Vulnerability: The Key to Close Relationships

Vulnerability: They Key to Close Relationships

The best part of being human is being able to connect with other humans. We’re hardwired for it. We live in tribes and families, work in groups, love as couples and thrive in friendships. The drive to connect is in all of us whether we acknowledge it or not.

Yet, we’re seeing more loneliness, more depression, more broken relationships, more disconnection. What’s happening?

Vulnerability is the driving force of connection. It’s brave. It’s tender. It’s impossible to connect without it.

But we’ve turned it into a weakness.

We’ve made ourselves ‘strong’. We’ve toughened up, hardened up and protected ourselves from being hurt. We’ve protected ourselves from vulnerability and disallowed the surrender. Here’s the problem. When we close down our vulnerability we are shielded from hurt, but we are also shielded from love, intimacy and connection. They come to us through the same door. When we close it to one, we close it to all.

Without vulnerability, relationships struggle. Vulnerability is, ‘Here I am – my frayed edges, my secrets, my fears, my affection. Be careful – they’re precious.’ In return, it invites, ‘Oh, I see you there. It’s okay, you’re safe. And here – here’s me.’ It builds trust, closeness and a sense of belonging. Relationships won’t thrive without it.

Vulnerability is openness to experiences, people and uncertainty. It’s terrifying at times, and brave always. 

Occasionally we get hurt. Relationship pain is an unavoidable part of being human. When it happens it can steal you. I know. But we can see this for what it is – a mismatch of people, a redirection, a learning, a happening – or we can take it as a warning and protect ourselves from the possibility of being hurt again. In this case, we make the decision to not be vulnerable. We shut it down. By shutting down to the risks of being vulnerable, we also shut down to the possibilities – the possibility of joy, intimacy, closeness, gratitude and connection.

Connected or Not: What makes the difference?

Brene Brown PhD is a research professor from the University of Houston and an expert in the field of vulnerability. She’s looked at those who have a strong sense of connection and belonging and those who don’t. Her research has found that the difference between the two groups was that those who had a strong sense of love and belonging believed they were worthy of it. People who believed they were worthy of connection experienced greater connectedness. 

When people believe themselves worthy of connection, they’re more likely to move towards others. They’ll be the first to say ‘I love you’. They’ll be quick to say, ‘I miss you’ (not just in absence but in the growing apart). They’ll ask for help and they’ll be open to the  love, affection and influence of others. They’ll be grateful. They’ll be connected. 

This doesn’t mean they’ll always get what they want. What it means is that they are more willing to be open and vulnerable in relationships because their potential for shame is less. If the connection falls short – if the ‘I love you’ is left hanging, the ‘I miss you’ isn’t returned, the request for help is declined, people who believe they are worthy of connection are less likely to blame themselves and their own ‘unworthiness’ for the disconnection. They are often the people who people want to be with. They give to the relationship and they receive openly, abundantly, honestly and with love and gratitude. They allow themselves to be vulnerable to the uncertainty and they make it safe for others to do the same.

Daring to Connect.

  1. Live with heart.

    Listen to and move towards what you really want. It’s that voice that speaks from intuition, experience and things unsaid. It’s the signal, sometimes faint sometimes not, to love openly and honestly and receive it gratefully. And to walk away when it’s gone. Move towards what you want and be vulnerable to the risk – it’s the bravest thing you’ll do. When you live with heart, you’ll feel when there’s something missing, but it doesn’t have to stay that way.

  2. Live with courage.

    What would you do if you could act without fear of shame? Would you change jobs? Follow your passion? Tell someone you love them? Tell someone you miss them? Initiate sex? Expect more for yourself? Get rid of relationships that hurt? Fight harder for the relationship you’re in? You can’t trust that there won’t be rejection and disappointment, but you can trust that you’ll cope with it if it happens – which you will. What’s harder to live with is teetering around the edges of something that feels important, wanting more but never dropping the guard enough – being vulnerable enough – to let it in.

