Brene Brown’s learnings about vulnerability

“We live in a vulnerable world”. These words spoken by researcher and storyteller Brené Brown at her TEDx talk in 2010 – now downloaded over 50 million times – continues to resonate strongly all these years on.

We first published the below article in April 2020, as the world was coming to grips with COVID-19 and its many ramifications. Melbourne, Australia the home of Tribeca Financial, was suffering through periods of the harshest lockdowns experienced globally. So ‘vulnerability’ was very much top of mind.

Thankfully, like many places around the world, Melbourne was able to bounce back largely in part to adopting growth mindsets like Brene Brown and others. 

For those who haven’t heard of Brown, she has spent much of her working life pulling apart vulnerability – what she calls whole-hearted research – to understand why it is so important in our lives and what truly vulnerable people look like and what they can teach us.

Since her TED talk exploded in 2010, she has released number 1 bestselling books on the subject; advises military, NASA and international business; is one of the world’s most sought-after speakers; and has just launched her ‘Unlocking Us’ podcast. It has seen her become a global voice for vulnerability based on tens of thousands of pages of research and interviews, and her own experience involving a breakdown where she questioned her own views and attitudes.

So what can we learn from Brown during these uncertain times?


To be vulnerable is to be alive

Brown defines vulnerability as: “Uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure.”

No wonder she found that most people try to avoid vulnerability; in fact they try to “numb” it.

Unfortunately what happens when we numb vulnerability is that we numb emotions as well. If you try to numb all the bad emotions like fear, grief and disappointment; you also numb positive emotions like joy, gratitude and happiness. So then you’re in a catch-22, and back to feeling vulnerable again.

It’s not easy. But if we open ourselves up to vulnerability, especially at a time like this, the road ahead can actually become easier rather than harder. 

Here’s what Brown identified in people who fully embraced vulnerability:

Courage – to be imperfect. This means putting yourself out there and knowing that it’s OK to fail and not be seen as perfect.

Compassion – to be kind and gentle firstly to yourself and then to others. This leads to loving with a whole heart, practising gratitude and joy, and believing that you are enough.

Connection – to be really seen by others. This means to be the true, authentic version of yourself and not the version you think people want you to be.

Although this doesn’t come naturally for most people – Brown included – she found that people who let themselves be vulnerable had richer and more fulfilling lives.

In other words it made them more whole.

We all need connection

“Connection is why we are here. It’s what gives us purpose and meaning in our lives.”

If anything we’ve learned from the new normal we’re all living in right now, is that connection has never been more important. But as we mentioned earlier, Brown says that in order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen. Really seen.

At a time like this when we’re all uncertain and trying to be strong for our kids/families/friends, allowing ourselves to be ‘really seen’ takes a lot of courage. This means letting our guard down so we can truly connect with each other and let people know how we’re feeling. It’s OK to be scared. It’s OK to worry about our finances. It’s OK to not have the answers.

We’re not alone. We’re all feeling vulnerable. And we’re all in this together.

Let us help

We understand how people’s lives have been turned upside down by COVID-19. And we know how hard it can be to ask for help.

To be vulnerable.

Article first published in April 2020.

If you’ve been affected by this crisis (lost your job, have reduced work hours, been stood down and/or are under financial stress) we want you to know that we’re here for you. And we want to help, contact us today

Scroll to Top