How vulnerability can be a good thing

Vulnerability is often something that we try to avoid. Feeling vulnerable can be a really really uncomfortable experience.  

Who is Brené Brown?

Vulnerability is a topic that Brené Brown addresses in her TEDx Houston talk from 2010 - The Power of Vulnerability.

If you have not heard of Brené Brown, she is a research professor who studies courage, vulnerability, shame and empathy. But Brené Brown is much more than a researcher - as she brings up in the beginning of her TEDx talk, some others like to think of her as a storyteller. This is because of her own personal journey that she brings into the discussions of her research.

Brené Brown (photo from Twitter @brenebrown)

Brené Brown (photo from Twitter @brenebrown)

 Once I watched her talk, I was floored with how much I was scared of being vulnerable without even realizing that’s what that feeling was. When I started this project, I was vulnerable. Vulnerable to failure and difficulty and to being open about mental health but what kept me going through that uncomfortable feeling was the undeniable feeling that I knew I had to trust myself and be open to failure if I wanted to dive in and be able to succeed. It’s bit like that saying “if you don’t try, you’ll never know.”

It was a really eye opening and inspiring video and I highly recommend taking 20 minutes out of your day to watch it. She talks about her research in shame and fear, love and worthiness, and vulnerability and she takes the time to outline her own journey of trying to “beat” vulnerability. This journey led her to figure out that vulnerability is an important part of learning to accept ourselves and becoming a “wholehearted” person.

A “wholehearted” person is someone she describes as someone courageous enough to be themselves, someone who is compassionate to themselves and someone who has formed connections by being authentic to who they are. The final characteristic is that they embraced vulnerability - wholeheartedly.

They believed what made them vulnerable, made them beautiful
— Brené Brown

Being Vulnerable

The willingness to become vulnerable and do something where there are no guarantees is a hard thing to do. But, eventually people who embrace feeling of being vulnerable start to feel more worthy according to Brown. These people believe that vulnerability is not a bad thing, instead it is actually necessary.

Brown says we need to be excruciatingly vulnerable and there is absolutely no way to avoid it. So by that logic, if we can’t avoid it, we might as well try to embrace it.

Vulnerability is kind of the core of shame and fear and our struggle for worthiness. But it appears that it is also the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love
— Brené Brown

As I mentioned before, vulnerability can be uncomfortable. But being uncomfortable is often a sign of change, and being uncomfortable can lead to some amazing things because you gave yourself a chance to try something new.

Being vulnerable can be many things. Opening up to someone can feel vulnerable, trying something new can feel vulnerable, creating something or asking for help, being turned down or waiting for a call - there are so many things that can lead you to feeling vulnerable.

Vulnerability is necessary - it is the willingness to do something where there are no guarantees - and that takes A LOT of courage to do.

So, how is vulnerability related to self-care?

Vulnerability is a difficult topic to address. Everyone is susceptible to being vulnerable. It forces us to think critically about ourselves and put ourselves out there for the world to see which can be really scary. But, as Brown says, we need to allow ourselves to become vulnerably seen by being authentic to ourselves and by being open to others.

Embracing and accepting your own vulnerability can lead to a stronger sense of self-worth, self-love and self-acceptance because you are no longer afraid to be true to who you are. In turn, you are more caring to yourself and to others over time.

In that sense, vulnerability is a form of self-care because you are allowing yourself the space to be accepting of who you are.

Though vulnerability can be an extremely difficult thing to deal with, it is necessary to grow and to become a fully “wholehearted” person who lives to the fullest in every moment and is accepting of who they are - all the time.

Now, accepting vulnerability isn’t a one-step process. It, like many other types of self-acceptance, is a journey and can take time but I encourage you to give it a try and see how vulnerability plays into your self-care.

Jennifer P