  3. Look for a new ‘what if’.

    Question your beliefs. Sometimes we believe things for so long they just settle in and stay. Challenge whether or not they’re still working for you. What could happen if you open up, take a chance, let yourself be vulnerable? Too often behaviour is driven by the need to avoid shame – the need to avoid receiving any proof that you’re not worthy of love, connection and receiving what you’ve asked for.  The more you think you’re not worthy, the more  you’ll act as though it’s true and the more you disconnect. What if you believed you were worth the connection. The risk of not being received is always there, but this is no reflection of any unworthiness in you.

  4. Embrace vulnerability.

    As explained by Brene Brown, people with a strong sense of love and belonging believe that vulnerability is a necessity. They believe that within their vulnerabilities are the things that make them beautiful. And they’re right. Vulnerability is key to connection because it is the courage to be open to another human. It’s saying the words that are pressing from the inside. It’s opening yourself up to somebody getting closer. It’s letting them know. It’s giving without expectation or agenda. And receiving with an open heart.

  5. Quick now. Do nothing.

    Increasingly we are living in a fixit world. We have little tolerance for uncertainty or discomfort and tend to move quickly toward resolution. We fix everything – problems, health, feelings, people. Sometimes though, uncertainty or discomfort is exactly where we need to be. It’s here that we often find clarity and insight and and a readiness to move forward or pull back. Don’t be too quick to move out of uncomfortable feelings. Sometimes they’re the richest source of growth and information about what’s right.

What Vulnerability Isn’t.

Vulnerability does not mean oversharing and offering every detail of your life up for consumption by anyone with a head. It about intention. There are those you hold close, or want to, who are worth taking a risk for. You open up, you let them know, you offer some of yourself and hope it will be received. Then there are those who you know, but who may not have earnt your vulnerability. 

Your vulnerability still has to be earnt by others to some extent, but you have to be ready to see when someone deserves it from you. Offering every detail of your life to the person behind you in the 15 items or less aisle at the grocery store can walk dangerously close to a lack of boundaries and can leave you overexposed. 

And finally. 

Somewhere along the way, the need to protect ourselves from being vulnerable has trumped the need to connect. I understand that. Few things hurt as deeply and completely as the heartache that comes from relationships. But heartache and uncertainty is part of being human and it’s avoidance is getting in our way.

In response to this, we’ve stopped allowing ourselves to be vulnerable. We’ve toughened up. We’ve turned vulnerability into a weakness and guardedness into a strength.

 Of course there are times to be guarded, but there are also times to be vulnerable. We’re protected, but we’re disconnected.

 Life happens – really happens – in the midst of our vulnerability. It’s here, in strength and with the greatest of courage, that we ask for help, say the first ‘I love you’, reach out for sex and physical intimacy, tell someone we miss them, ask where we stand, feel. When we shut down our vulnerability, we shut down the possibility.

There are no guarantees. There never have been. But what is certain is that we deserve more than to have our vulnerability – the greatest vehicle to connection – shut down by fear. We cannot guarantee the outcome, but we can have faith in our ability to cope with it. Living and loving with a vulnerable, open heart will bring its own rewards. There is no daring more honest and more courageous than that which comes with respecting our vulnerability, embracing it and acting from it.

(Image credit: Unsplash | Alexander Shustov)



This article just gave me so much comfort and clarity. I noticed a pattern of attracting emotionally or physically unavailable men. I crave to be seen, understood, and completely vulnerable but keep running into men who seem as if they want the opposite as soon I finally open up. It really stood out to me when you brought up the study about those who were in loving vulnerable relationships vs those who were not. I realized I’m in the “not”category because I never really felt worthy of it. I’m vowing to myself to know I am worthy of love, connectedness and intimacy. I deserve it and will stay open!

Adam G

My wife and I have been thinking about how we can grow closer together because we want to have a better relationship. We could really benefit from getting some help from a professional to add more depth. I liked what you said about how we can build trust, closeness, and belonging by being vulnerable to each other.


What an amazing article! Never have I taken the time to comment on articles I read online but this one simply took my breath away. There is so much wisdom in these words and I got so much out of this. Love it!

