Why do we need vulnerability?

Vulnerability is defined as the quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally. It requires courage to embrace vulnerability, as it means letting go of our need to appear perfect and in control. However, being vulnerable is essential for building deep, meaningful connections, living an authentic life, and achieving true personal growth. In this article, we will explore why we need vulnerability, including its role in intimacy, authenticity, courage, creativity, and resilience.

How does vulnerability lead to greater intimacy?

Vulnerability is required for developing emotional intimacy in relationships. When we open up, reveal our true feelings, and share our innermost thoughts, we allow others to know us on a deeper level. This fosters a strong bond rooted in trust, care, and acceptance. Some ways vulnerability enables intimacy include:

  • Sharing secrets and private worries we usually keep hidden
  • Admitting flaws, insecurities, and mistakes
  • Expressing affection and appreciation for important people
  • Seeking support during difficult times

Making yourself vulnerable is scary because there is a risk of rejection. However, without it there is little chance for true closeness. Brené Brown, a prominent vulnerability researcher, explains that vulnerability is “the core of shame and fear and our struggle for worthiness, but it appears that it’s also the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love.” When we embrace vulnerability, we open the door for profoundly fulfilling human connections.

How does being vulnerable lead to greater authenticity?

Authenticity means showing your true self to the world. It requires the courage to take off your mask and stop pretending you’re someone you’re not. Vulnerability enables authenticity by giving you the confidence to:

  • Express your real thoughts, feelings, values, and beliefs
  • Be transparent about your flaws and quirks
  • Act in alignment with who you really are

Rather than putting on an act to impress or please others, you can let your guard down and be your genuine self. This liberates you from the exhausting effort of maintaining a façade. According to Dr. Brené Brown’s research, living authentically also strengthens your sense of self-worth because you stop tying your value to others’ approval. You can take pride in the courage it takes to reveal your authentic self.

How does vulnerability build courage?

It takes courage to make yourself emotionally vulnerable when there are no guarantees you won’t get hurt. But according to researcher Brené Brown, vulnerability is not just risky, it is also the birthplace of courage. Being vulnerable builds courage in a few key ways:

  • It gives you practice leaning into uncertainty and discomfort
  • It builds your ability to cope with embarrassing or difficult emotions
  • It strengthens your confidence to face fears and take risks

Like a muscle, courage is strengthened through regular exercise. Each act of vulnerability expands your courage muscle so that over time, it becomes easier to keep showing up open-heartedly and authentically. With this enhanced courage, you gain the confidence to pursue your dreams and stand up for what you believe in.

How does vulnerability fuel creativity?

Vulnerability also unlocks creativity. Opening yourself up to new ideas and taking risks is essential to the creative process. Here’s how vulnerability boosts creativity:

  • It gives you the courage to think outside the box and challenge the status quo
  • It helps you get past fears of failure or judgment that stifle innovation
  • It builds trust and psychological safety on teams to encourage creative collaboration
  • It enables you to connect more authentically with your emotions and inner truths that inspire creative expression

We often view vulnerability and creativity as opposites – vulnerability makes us feel exposed, whereas creativity requires fearless experimentation. However, it is the willingness to be vulnerable that enables people to take the risks necessary for innovation. Without vulnerability, we stick to safe, conventional solutions instead of unleashing our imaginations.

How does embracing vulnerability foster resilience?

Resilience is the ability to recover from hardship and persist through challenges. Resilience grows from vulnerability because vulnerability involves sitting with discomfort and developing coping skills. Here are some of the ways vulnerability boosts resilience:

  • Vulnerability teaches emotional regulation skills to manage difficult feelings
  • Being open about flaws and hardships makes you more adaptable in the face of setbacks
  • Vulnerability connects you with social support for getting through tough times
  • Owning your story helps you move past traumatic experiences

While vulnerability feels risky, it builds the ability to weather life’s inevitable storms. You gain confidence that you can survive pain, pick yourself up after a fall, and sit with darkness. According to researcher Brené Brown, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity.” The empowering message is that vulnerability makes you stronger, wiser and more resilient in the long run.

What are the risks of avoiding vulnerability?

Though embracing vulnerability can be uncomfortable and scary, avoiding vulnerability also comes with costs including:

  • Loneliness and disconnection from suppressing your true self
  • Loss of self-esteem from tying your worth to others’ validation
  • Self-sabotage of goals and dreams from playing small
  • Emotional burnout from constantly pretending to be fine

Avoiding vulnerability can cripple you with shame and disconnect you from your needs. It is an unsustainable approach that prevents growth. While temporary relief may come from playing it safe, real joy arises when we dare to be vulnerable. As writer Madeleine L’Engle expressed, “When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up, we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability… To be alive is to be vulnerable.” Rather than fruitlessly avoiding vulnerability, we are better off learning to embrace it.

