In Our Vulnerability Lies Our Strength

Sad woman hugging herself, showing her vulnerability, standing on a rocky shore.

People who feel shame and unworthiness feel very uneasy about their vulnerabilities. (Image: Zakalinka via Dreamstime)

In her TED talk, Brené Brown, a social science researcher, shines the spotlight on “vulnerability” and shares her personal story of how “uncertainty” was at the heart of her own personal growth and epiphany in her research.

You see, in her career, Brené was on a mission to deconstruct “shame,” a belief that makes people feel they don’t deserve to be loved and have a connection with others. She wanted to get to the bottom of why some people put up a roadblock against connection, while others freely allow it. Brené puts it down to not feeling worthy.

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It is the fear of not being ‘worthy’ of belonging that stops belonging.

It was when Brené had her own crisis that it prompted a life-changing realization that shook up both her personal and professional worlds.

After a bumpy interlude, she could suddenly see that people who do experience close connections, belonging, and worthiness are comfortable with their vulnerabilities. Whereas, people who feel shame and unworthiness, which destroys their connection with others, feel very uneasy about their vulnerabilities.

The second group, who do not embrace vulnerability, may try to compensate for this uneasy feeling by becoming aggressive, isolating themselves, or becoming overly judgmental and critical of themselves and others as they strive for perfection, yet are never able to meet it.

Man in gray shirt has both hands raised, yelling in an aggressive manner.
One common response for people who do not embrace vulnerability is to try to compensate for it by becoming aggressive. (Image: Kurhan via Dreamstime)

These behaviors and feelings corrode self-worth and interfere with the openness and integrity of real connections with others.

From her years of research, gathering data from thousands of people, Brené identified common traits of people who feel belonging in their communities. From this list, we can take some valuable insights.

Traits of people who accept their vulnerability

  • They possess the courage to let themselves be imperfect.
  • They are able to be kind and compassionate to themselves, as well as others.
  • They are authentic in who they are.
  • They embrace their vulnerabilities, and even see beauty in them.
  • They recognize that vulnerability is an essential part of life.
  • They understand that everyone struggles with vulnerability.
  • They have seen that vulnerability can be a source of many positive things, such as inspiration and joy.
Young girl spreading hands with joy facing the sun.
Vulnerability can be a source of many positive things, such as inspiration and joy. (Image: Ferenczi 446Gyorgy via Dreamstime)

Taking the good with the bad

In her talk, Brené discusses how life contains both positive and negative feelings; you can’t numb the bad ones and only enjoy the good ones.

You can’t experience sweetness without bitterness.

Therefore, to be selective in what you want to feel would eliminate all life’s meaning, as well as the important lessons you can learn along the way.

It seems paradoxical to think that in order to experience strength and integrity in yourself, you must first embrace weaknesses and uncertainty. But I guess if life was always easy sailing and you never had to struggle, you would seldom find opportunities to learn and grow.

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