Denise J

Very good article: well articulated and very relatable. it helped me a lot. I often feel disconnected from others because I am so guarded about myself. I am trying to reinvent myself so that I can experience more fulfilling relationships.


Amazing article. Thank you so much for sharing. I’ve been going through an intense emotional time of breaking down my walls and guards and trying to be vulnerable with people – especially with my current romantic partner. I have never been able to be vulnerable with people. My childhood was really traumatic, and I learned at a very early age to protect myself and keep relationships and friendships just surface level – never let anyone in. Now I am 28 years old and attempting to do this inner work of breaking down these walls and revealing my raw heart. Let me just tell you guys, it is so uncomfortable and painful. You will cry so much. You might throw up. It hurts, it’s painful. I’m terrified. But I know this is something I need to do for myself, find healing, embrace vulnerability, and finally create the deep human connection with others that I have always longed for.


I can completely relate! I have been the same way and have been keeping relationships on a level that it was easy for me to disconnect when things are not working out. My new GF is completely awesome but one of her biggest issues with me was that she is yearning for a deeper connection. She gets frustrated with me and her biggest gripe with me is that she says I don’t know her and she doesn’t know me. As I don’t want to go past the surface level which she is spot on but it took awhile to realize.

I didn’t know what that meant and I have also been working on myself and as you stated this is just as painful. I never experienced these type of emotions and it super confusing. Opening up, to me was like saying “Don’t lock your doors at your house” which didn’t make much sense. But what it really means is giving the key to those that really care for you and not shut it down like a bunker where only you know how to get in.

But the biggest things that I know is that change only occurs with pain. No one changes when everything is good.


❤️ I hope it’s still going well for you, you sound very much like me although I’m 38 years old…you don’t want to still be going through this in another 10 years, it really is crippling my marriage. This article has resonated with me as well as your comment, I’m hoping this can help me start the process of positive change.

Beatrice N

I came to this article because last night my partner of two years confessed he didn’t feel supported by me or that I was emotionally there for him. This has brought up a whole plethora of self doubt that I am emotionally unavailable and incapable of being vulnerable and intimate with people anymore. I guess deep down I’ve known this for a while but he was the first person to say it outright to me. And it’s made me wonder whether I’ve ever been truly vulnerable and experience true intimacy with a person. Part of me would love to say that maybe it’s just him having an unjustified problem with me or that i’m just not giving him love in the way he responds to or maybe that he’s just not the right guy and this is why we can’t connect and it’s nothing to do with me at all. Except I find it hard, even impossible to be truly vulnerable and intimate with anyone in my life. I’m still harbouring the pain and fear of rejection and abandonment issues from my first heartbreak 10 years ago. I’ve always been a very secretive and proud person with low self-esteem who has struggled to make true friends and the ones I held onto hurt and let me down the most, till I cut ties with all of them. Which was a good thing as they were toxic, selfish people, but I can’t say I have replaced those friendships with healthy, open trusting ones because I haven’t. I have two friends who I can at an arms length away and will happily declare I’m cutting them out of my life if they do anything suspicious or cross me in anyway. I desperately want to have friends I can trust and rely on and open up to, but feel I can’t trust anyone and if I do open up to them I am always quick to shut them out and assume they have ulterior motives and are manipulating me in some way. When I am feeling most hurt, confused and depressed I shut everyone out and condemn myself to solitary confinement, won’t leave the house, answer the phone or respond to family or friends until I’m all better again.

Okay so I know I struggle to trust people, be vulnerable, open up, talk openly, and be intimate with people. The thought of it really makes me feel sick with dread and fear, so know there is an underlying issue there. I could walk out on my boyfriend and put it down to us being un-compatible and not right for each other and that is why we are struggling to connect. Buy my worry is what if this happens again and again and again? I have a guy who is willing to be vulnerable, who wants to connect, who recognises there is a problem and wants to fix it. I realise now there was a huge issue with vulnerability and intimacy with my ex of 5 years, but he never mentioned it so I didn’t, I just lived out fantasies about my ex before him who broke my heart, but these fantasies sustained my need for intimacy and connection without the risk of getting hurt again because they were just a fantasy’s of the past.
So my question is, if you can recognise you have a problem, but it’s years old and now deeply ingrained, how do you even go about fixing it? Because all the articles in the world telling you to just be more open and trusting don’t actually help you to do it or find the root cause of why you can’t.


