McKella Sawyer
March 3, 2023

Creating Connection Through Vulnerability

Creating Connection Through Vulnerability

As humans, we need connection.

From day one, we humans are biologically wired to seek connection with others because this is the key to our emotional, physical, spiritual, and intellectual well-being. We can’t thrive without it.

Connection is the key to meaning and belonging. So why do so many of us struggle with creating it?

It’s because connection requires something very scary: vulnerability.

The Power of Vulnerability

Vulnerability is a powerful catalyst for connection.

The problem is, vulnerability requires us to reveal the imperfect parts of ourselves, which opens us up to rejection. That’s scary stuff!

Vulnerability isn’t good or bad. It’s simply necessary to foster connection.

In her talk “The Power of Vulnerability,” Brené Brown shares why vulnerability is so crucial for connection, why so many of us struggle with it, and how we can start to create the connection we crave.

Watch it here!

Vulnerability and Connection

We hate to break it to you, but vulnerability is non-negotiable if you want to create true connection and belonging in your life.

We can’t truly connect with someone if we don’t show them who we really are. Then they connect with the person we’re pretending to be, not the person we really are.

This is how we wind up feeling lonely in a room full of people. No one actually sees the real you when you refuse to get vulnerable.

So how can you get vulnerable?

Getting Good at Vulnerability

Or at least, better, right?

Here’s how you can learn to lean into vulnerability instead of numbing or running away from it.

Feel all the things. 

We try to selectively numb the uncomfortable feelings, but that just numbs the fun feelings too, right along with our creativity.

In order to be the full-octane-you, you need to feel it all without numbing it with alcohol, drugs, rocky road ice cream, social media, overworking, overexercising, or lashing out at others. (Or whatever your numbing agent of choice may be.)

According to Brené Brown, we might also numb uncomfortable feelings by trying to make the uncertain certain (often through dogmatic religion or politics), blaming others to deflect pain, perfectionism, or pretending to be someone we’re not.

Notice what you do when you get uncomfortable and how you might try to numb those feelings. When you feel the urge to numb, try healthy ways to feel those feelings instead, like breathwork, talking through them, journaling, or movement like yoga, walking, or dancing.

Cultivate a sense of worthiness.

In her research, Brené Brown found that those who are the most open to connection and the most comfortable with vulnerability have one thing in common: a sense of worthiness.

It makes sense, right? If you feel worthy of connection and belonging, you’re more likely to open up to it.

This seems to come pretty naturally for some people, while others struggle. How can you start to create a sense of worthiness if you’re grappling with insecurity?

One way is to start looking for evidence of your worthiness because you’ll find it! (Warning: the reverse is also true. This is just how humans work!) Think of things you’ve accomplished, people and animals who care about you, things you do for other people, etc. The point here isn’t to base your worth on external factors, but just to start building a case for your worthiness so you have some evidence to back up your claim when you start to feel unworthy.

Remember, you are worthy of connection simply because you are human.

Know that connection is out there, even if it doesn’t come from where we seek it.

If someone else can’t connect with us, that doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with us, or even with them. It’s just that maybe they can’t open to connection, or they simply don’t click with you. That’s okay! There are plenty more opportunities for connection out there.

Remember that you’re not alone. 

We all have uncomfortable feelings. We all worry that we aren’t (fill in the blank) enough sometimes. We all show up inauthentically sometimes. We all numb from time to time.

What we really want to watch out for is shame, because shame holds us back from vulnerability and connection. Shame is the fear of disconnection and the belief that if others saw our perceived imperfections, they’d reject us.

We ALL experience shame, and one of the best ways to handle it is to talk about it. Shame thrives in secrecy, but once we shine a light on it and bring it out into the open, others can say “Oh yeah, I’ve felt that too,” and we realize we aren’t alone.

Talking about shame can be scary, but practice first with someone you already trust.

(By the way, Brené Brown has a whole pile of amazing books on working with shame. Check them out!)

Contribute to an environment where vulnerability is safe.

We don’t talk about this often, but it’s important!

We ALL contribute to our surroundings in our society, at work, and especially in our homes. Think about how you respond to other’s vulnerability and ask yourself if you’re encouraging authenticity and connection, or discouraging it (even by accident).

Be careful how you use teasing (even if you think you’re being playful), sarcasm, judgment, etc. And, of course, notice when you feel uncomfortable with others’ vulnerability and practice reacting with curiosity, kindness, and openness rather than anger, irritation, or other hostilities.

This takes practice and constant reflection!

The Good News: This Is Learnable

While this might seem daunting, you can actually learn to be more “wholehearted,” as Brené Brown calls people who practice vulnerability and create genuine connection and belonging.

She’s even laid out ten Guideposts for Wholehearted Living on her website!

These guideposts and the practices above, as well as Ubuntu (one of our core values) are great places to start learning to show up more authentically.

You’ve got this!

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