Posted by: Joan Brooks | July 31, 2012

What is Your Relationship to Vulnerability?

I recently watched a TED Talk by Dr. Brene′ Brown, who has studied human connection — our ability to empathize, belong, love – for many years. (Link to TED Talk: She was most interested in the people in her studies who easily experienced connection and intimacy with others. What she discovered is that they have an underlying sense of worthiness based on a strong sense of love and belonging. She found them to be wholehearted and to have the following qualities:

  1. The courage to be imperfect.
  2. The compassion to be kind to themselves first then others.
  3. An authenticity that helped them connect to others.
  4. The vulnerability to say “I love you” first or to do something with no guarantee of success.

So, I asked myself, what is my current relationship to vulnerability, as this has always been a sticking point with me. Maybe you can relate to this. I reflected on the fact that for a good part of my life almost anytime I wanted to say something in a group, I would imagine being ridiculed (a common experience for me as a child) and not say a word. Just imagining being ridiculed was enough to trigger my shame and keep me silent. I wanted to avoid even the possibility of someone ridiculing me in any way. As a result, I “edited myself out of existence”. For me, and for most people, being vulnerable was paired with shame.

Fortunately, I have experienced a lot of healing in the past 20 years and now can more fully speak up and show up. I’m not so afraid of someone not agreeing with me, and I’m even less afraid of being ridiculed (not that either of those fears have completely gone away). I now have the strength and support of my spine, pelvis, legs and feet to help me stand up and speak up for myself, especially when I’m nervous or uncertain. Shame can still crop up from time to time, and I more easily recognize and name it, which helps to diffuse it’s power. Now, I trust that I will be okay, no matter what the outcome. The result is that I have more connection, love and success in my life, as I now show up in a very different way than I did before.

What is your relationship to vulnerability? How does this affect your ability to connect to others and to be successful in your life? Are you living the life you really want or just playing it safe and small?

Here’s a tip for increasing your comfort with vulnerability. The next time the situation calls for vulnerability – perhaps you want to tell your boss you deserve a raise or you’re going to  speak in front of a group or you want to tell your partner something important about you– ask your heart and gut for guidance. Feel your feet firmly planted on the ground. Allow your breath to easily move in and out of your body. Know that your body  is fully supporting you in taking this important step. Remember, be compassionate with yourself as you take this courageous step.

I’d love to hear about your relationship with vulnerability – where it’s easy and where it’s hard. As always, share as much or as little as you like.

In the meantime, know that your body is ready and willing to help you navigate your life.


Joan Brooks, Certified Rubenfeld Synergist

DBA Healing Hands Healing Heart

Practitioner and Teacher of the Rubenfeld Synergy Method –

  • Regena

    Ah, the joys and pains of vulnerability. You know, it’s funny…when I’m going thru the “thick” of the situation that brings me vulnerability I often think to myself how painful and uncomfortable it is, and how I cannot wait for it (whatever it is) to be over. Then, when I reflect on the situation and how I grew, and the opportunities that manifested as a result- it’s usually a great story and learning opportunity that unfolds. I appreciate you for giving awareness and honor to vulnerability- for she too, deserves a little TLC;)

    • Joan Brooks

      Hi, Regena. Yes, I so relate to your sequence of events. From, “OMG, this is awful!” to “Wow, that was a great experience where I really grew and (almost always) deepened my connection with someone.” If I could just remember second part when I’m going through the first one.
      Thank you for your reflections and warms.
      With warmest regards,

  • laurie healy

    hi joan, i am glad i found you and this on linked in. i love brene and vulnerability. keep sharing yourself.
    love, laurie healy

    • Joan Brooks

      Laurie, Thank you so much! I just recently found Dr. Brown and she is awesome. Yes, I will keep sharing myself.

  • Sheree Diamond

    Hi Joan, I also used to worry about what others would think of me. Over
    the years, I’ve learned that not everyone has to like me. And I’m
    definitely okay with that. We need to be authentic, speak our truth and
    let our light shine. Being our true self is why we are here. Being our
    true self allows us to live in joy. Thanks for sharing your wisdom.