@Beatrice N. These lines from the book Dearing Greatly by Brene Brown may have the answer to your dilema.

“If you roughly divide the man and women I have interviewed into two groups – those who feel a deep sense of love and belonging, and those who struggle for it – there’s only one variable that separates the groups: Those who feel lovable, who love, and who experience belonging simply believe they are worthy of love and belonging, They dont have better or easier lives, they dont have fewer struggles with addiction or depression, and they haven’t survived fewer traumas or bankrupties or divorcies, but in the midst of all of these struggles, they have developed practices that enable them to to hold on to the belief that they are worthy of love, belonging and even joy.”

She asks to live with wholeheartedness which she says is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. The main concern of wholehearted men and women is living a life defined by courage, compassion, and connection.

I liked how she relates vulnerability and engagment. We all are vulnerable. perfect and bulletproof are seductive, but they dont experience in the human experience. Our only **choice** is a question of engaegement. Our willings to own and engage with vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our purpose.


I don’t think there’s anything wrong about wanting to be by yourself when you feel that low. If you need peace and quiet, then being by yourself is sometimes what you need. Your own world is exactly your own. Anything that you want to keep private, should be exactly that. Don’t get roped into gossip. Be careful of who to trust. Be careful of which friends you choose. If anything, I sometimes find a room with lots of noise a bit too much, so I take myself away from the noise, and I go somewhere quiet. Not everyone is a social butterfly. We can’t all feel the same things or even BE the same things. So we all need to stop forcing ourselves to be who we can’t. Pleasing society is not the way to go. Unless you’re making YOURSELF happy first, then why does it ever matter about general society? Always check that you’re making YOURSELF happy. As Robbie Williams once sang in one of his songs “If you don’t feel good, then what are you doing it for?”. That line from the song has really helped me to question whether I’m okay with carrying on with anything that is bothering me at any time. Life is too short to worry about what anyone thinks of your own life. Your life is and should be your own. If you feel that it’s not, then start to question that.


Extremely valuable information. My wife and I almost separated and it wasn’t until I began to show my real self and let my guard down that we reconnected. I had such a thick wall up and always tried to show her that I was impervious to shame despite internally not being that way at all. Now we are on track to a much MUCH healthier relationship. Brené’s work is incredible and articles like these reinforce her valuable work. Thank you.


I stumbled upon this page after having a really great 2AM chat with a close friend of mine. As a conversation goes, we went from discussing class work to talking about relationships. Both of us had had our fair share of struggles, her with depression and anxiety and myself with body dysmorphia and an eating disorder, and it was interesting to me that we dealt with things so differently. While she blocked it out and went into an almost zombie-like state, I did the opposite, making myself hyperactive to almost over emphasize the fact that I was “fine”. My friend pointed out that while I am open and do have intimate conversations, I am never the first to open up in conversation, even when I am struggling with something.

And then I asked the magic question: Can you actually be afraid of being vulnerable?

And so, I have found myself here, a little bit the wiser. Clearly, vulnerability has as much to do with coping with stress as it is based on previous experiences in life.

Somehow, just arriving at this moment is enough. It’s like, I don’t have to pretend to have it all together because no one has it all together. People you’re close to don’t have to see a projection of who you think you need to be because they only really need to get to know the real you. And if that isn’t cool with them, they didn’t deserve to get to know you in the first place.

This was long and awfully rambling, but it feels good to just recognize the fact that “fine” isn’t what I should be aiming for because there’s so much more to life than just that.


You weren’t rambling. I understand better after reading your response. Unfortunately I’m not on the right side of things. I have a strong wall up – I let it down just a little and I end up in tears. I’m finding it very hard to work my way out. Thank you though – you helped me see more clearly – now how do I change?


Just stumbled upon this article when I was searching for others about being vulnerable. This article is definitely one of the best ones I have read. I loved getting insight from it. I teach young teenagers and this is such a great article to get insight from for them.

