The Power of Vulnerability

By: Colleen McCarron, LPC

You’ve seen her TED Talks, her spots on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday, and most recently, her Netflix special. (If you haven’t, you can click on each to check them out!) Who is Brené Brown, and why is her work on vulnerability, shame, and connection so important?

Brown started as a researcher and professor in the social work department at the University of Houston. She loved data, controlling and predicting outcomes, and certainty. But, her findings showed that controlling the outcome was the exact opposite of what she was researching: vulnerability.

By its very definition, vulnerability is uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. Vulnerability is sharing thoughts and feelings without knowing what reaction we are going to receive. Vulnerability is at the core of all emotions and feelings.

Going on a first date, showing up to a job interview, being the first one to reach out to a friend after a big fight — these are all acts of vulnerability. We know that possible outcomes of these include getting rejected, being turned down for the job, and not getting a response. But, we also risk the beginning of a loving relationship, getting the dream job, and forgiveness and reconnection. Some of the best things that happen in life are a result of being vulnerable.

Vulnerability is not weakness. Vulnerability is the courage to show up when we cannot control what will happen. It is more a strength than a weakness.

Even if you are reading this thinking, “I don’t like to be vulnerable”, guess what? You are vulnerable just by being alive. Life is vulnerable and uncertain. Even when we try to control every aspect of our every day, we will be met with unexpected situations that require us to respond — with no script and no guarantee of perfection.

Like it or not, we are all living a vulnerable life. We can try to hide and run from it, or we can be real and face the uncertainties of life head-on, knowing we might not get it right. We will never get it right until we are brave enough to try.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”  – Brené Brown

If you’re interested in exploring the power of vulnerability, join us September 20-22 at our Rising Strong™ Women’s Retreat. Learn more here.