How to Embrace Vulnerability In Order To Achieve Your Goals

on July 16, 2020 • Grace


Brené Brown’s 2010 TED talk called The Power of Vulnerability is one of the most viewed TED talks in the world. That’s because it really resonates: She talks about how she tried for years to understand what causes people to connect, to grow and to achieve their goals. 

Finally, she uncovered the secret ingredient. It was vulnerability — the ability to be authentic, to show your true self and to give your all to something, even if it could end in disappointment, failure or heartbreak. 

The power of vulnerability truly cannot be denied. Embracing vulnerability helps you: 

  • Connect with others. 
  • Connect with yourself. 
  • Take advantage of every opportunity. 
  • Conquer challenges and, therefore, become stronger. 
  • Experience everything life has to offer. 

Because of all of this, vulnerability has the power to help you achieve your goals, whether you’re looking to boost your career, take on a fitness challenge or try something you’ve always dreamt of doing. Here’s how to use vulnerability to turn those goals into reality:

Identify Your Shame

Brené Brown explains, “The difficult thing is that vulnerability is the first thing I look for in you and the last thing I’m willing to show you. In you, it’s courage and daring. In me, it’s weakness.”

In other words, we often associate our own vulnerability with shame. We’re afraid of what people will think and how they will measure our worth if we show our vulnerability. We also tend to attach our own self-worth to the standards of others — what we create, how much we make, how often we make mistakes. 

As psychoanalyst and author Robert Stolorow says, “It is pervasive in our culture to regard vulnerability as something shameful. It’s seen as an abhorrent weakness to be kept hidden and evaded, or counteracted through some form of reactive aggression.”

However, when we hide ourselves away from vulnerability in order to avoid the emotions associated with shame, we also avoid the good emotions that motivate us to achieve success. 

In order to start embracing vulnerability and achieving your goals, you first have to identify what is holding you back: your shame. As Brown found, the root of shame in most people when it comes to vulnerability include:

  • The expectation to be perfect. 
  • The expectation to do everything
  • Comparing oneself to others. 
  • Ranking everything they do. 
  • Too much work, and too little play. 
  • The fear of looking weak. 

Identify what is holding you back by asking yourself:

  • What am I afraid of?
  • What makes me feel insecure, self-conscious or anxious? What makes me doubt myself?
  • Where do I want to be braver? 

Remove Your Armour

Once you’ve identified your shame, you must then figure out how you are protecting yourself from vulnerability. Brown calls this your armour — it is whatever tactic you are using to shield yourself from both failure and success. 

There are several different types of armour that people use, including:

  • Perfectionism: Having to do everything perfectly, and if it’s not perfect, not doing it at all. 
  • Numbing: Using anything from alcohol to food to work to deaden your true feelings and desires. 
  • Cynicism or sarcasm: The thought that nothing works out anyway, so why try to achieve success in the first place. 

Each type of armour is really just “a twenty-ton shield that we lug around, thinking it will protect us, when in fact it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from being seen,” as Brown says. 

It is important to remember that we are equally our successes and our failures. It is having the vulnerability to embrace both that helps us grow, learn and achieve our goals. 

Put down your shields, dismiss your shame and start living with vulnerability by:

  • Acknowledging your weaknesses, then looking for the strength in them. 
  • Staying mindful when you find yourself using numbing tactics, and coming up with an alternative. Try journaling, or meditating, or reaching out to a mentor. 
  • Listing your genuine and most desired goals, then pasting them where you will see them every day. 
  • Practicing self-love and self-belief by repeating to yourself, I am worthy. The more confidence and respect you have in yourself, the less scared you are of shame. 

Lean Into The Discomfort

Vulnerability consists of uncertainty, risk, and exposure — all things that are designed to make you feel uncomfortable. 

As Brené Brown says, “I spent a lot of years trying to outrun or outsmart vulnerability by making things certain and definite, black and white, good and bad. My inability to lean into the discomfort of vulnerability limited the fullness of those important experiences that are wrought with uncertainty: Love, belonging, trust, joy, and creativity to name a few.”

During her research, Brown discovered that the people who did lean into the discomfort not only experienced those emotions such as love and creativity, but they also had an overall “wholeheartedness.” 

This trait translated to their ability to believe in their own worthiness. In other words, the people who lean into feelings of discomfort are more likely to know their worth. This doesn’t mean that they are less likely to get hurt or to fail — they just have the worthiness to overcome these moments without letting it affect their self-confidence. 

Here are a few ways to start leaning into your discomfort in order to achieve your goals:

  • Ask for help when you need it instead of closing yourself off from connections. 
  • Share your feelings as you feel them, whether that be anger, pride, heartbreak or hope. 
  • Embrace your failures and mistakes, and always find something to learn from them. 

Start Daring Greatly

Another aspect of embracing discomfort is taking risks. Only when we start taking risks — or daring greatly, as Brené Brown calls it — can we start achieving great things. And in order to take risks and dare greatly, we must be vulnerable. 

Brown borrowed the phrase “daring greatly” from Theodore Roosevelt’s speech, “Citizenship in a Republic.” During this speech, the American president said, “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 at best knows the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”

In other words, it is vulnerability that allows you to stare fear in the face and still continue forward. This is what encourages you to try a new experience, even when you don’t know what the outcome will be. In fact, it was vulnerability that allowed Brown to do her TED talk, and she considers herself a much braver person now that she has allowed herself to be vulnerable. 

As Stolorow says, “Courageously facing life’s challenges does not mean being fearless; it means bearing vulnerability rather than fleeing from it.

Start daring greatly now by:

  • Admitting what you really want, rather than settling for something that feels expected or easy. Then going for it! 
  • Trying a new experience, even if it is as small as taking a class in something you’ve always been interested in. This will help you build confidence to try something riskier in the future. 
  • Telling yourself “I can’t do this yet” when faced with a challenge, instead of simply saying “I can’t do this.”

For more motivation to go out there and make your goals a reality, check out my other blogs here!

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