It is so worth to be open and raw with those we love, even though pain can come from it. Boundaries and knowing who to say these things too can help, but being vulnerable is a gift that most do not want to go into.

Loved your article again. Thank you!


So glad I found this! Its worth reading over and over again. Thank you for sharing such useful information.

Not Convinced

Came across this (now years old) article on vulnerability. I’m searching for reasons that I can relate to as to why being vulnerable is worth all the pain it has always led to for me. Every time I was vulnerable in my now 59 years of life I was physically and/or emotionally abused – parents, caretakers, “friends”, and now wife of 24 years. No one is “safe” or trustworthy. So the idea of being vulnerable is terrifying to me, hence I have never experienced/felt love, joy, happiness etc. To me these are foreign concepts. The only emotions I have ever been aware of feeling are anger and fear. So reading statements about the benefits of being vulnerable are meaningless to me. I have no concept of what those “benefits” are or would feel like, but having all too much knowledge of the pain and hurt by having been vulnerable means I have zero motivation to risk it again. My only motivation is my “duty” to love my wife, but since I don’t love her I’m exhausted from decades of pretending to love her and trying to learn how to love. We have a myriad of other problems (e.g. sexless our entire marriage, my touch aversion etc.) but the root I believe is my inability to feel anything positive (love, affection) for myself or others. If anyone reads this, I’d love to hear more on what joy and love are so that I could try and believe they are worth a lifetime of hurts and emotional wounds that never heal.


I happened upon this article as well & found it to be quite interesting. Your comment I understood with some familiarity. Sounds like you’re tired of being tired. Emotionally & mentally yet what brought you to this article is you’re looking for a way to change that perhaps? I think that’s a good sign. The negativity of your situation indicates you think you’re stuck where you are for life. You’re not. If you seek joy, love & happiness for yourself & others..That should be your motivation. Best wishes.


I’m so sorry to hear that your life experiences have led you to that place. That really, really sucks.

One area that the article took for granted is the difference between voluntary versus compulsory vulnerability and relationships. You largely don’t choose to be vulnerable to abuse by parents, caretakers, or your spouse – you just are.

That’s important because voluntary vulnerability comes with an implied precondition – the ability to withdraw from the relationship.

So if you grew up with abusive parents who placed you in the care of abusive caretakers and then married an abusive spouse while holding strong opinions about divorce, well you’ve never really felt like you have a choice. You’ve been a prisoner perceiving one way power dynamics.

Most likely this leads to a struggle to set and enforce healthy boundaries in your relationships. Boundaries are barely discussed in the article, but they too are considered foundational assumptions. Without them you attract the wrong type of friends, and they only further reinforce your experiences.

That “emotional wounds that never heal” bit is informative. Of course there are such wounds, but they shouldn’t be what you’re risking in everyday vulnerability. If those are the stakes, you might explore whether you see vulnerability as an all or nothing thing, or if you’re awfulizing rejection/loss in a way that raises the stakes beyond what they actually are.

None of us on the internet can tell you how to change your approach to relationships to fix this pattern, nor can we confirm that this pattern is actually occurring. It’s just a guess. And nothing we say can make love or connection seem valuable enough to overcome the problems this pattern presents. I would highly recommend therapy or a counselor to help you explore your personal situation better. A book I would recommend if you’re not willing to seek a professional is “A Guide to Rational Living”.


Wonderful article. Such valuable information. Thank you for such relationship information. As a therapist I see that so many couples are helped by being encouraged to express their true selves in a safe environment of a therapy session. It is beautiful to see relationships transformed with true connection evolving along with a deeper level of trust.


I have tried to listen to reason, have tried to accept the fact that my limited viewpoint was both irrational and unhealthy, but I simply cannot accept vulnerability and, therefore, social and romantic relationships of any kind.

