Embrace vulnerability to create connection

Steffie Verstappen
Article by: Steffie Verstappen
Embrace vulnerability to create connection

Now, here's a great TEDTalk by Brene Brown on her quest to deconstruct vulnerability. Her analysis of connection and authenticity is based on thorough qualitative research and a deeply personal journey. Vulnerability is the way to go, she argues—a conclusion that goes a long way for all of us in the multiple roles that we take on in both our professional and personal lives.


We live in a vulnerable world and one of the ways in which we deal with it is by numbing our vulnerability. Nonetheless, research shows that you cannot selectively numb emotions without numbing other affects. So when we numb our inconvenient emotions, we simultaneously numb joy, gratitude, happiness, and creativity. Which leaves us feeling miserable and looking for purpose and meaning: “We feel vulnerable but instead of exposing our true selves we have a beer and a banana nut muffin”.


Truth is, according to Brene Brown, that connection—or the ability to feel connected—is the neurobiological reason why we are here. Alternatively, shame is the fear of disconnection which is underpinned by excruciating vulnerability: in order for connection to happen, we have to put ourselves out there and allow ourselves to be seen.

Watch Brene Brown’s full TED Talk.

In her research, Brene has come to make an important distinction between the people that have a strong sense of love and belonging and the people that are always struggling with it. The people that fall into the first category she terms the “wholehearted”: people that are living for a deep sense of worthiness, because they believe that they are worthy of love and belonging. This is versus those who struggle because they are always wondering if they are good enough. The first category of people is characterized by the courage to be imperfect, by the compassion to be kind to themselves first (which is necessary in order to be able to be kind to others), and the capacity to connect with others as a result of authenticity. Perhaps most importantly, they fully appear to embrace vulnerability: “they believe that what makes them vulnerable makes them beautiful (…) and think vulnerability is necessary and fundamental”.

She concludes that vulnerability is the way to go. We need to stop controlling and predicting: “Vulnerability may form the core of shame, fear and our struggle for worthiness, but it is also the birthplace of joy, creativity, belonging, and love”.

Learn how to embrace your vulnerability in the THNK Creative Leadership Program. Visit the program page to find out if you qualify or download the program brochure.