability to ask for help or to allow others to offer help.
  67. Hopelessness: A persistent feeling that what one wants cannot be had. That events will turn out for the worse. That nothing good can result from a situation.
  68. Humility: a lack of humility – Having an exaggerated opinion or estimate of one’s own importance, rank, or status. Having a denial or disregard for one’s own imperfections, weakness, or vulnerabilities.
  69. Inaction: Failure to act according to the demands of a situation.
  70. Inconsiderate: Lacking regard for the rights or feelings of others. Acting without consideration of others. Being thoughtless of the feelings or needs of others.
  71. Indecisive: Inability to make a decision when faced with a choice.
  72. Indifferent: Lacking interest or concern for people or events.
  73. Ignorant: Lacking common basic life knowledge. Being uninformed or unaware.
  74. Immodest: Being indecent, shameless, pretentious, or forward with others.
  75. Impatience: Being frustrated by waiting, wanting often to be some time in the future, wanting something to change or improve rather than accepting it as it is. Not accepting the pace that things happen.
  76. Impulsive: Acting or saying something without thinking through the consequences. Inability to inhibit urges or the expression of emotions.
  77. Inadequate: Feeling deficient, inept, unsuitable, or ineffective in response to emotional, social, intellectual, or physical demands in the absence of any obvious mental or physical deficiency.
  78. Insecure: Feeling fears or doubts about one’s abilities, talents, thoughts, or feelings. Not feeling self-confident or self-assured.
  79. Insensitive: Unresponsive to or unaware of the needs and feelings of others. Lacking human sensibility, feelings for others, or consideration of others. Being callous.
  80. Insincere: Not being honest in the expression actual thoughts or feelings.
  81. Intolerance: Not accepting people or things for whom or what they are.
  82. Irresponsible: Not being accountable for things that are within one’s power, control, or management. Failing to meet promises or obligations. Behaving with disregard for what is appropriate or expected.
  83. Isolative: Avoiding social contact with others.
  84. Inventory taking: Focusing on the actions, issues, traits, and flaws of others in order to avoid looking closely at oneself and take accountability for one’s own actions, issues, traits, and flaws.
  85. Judgmental: Noticing and listing out loud or to ourselves the faults of others. Passing judgment on others without a full understanding. Condemning others for their mistakes and imperfections, often while disregarding one’s own mistakes and imperfections. Having a lack of compassion for human imperfection.
  86. Jealous: Upset or threatened by someone’s attachment to or affection for another person, leading to feelings of hurt, anger, resentment, fear, or suspiciousness. Intolerance of rivalry for the affections of another person.
  87. Knowing it all: A compulsive need to have an answer to everything. An inability to not know, to doubt, or to be open to the opinions, explanations, or observations of others.
  88. Lazy: Not wanting to work, exert oneself, or engage in activities.
  89. Leering: Looking at others with lustful interest or with sly and malicious intentions.
  90. Lifestyles: (not accepting others’). A belief that one’s personal lifestyle is the best and only appropriate lifestyle. An intolerance of the differing lifestyles and cultures of other people.
  91. Love and friendship: (refusal to accept). An inability to engage in mutual, caring relationships in with people give and receive love and friendship.
  92. Lustful: Being driven by an intense sexual desire or appetite, with uncontrolled illicit sexual desires. An overwhelming craving for something (sex, power, money, possessions, etc.).
  93. Manipulative: Attempting to influence the behavior or emotions of others for one’s own purpose, often with a disregard for others well-being.
  94. Materialistic: Excessively concerned with physical comforts or the acquisition of wealth and material possessions, rather than with spiritual, intellectual, or cultural values.
  95. Measuring self against others: Inability to accept oneself for who one is, leading to comparing oneself to others. When comparing oneself to others we see as better that we, this leads to feelings of inferiority, envy, and resentment. When comparing ourselves to others less fortunate or talented than we, this leads to feelings of superiority, arrogance, or false pride.
  96. Meddlesome: Involving oneself in a matter without right or invitation. Interfering in the affairs of others when this is not welcome.
  97. Messy: Tendency to be dirty, untidy, or disorderly.
  98. Miserly: To be stingy or greedy. To focus on gaining and hoarding material wealth or good.
  99. Negative body image: To have a lack of acceptance and appreciation for one’s body. To be overly preoccupied with one’s perceived bodily imperfections.