It is very hard to be outgoing when virtually every friend you’ve ever had and over 85% of your family has hurt and betrayed you so severely, multiple times over the brief period of your life. Of course it doesn’t help to be an introvert with a sensitive nervous system – two traits that are shunned socially, sometimes considered as mental disorders. This in turn hosts the impossible belief that there isn’t a single honest person to feel safe around. Or, if said person is honest initially, there is nothing to say that he/she will turn on you like a wild animal at any given moment. It isn’t an exaggeration, every interest, opinion, thought, and fear of mine has been put under the microscope and ridiculed by a healthy sample group of the human race, much to my embarrassment and abuse. The pain is indescribable. After a while you get tired of the pain and simply vanish into yourself. Sure, call it protection, I prefer to think of it as hassle-free living.

Truthfully, I find myself more at home in the elements of nature, without the hustle and bustle of modern life. I prefer solitude and reflection and simply desire to be alone. I’m not robbing anyone of my presence, if anything, I’m saving them the bother of dealing with me. I just wish that communities that advocate vulnerability and socialization realize that there are people out there who are simply happier and healthier alone. The health threats issued by physicians and psychologists that scare people into society need to stop.
I think it was Bukowski who said it best: I don’t hate people, I just feel better when they’re not around.



Oh my, what a compelling story. I am truly sorry for the idiots that you have encountered all your life. You sound like a stand-up guy too. Good people are far and few between. They are the ones missing out…not you. I sure hope and pray that you are happy and peaceful whether it be sheltered from the world or not.


Hi Dave, I so can relate to what you’re saying here. In so many ways I feel the same way. Especially in the last year it seems that everyone I have ever let my guard down to has taken it and somehow used it as a weapon to hurt me with. And for the life of me I don’t know why. It’s made me very hard and determined not to open myself up to the hurt they can deal out. And it’s from the people you trust the most to take care of your heart, that causes the most pain. My question for you is this. You say you are happier being alone and just want to be left that way and I’m wondering if that’s completely true or not? Are you seriously happier, or you just safer? I’m not asking this to give you a hard time or to make it look like I don’t believe you although I am asking for completely selfish reasons. I am living that same kind of self-imposed emotional exile too, and while it certainly is safer, no one can hurt you if they can’t get to you. But am I truly happy about it? I’m not, I’m sick of my own company, and I want to be able to let down my guard sometimes. I want that feeling of being needed by another human being. And it doesn’t make me feel happy being the way I’ve become. I keep thinking that someone out there has to think like I do, and has to be trustworthy and capable of truly being honest with themselves. My problem isn’t other people really, it’s within myself. I don’t trust me anymore, I mean, I don’t trust my own judgement of others anymore. And that’s what stops me from even wanting to try again. My track record is proof that I can’t see people in the right way. I don’t know when it’ safe anymore to take a chance on someone, so I take this way out. I was going to say I take the easy way out, but it really isn’t the easy way and I feel miserable at times because I think we need people in our lives. Fear of being hurt again is what stops me and in a lot of ways I feel it isn’t a choice but a necessity to keep others at bay. So are you really happier? Or just safer? And if you are really happier, what is it that makes you happier? I want to learn how to be happy with just myself and that is my only reason for asking you this.



My experiences have been from a good chunk of my life. Since said experiences can influence our development, I am not surprised about how skeptical I am when it comes to relationships.
As a highly sensitive (HSP) introvert, the mix of these experiences have allowed me to construct a wall around myself that, if I have it my way, will never be conquered.
To answer your question, yes, I am happier with such security. On top of these defenses I have amassed enough offensive weapons (statistics) to repel any good intentions and concerns that come my way.
Lately I have wondered if I actually get a high from rejecting others before they have a chance to reject me. It’s almost like a form of self-medication.
And then there’s the self-doubt. I am always rejecting compliments and positive-based comments from family and strangers. Often times I simply disagree and feel that, since I know myself better than anyone, my facts are straight and everyone else is just blowing hot air for the sake of societal pressures and habits.

Professionals might note that such mindsets provide the illusion of control, both external and internal locust, and they have some value to this approach.

I just find too much evidence to the contrary.