    Sheree Diamond

    • Joan Brooks

      Sheree, thank you so much for your comment. You’re right, of course, and sometimes it’s easier said than done. I did a lot of healing and transformative work around limiting beliefs about my value and worth. What did you do that helped you overcome your worry?
      With warmest regards,

      • Sheree Diamond

        Joan, I’ve also done a lot of transformational work on myself using various energy tools and going to energy healers. I also did work on my own with journaling, audios, hypnosis, etc.

        • Joan Brooks

          Hi, Sheree. I’m sorry I’m so long in replying to your comment. I’m new to this system. I could see there was another comment, but I couldn’t figure out how to find it.
          Yes, energy work is a great healing tool. It sounds like you dedicated a lot of time to your own healing. Yeah! Being your true self is such a gift to the world. Not only do we get all of you, you set an example for others to follow!
          With much appreciation for you!

  • Dr. Erica Goodstone

    Being quiet in a group because I did not want to say something that might be inappropriate or might bring disagreement from others had kept me quiet for a long time. But there is nothing like support, growth and self-acceptance. Now I often speak up, knowing that others might not agree and also knowing that it is okay for me to express myself. In fact, it feels really good when I do.


    Dr. Erica

    • Joan Brooks

      Erica, you’re right, being vulnerable and expressing ourselves, even when we might be criticized, is so freeing to the body and the soul. It might be uncomfortable while you’re doing it, but you almost always feel lighter and freer afterwards.



  • Mark

    Joan…thanks so much for the wisdom in this post. I went into your question, What is your relationship to vulnerability? I realized that vulnerability is a state where I have put down performing and the persona of being perfect or important or special. And, so it is a direct route to my human-ness and real nature. I also notice it is a place that can feel effortless, just a place of being. And, yes, it does connect me to my world, others, and the beauty of the human condition and the truth of

    impermanence. I serve more authentically from the place of vulnerability.

    I certainly appreciated your tip for increasing comfort with vulnerability.

    …Thanks, Joan…

    • Joan Brooks

      Mark, you’re so right! Vulnerability connects us to our own humanity and nature, thus to the humanity and nature of others in an authentic, “this is me” way. All of our pretenses just melt away so we can see each other clearly – warts and all. And the ironic thing is, seeing each others naked warts actually increases our love and connection for each other. Out of shame, we hide from each other, and yet when we reveal ourselves, we actually reveal our magnificence. Lovely!

      Thank you, Mark, for revealing your magnificence to me.


  • Maggie

    as I get older I find it easier and easier to just say, “Sorry, my hearing wasn’t up to that. Could you repeat it?” Also I’m having less trouble asking for physical help — “could you carry this for me?”

    Where I have trouble is when I must acknowledge that an interaction has hurt my feelings. I especially have trouble with this when I know (from specific experience with the person) that the most likely response will be “oh, I know, you’ve told me that before, sorry” or “I’m sorry you’re upset but I didn’t do anything wrong.”

    I have good enough boundaries to realize that my response to something is my responsibility, but I find it offensive when someone says something that is offensive — racist, sexist, ageist, ableist, etc — and then says that, essentially, they have every right to say it and I don’t have the right to tell them not to. Especially when I apparently also don’t have the right to avoid their company.

    (Did I just say that? How would that be true? What’s going on here?)

    Hmm. You’ve just given me more food for thought on the current project. Thanks!

    • Joan Brooks

      Maggie, I think speaking up about hurtful or offensive comments or actions is one of the most difficult things to do. As women, we are taught from an ealry age to “go along to get along” and we have a natural affinity for relationship building, which makes us less likely to engage in conflict. I also see more and more women claiming and owning their power as they speak out and show up in ways that defy “tradition”. I support you in standing your ground as you speak your truth, and decide who you want to avoid.
      With warmest regards,