Vulnerability is a “hot topic” thanks to the ground-breaking work of Brene Brown and others, including her top-ranked TED Talk which has over 40 million views.
Why should we bother with vulnerability? When we can be authentically vulnerable, not “strategically vulnerable” (which is when we pretend to be vulnerable for our own gain, and that’s just manipulative), we are better leaders, better parents, better partners, better friends, and simply better, happier human beings.
Here are a few curated articles for you related to how vulnerability and authenticity go hand-in-hand. Vulnerability and authenticity aren’t the same thing exactly, but they are closely related in that they both deal with being true to yourself, who you are, what you need, and how you feel.
“You have to be honest and authentic and not hide. I think the leader today has to demonstrate both transparency and vulnerability, and with that comes truthfulness and humility.” ~ Howard Schultz ~
Two myths of leadership are that leaders must know everything all of the time and that true leaders never admit fear, insecurity, or ask for help. Total baloney. It’s been shown that the strongest leaders with the healthiest, most effective workplace cultures are quick to admit what they don’t know. They admit when they make mistakes and pivot accordingly. They share their feelings and encourage others around them to do the same.
Parenting is hard, hard work. Trying to balance correcting and guiding our children without shaming or over-reacting to their missteps is like walking the tightest of tightropes. Throw in our own exhaustion, our feelings of insecurity around our parenting, our own “stuff”, and our kid’s antics and hormones, and it’s a terrible, toxic brew. But what if we were to focus on connecting with our children? The quickest way to do that is through being real, authentic, and vulnerable with them.
Our son came into our family four years ago as a 10-year-old with a history of significant trauma. My other “trauma mamas” know what our path has looked like and how traditional parenting techniques don’t work for kids from “hard places”. In these past years, we have learned about “connected parenting” which is very different than traditional parenting. We have learned that it is more important to “connect” with our children than “correct” -- or at least to try to start with emotional connection and that leads to better, more heart-focused outcomes than focusing on the behaviors.
We have learned that all behavior is communication, and that is true for adults and children, those with trauma in their histories and those without it. So as parents, we try to be very authentic with our three teenagers about our own feelings, our own questions, and our own insecurities. Hopefully, this teaches them that it is okay to doubt themselves sometimes and how to move through that. They learn that it’s okay to ask for help and admit they don’t know everything. They learn that they can be vulnerable and that being vulnerable and talking through our “big feelings” is oftentimes much braver than hiding from our feelings and not working through them.
"In order to achieve intimacy, our partners need to know all parts of who we are and accept all of those parts, the good and the bad," Gwendolyn Nelson-Terry, MA, LMFT says. "This is how true intimacy is achieved. We are known, accepted, supported and loved. We dare show who we are and in turn our partner acknowledges, accepts, and supports all of those pieces."
If we can’t be vulnerable and authentic within the safe space of our most intimate relationships, where can we be? When we are brave enough to be vulnerable with our partners, we not only reveal our truest and deepest selves, but we give them the opportunity to do the same. This creates deeper bonds, greater communication, and a truer sense of partnership and commitment. Hopefully, our intimate relationships are the places where we can take the greatest risks emotionally and dare to be our most vulnerable so that we can both demonstrate our capacity to love and to be loved.
I don’t know about you, but it feels like it’s harder to make friends and have a “tribe” around us once we are “adulting” full-time. Kids, work, partners, home, and outside commitments make it nearly impossible to find time for that mimosa breakfast or leisurely bike ride with our friends. And it goes both ways -- we all seem to talk about wanting to get together more, but life gets in the way.
Schedules aren’t the only thing getting in the way. Sometimes our own fears about really revealing our own challenges, frustrations, and feelings of insecurity get in the way of really connecting with other women. It feels easier to post some pretty pictures on Instagram or Facebook than to really admit what the “behind the scenes” looks like. Here’s the truth: we all feel that way. We are all afraid to admit that we aren’t perfect. We are all terrified of being judged for being “less than.” None of us have it 100% together -- even though we think “she” does (only because of her social media feed).
When we can let down our guard a bit and be real with each other, amazing things happen. Beautiful friendships form. We build a support system that we didn’t realize we were missing until we had it. We can share the journey, but only when we are really ready and willing to share our true feelings and be vulnerable with each other.
“Vulnerability is the core of shame and fear and struggles for worthiness, but it appears that it’s also the birthplace of joy,” says Brene Brown, author of Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. According to Brown, we live in a society where toughness and “rugged individualism” is exalted above all else, but this squashes our freedom to be ourselves and be authentic and vulnerable with our own feelings, hopes, dreams, and insecurities, This walls us off from all of the other wonderful feelings on the human spectrum of emotion. According to Brown, the only way to have a fulfilling emotional life is through vulnerability. When people truly embrace their own vulnerability and become “wholehearted,” they become more empathetic, more compassionate, are better leaders, have deeper relationships, and become all-around happier.
When we consider why it is important to be more vulnerable and true to ourselves in every setting of our lives, it’s not just about being “better” for the sake of others. Your own happiness and contentment are critical as well, so don’t discount the power of vulnerability and a life with less shame as it relates to your own happiness and contentment.
There is great power and freedom in being true to ourselves, who we are, what we want, and what matters to us. Vulnerability and authenticity are keys to that process. It’s one thing to know what we really want in our lives (and sometimes even distilling that is hard.) But when we can confidently assert our own feeling, fears, insecurities, desires, hopes, and dreams, we are well on the way to building and having a personal and professional life rooted in what matters to us.