I guess I haven’t been hurt as deeply as you then. I don’t feel any kind of joy from rejecting people or sending them on their way. In fact, its quite the opposite in my case. Although that doesn’t happen often because I don’t let them near enough to even need to reject them. Keep Out and No Trespassing signs still work and no one really has a reason to come here anyway. And for me it happened so gradual, it wasn’t really planned. I just quit answering my phone and didn’t invite people to come see me, and discouraged the ones that mentioned anything about a visit. It didn’t take too long and here I am alone. I am not a shut in as i do have to go out for groceries and food and supplies for my pets, things like that. I see people in town that I used to know but can’t make myself stay to visit, or talk anymore than just small talk, weather, etc. Hearing you I realize that I don’t want to keep living as I do. And I hope I”m not offending you by saying that, it’s just that you have chosen a road that I don’t want to go any further down. I do feel that we all have our choices in life and I understand some of your reasoning, and I certainly am not judging or deciding you are wrong. I only know what I need and want, and not even that very well. I know that I am a good person, at least I try to be, and I have to believe that there are others that think the way I do. I just need to be able to see through the veneer people carry and learn how to not get taken in again by hurtful people. I think I might recognize those traits a lot sooner now, and stop anything like that from becoming part of my life. I am getting tired of my own company and I want to live more free instead of this solitary existence. I thank you for your honest reply, and I hope you can sustain yourself as you wish to. I feel bad that people can hurt others the way you have been hurt, and I hope one day you realize that not everyone is made that way. There are some honest and good people on this earth, it’s just real tough sometimes to tell which are which. Peace to you.



I suppose accepting compliments and praise is in itself a form of vulnerability as it grants others a measure of control over our self esteem. So maybe your current attitude is just a reflection of your decision to withdraw.

But I have to wonder if it doesn’t hold a clue to your experiences.

On the one hand, it’s mathematically impossibly to draw value from a relationship if you discard all positive experience out of mistrust. If they’re simply giving you honest mixed opinions, the negative will pile up until they give the impression of a hateful person out to hurt you.

Or you could be awfulizing – distorting events and comments through the lens of a self image that simply isn’t accurate, then using those awfulized impressions as evidence to support your self image.

Obviously I don’t know your experiences, but if someone dismissed me as an insincere idiot every time I said something nice then turned slightly negative comments into deeply hurtful slights, I would eventually respond by withdrawing – which would then be interpreted as a final unforgivable betrayal. None of which speaks to my trustworthiness as a friend.


I agree with you Dave. Why put yourself on the line when everyone you know has either lied to you, stepped on your heart, deserted you or betrayed you completely. And it was because you were vulnerable, willing to trust your heart to someone you thought you could be assured would not hurt you. And they don’t hurt gently, they take everything you have inside to give and then walk away laughing. How many times can you live through it before you say, no. Better to learn to enjoy your own company and not leave the door open to all the bad in this world. There is a point when you just can’t trust anymore and I’ve reached it too, I choose not to give anyone else a chance at me. And yes, it gets very lonely at times, we are human and naturally want that closeness but at what cost? Not worth it to me either.


I can see where both yourself and Dave are coming from. I tend to think more like you did in your earlier comments. This one seems to come from a place of great hurt and anger. I feel the same at the moment regarding yet another failed attempt at connection. It seems to me that the woman wronged me by telling me half truths and then just dropping me when I pointed them out, turning me into the villain of the peace. Naively, I believe you should be able to say anything to each other, as long as it comes from a place of integrity and interest. However, other people’s sensitivities and ability to be self honest, have to gel with your own. It isn’t really a question of being right or wrong, more about being fair and logical, without condemming, rejecting, abandoning or engulfing. Too much talk and analysis, usually scare, confuses, and ultimately dooms any of my connections. It’s a lonely path, but somehow one that I must choose, though certainly don’t want. The Law of Attraction and karma laws say we get what we are and not what we want. The outer reflects the inner and all that irritating stuff seems relevant, but it’s very punitive and victim blaming. I don’t know the answer for myself, but would love to find some new path or way to feel connected and have purpose and meaning to another, myself and those I care for.

Yolanda P.

Absolutely loved this article. When you finally allow yourself to be vulnerable in a relationship, no matter how terrfiying it may seem, that’s when you give your relationship a real chance to grow.