What are some baby steps for being more vulnerable?

Since vulnerability feels risky, it helps to start small. Begin experimenting with more vulnerability in your daily life through baby steps like:

  • Admitting small imperfections, weaknesses or mistakes
  • Expressing your real feelings, opinions or beliefs in low-stakes situations
  • Letting your guard down incrementally with trusted friends and loved ones
  • Seeking support during mild challenges instead of pretending everything’s fine

Look for minor opportunities to open up or get real that feel manageable. Start with sharing something mildly personal or uncomfortable. As you build confidence, you can work up to having difficult conversations or openly airing heavy feelings. Approach vulnerability as a skill to cultivate gradually so it becomes second nature over time.

How can we create a culture of vulnerability?

In addition to embracing personal vulnerability, we need to nurture vulnerability in our communities and organizations. Here are some tips for creating a culture of vulnerability:

  • Leaders demonstrate vulnerability first to model openness and set the tone
  • Establish trust, non-judgment, and confidentiality as core values
  • Train staff on mindful listening and communication skills
  • Create safe spaces for sharing and personal reflection
  • Reward courage, candor, and risk-taking
  • Normalize fallibility and mistakes as learning opportunities

A culture of shame and secrecy squelches vulnerability while a blame-free culture focused on human dignity can let it thrive. The ingredients for a vulnerability-embracing culture include psychological safety, respect, authenticity, and human-centered values. Organizations can embed these qualities through leadership, training, community-building, and a commitment to deep human connection.

What are examples of vulnerable role models?

Seeing examples of others who dare to be vulnerable can inspire us to take courageous leaps in our own lives. Here are a few vulnerable role models and what we can learn from them:

Brené Brown

Known for her TED Talks on vulnerability and shame, Dr. Brené Brown researches and advocates for the power of vulnerability. Her willingness to be open about her struggles gives others permission to embrace their own vulnerability.

Robin Williams

Beloved comedian Robin Williams brought joy to millions, yet also spoke openly about his battles with addiction, depression and self-doubt. He taught us that even the most talented and successful wrestle with inner demons.

Malala Yousafzai

Activist Malala Yousafzai survived being shot by the Taliban for daring to get an education. Today she continues to courageously fight for human rights, showing the power of resilience.

Ellen DeGeneres

By coming out on national TV in the 1990s, Ellen faced backlash yet catalyzed acceptance of LGBTQ people in mainstream culture. She paved the way for others to live openly.

Michelle Obama

In her memoir, Becoming, Michelle Obama opened up about struggles from a miscarriage to marriage counseling. Her frankness about overcoming adversity resonates with many.

There are endless examples of public figures, leaders, artists, and everyday people who summon the courage to embrace imperfection. Their stories speak to the universal human experience of vulnerability and inspire us to live more wholeheartedly.

Why is it important to accept vulnerability in others?

Accepting vulnerability in others is just as important as embracing it in ourselves. Validation, empathy, and compassion for people’s vulnerability represents true strength according to Brené Brown. Here’s why accepting other people’s vulnerability matters:

  • It creates psychological safety that enables vulnerability and authenticity
  • It deepens bonds when people feel seen, understood, and less alone
  • It eases shame, blame, and the feeling of being pitied for hardships
  • It sets the expectation that flaws and struggles are normal and okay
  • It models openness so others feel comfortable getting support

Showing care when people reveal emotional truths, ask for help, or share imperfections has a lifting-up effect. Though our instinct may be to minimize struggles to make people feel better, respond with empathy instead. Behaviors that validate vulnerability include active listening, asking thoughtful questions, expressing care through words and actions, and non-judgment.

How can parents nurture vulnerability in children?

Parents play a key role in cultivating emotional vulnerability in children. Home should be a safe haven where kids learn to embrace vulnerability through:

  • Unconditional love and acceptance from parents
  • Validation of their full range of emotions
  • Comfort seeking support during upsets and disappointments
  • Freedom to express themselves authentically
  • Encouragement to embrace mistakes as learning opportunities

At the same time, parents need to model vulnerability for their kids by being open about their own struggles and imperfections. Admitting doubts, sharing feelings of sadness or anxiety, and asking for help when needed are all acts of courage. Children pick up on this modeling and learn they don’t have to be perfect either. A vulnerable, authentic approach to parenting fosters psychological health and resilience.


While vulnerability often feels uncomfortable or scary, embracing it is the gateway to joy, creativity, meaningful relationships, and personal growth. Perfectionism and emotional walls may appear to protect us, but they ultimately isolate us. We prevent suffering in life not by avoiding vulnerability, but by daring to engage with the world openly and wholeheartedly. With courage, compassion and connection, we can build lives of authenticity, innovation and deep fulfillment.