  100. Negative: Seeing the dark side of a situation. Focusing on problems and defects rather than on opportunities, solutions, strengths, or assets.
  101. Neglectful: Disregarding, indifferent, careless, failing to carry out duties and obligations to others. Failing to pay attention to others or to one’s own needs.
  102. Opinionated: Obstinate or conceited with regard to the merit of one’s own opinions. Conceitedly dogmatic. Inability to consider the opinions, viewpoints, or observations of others.
  103. Overcompensating: (for projected wrongs, for weaknesses). Pursuing perfection or overachievement to cover up an underlying feeling of being defective, inadequate, or deficient in some way.
  104. Perfectionism: Expecting or demanding too much from oneself or others. Treating things that aren’t perfect as not good enough. Not recognizing a good try or progress.
  105. Pessimism: Not as a clinical condition but as a way to generally see the dark, negative side of things.
  106. Physical appearance: (obsession or preoccupation with). Overinvesting in one’s physical appearance as a sign of one’s value, appeal, attractiveness, or self-worth, at the expense of a consideration of one’s actions or character.
  107. Playing God: Arrogantly attempting to control people, places, or things, with a sense of grandiosity and entitlement, feeling that one’s opinions, needs, and preferences are superior to others’.
  108. Possessive: Jealously opposed to the personal independence and autonomy of another person. Being unwilling to share people or things with others.
  109. Preachy: Tediously or pretentiously lecturing others.
  110. Prejudiced: Pre-judging people based on a group they belong to. Negative feelings about someone based on their religion, race, nationality, age, disability, sexual orientation, accent, politics, economic status, physical characteristics like height, weight, hair style, clothing style, physical fitness.
  111. Prideful: (false, intellectual, spiritual). Excessively high or inordinate opinion of one’s own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority, whether as cherished in the mind or as displayed in bearing, conduct, etc.
  112. Procrastinating: Putting off or delaying doing things that need to be done.
  113. Rationalizing, minimizing, and justifying: Avoiding responsibility or accountability for one’s actions by making excuses.
  114. Self-justification: Saying and/or believing one had good motives for bad behavior. Saying that one did bad things for good reasons or that what one did really wasn’t that bad.
  115. Stealing: Taking things that aren’t ours and that we aren’t entitled to.
  116. Racist: Believing that one’s own racial group is superior or that a particular racial group is inferior to the others.
  117. Reckless: Unconcerned about the consequences of one’s actions. Acting carelessly and without caution.
  118. Remorseful: Excessive tendency to be absorbed in painful regret for wrongdoing. Inability to forgive oneself, learn from past mistakes and misdeeds, and resolve to do better in the future.
  119. Resentment: The feeling of displeasure or indignation at some act, remark, person, etc. regarded as causing injury or insult.
  120. Rigidity and fear of change: Stubbornly sticking to one belief, perception, habit, or way of doing things in the face of changing circumstances that call for changes to improve upon a situation.
  121. Rudeness: Being deliberately impolite or discourteous.
  122. Sarcastic: Tendency to make derisive, sneering, taunting, or cutting remarks.
  123. Secretive: Tendency to withhold the truth from others, either out of fear, or to gain an advantage over others.
  124. Self-Absorbed: Focusing on one’s own needs, feelings, and thoughts at the expense of attending to the needs, feelings, and thoughts of others.
  125. Self-Aggrandizing: A preoccupation with increasing one’s own power and wealth, usually aggressively.
  126. Self-Centered: Concerned solely or chiefly with one’s own interests, welfare, etc.; engrossed in self; selfish; egotistical.
  127. Self-Condemning: To excessively disapprove or negatively judge oneself. Driven by a lack of self-acceptance or a need to be perfect.
  128. Self-Deprecating: Belittling or undervaluing oneself; being excessively modest.
  129. Self-Hatred: Having an intense dislike or hostility towards oneself.
  130. Self-Important: Having or showing an exaggerated opinion of one’s own importance; pompously conceited or haughty.
  131. Self-Indulgent: Indulging one’s own desires, passions, whims, etc., especially without restraint.
  132. Self-Justifying: Justifying oneself, especially by offering excessive reasons, explanations, excuses, etc., for an act, thought, or the like.
  133. Self-Loathing: A strong dislike or disgust in oneself; and intense aversion to oneself.
  134. Self-Pity: Pity for oneself, especially a self-indulgent attitude concerning one’s own difficulties, hardships, etc.
  135. Self-Reliant: Relying on oneself or on one’s own powers, resources, etc. This becomes a vulnerability when one refuses to ask for or accept help when facing a problem one cannot overcome by oneself.
  136. Self-Seeking: The seeking of one’s own interest or selfish ends.
  137. Selfishness: Spending excessive time thinking about oneself. Considering oneself first in situations. Not having enough regard for others or thinking about how circumstances hurt or help others. Thinking about what one can get out of situations and people. What’s in it for me? Spending too much time considering one’s appearance, acquiring things for oneself, pampering oneself, indulging oneself.
  138. Setting expectations: (too low or too high—of self or others).
  139. Sex: A vulnerability when compulsive, selfish, deceptive, or harmful to self/others.
  140. Skeptical: Prone to excessive doubt or disbelief.
  141. Sloth: Not doing as much as is reasonable for to do. Putting things off repeatedly. Not carrying one’s own load as much as one is able. Letting others provide things for oneself that one ought to get for oneself.
  142. Step on others to get to top: Grasping for power at the expense of others.
  143. Stewardship of assets: (poor). Failing to conserve important resources.
  144. Suspicious: A tendency to believe others are guilty, false, undesirable, defective, or bad, with little or no proof.
  145. Thoughtless: Lacking in consideration for others; inconsiderate; tactless:
  146. Thrill-seeking: Compulsive and excessive pursuit of excitement at the expense of other important life-goals.
  147. Uncharitableness: Deficient in charity; unkind; harsh; unforgiving; censorious; merciless.
  148. Uncleanliness: Tendency to be unclean, dirty, impure, evil, or vile.
  149. Uncompassionate: Failure to experience a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a lack of desire to alleviate the suffering.
  150. Undependable: Incapable of being depended upon; unworthy of trust; unreliable.
  151. Undisciplined: Failing to keep to a task or obligation with order and control.
  152. Unfaithful: Not fulfilling duties, obligations, or promises. Being disloyal to another person.
  153. Ungrateful: Lacking gratitude for one’s gifts.
  154. Uniqueness: (terminal). Believing that one has unique powers, qualities, or talents that make them different from and superior to others.
  155. Unjust: Not treating others fairly or justly.
  156. Unreliable: Failing to do what one says, to keep commitments, or to follow through.
  157. Untrustworthy: Undeserving of trust; undependable; unreliable.
  158. Vain: Excessively proud of or concerned about one’s own appearance, qualities, achievements, etc.; conceited:
  159. Vengeful: Desiring to inflict injury, harm, humiliation, or the like, on a person who has harmed them; violent revenge
  160. Vulgar, Immoral Thinking: Thinking that lacks good taste, or is indecent, obscene, lewd, crude, coarse, or unrefined.
  161. Wasteful: Given to useless and unnecessary consumption or expenditure.
  162. Wishing ill of others: Possessing a strong desire for others to suffer.
  163. Worry: Tendency to torment oneself or suffer from disturbing thoughts.

We can see from this list that there are many ways in which we can go astray. Once we have acknowledged our vulnerabilities, we then make a commitment, with the help of others if necessary, to not acting them out, as best we can. This is a lifelong practice, as we will inevitably make mistakes because of our vulnerabilities on daily basis, if not several times a day. Change takes time and effort. It takes practice and persistence. The key is to reflect, identify, and correct, as quickly and as consistently as possible. If we note that we have a short temper, we resolve to work on our anger. If we notice that we are possessive or controlling in our relationships, we practice “living and letting live.” If we notice that we are judgmental, we practice acceptance and tolerance of others. If we notice that we are self-absorbed, we practice reflecting every day on those we care for.

As with any practice, perfection is not realistic. When we make mistakes, which we do and will continue to do, we simply own them, make amends when needed, and move on. Progress, and not perfection, is the goal.