Bernadette Barquet

I cant find the words to express the insightful that it has been to read your article.
Thank you very much.
Sincerly from the bottom of my heart.
Bernadette Barquet.

Matthew Dahlitz

Great article and love Brené’s work as well. I find in working with couples it is their ability to be vulnerable that is the key to reconnecting – yet also the most difficult and ‘dangerous’ thing to be. Your article wonderfully highlights this very important aspect of healthy relationships.


Hi Matthew. Thank you for your comment! You’re so right – vulnerability is one of the most difficult and dangerous things to be, which is why it’s the beautiful difference in relationships that work.

Tracie Z

I’m reading this four years late:-)

Amazing read, finding the strength to accept our vulnerabilities with boundaries is a constant WIP for me. Thank you for this article, I’m going to continue to work on me and this information will most certainly help!

Mary Lacey

I love this article. I am working with so many 20-somethings on how to be more vulnerable. Growing up and being the first generation to have screens, I am seeing a total disconnect with them from real relationships and connections. I find myself teaching them how to build interpersonal relations more than anything!


It’s a big one, isn’t it – vulnerability and relationships. I’m pleased you enjoyed the article – thanks for letting me know. It’s important work you’re doing.


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Melbourne, Adelaide … Will you join us? 

The @resilientkidsconference is coming to Melbourne (15 July) and Adelaide (2 September), and we’d love you to join us.

We’ve had a phenomenal response to this conference. Parents and carers are telling us that they’re walking away feeling even more confident, with strategies and information they can use straight away. That’s what this conference is all about. 

We know taking care of the young people in our lives is up there with the most important thing we can do. Why shouldn’t there be a conference for parents and carers?!

I’ll be joining with @maggiedentauthor,, and @drjustincoulson. We’ve got you covered! And we’re there for the day, with you. 

For tickets or more info, search ‘Resilient Kids Conference’ on Google, or go to this link
We have to change the way we talk about anxiety. If we talk about it as a disorder, this is how it feels.

Yes anxiety can be so crushing, and yes it can intrude into every part of their everyday. But the more we talk about anxiety as a disorder, the more we drive ‘anxiety about the anxiety’. Even for big anxiety, there is nothing to be served in talking about it as a disorder. 

There is another option. We change the face of it - from an intruder or deficiency, to an ally. We change the story - from ‘There’s something wrong with me’ to, ‘I’m doing something hard.’ I’ve seen the difference this makes, over and over.

This doesn’t mean we ignore anxiety. Actually we do the opposite. We acknowledge it. We explain it for what it is: the healthy, powerful response of a magnificent brain that is doing exactly what brains are meant to do - protect us. This is why I wrote Hey Warrior.

What we focus on is what becomes powerful. If we focus on the anxiety, it will big itself up to unbearable.

What we need to do is focus on both sides - the anxiety and the brave. Anxiety, courage, strength - they all exist together. 

Anxiety isn’t the absence of brave, it’s the calling of brave. It’s there because you’re about to do something hard, brave, meaningful - not because there’s something wrong with you.

First, acknowledge the anxiety. Without this validation, anxiety will continue to do its job and prepare the body for fight or flight, and drive big feelings to recruit the safety of another human.

Then, we speak to the brave. We know it’s there, so we usher it into the light:

‘Yes I know this is big. It’s hard [being away from the people you love] isn’t it. And I know you can do this. We can do hard things can’t we.

You are one of the bravest, strongest people I know. Being brave feels scary and hard sometimes doesn’t it. It feels like brave isn’t there, but it’s always there. Always. And you know what else I know? It gets easier every time. I’ve know this because I’ve seen you do hard things, and because I’ve felt like this too, so many times. I know that you and me, even when we feel anxious, we can do brave. It’s always in you. I know that for certain.’♥️
Our job as parents isn’t to remove their distress around boundaries, but to give them the experiences to recognise they can handle boundaries - holding theirs and respecting the boundaries others. 

Every time we hold a boundary, we are giving our kids the precious opportunity to learn how to hold their own.

If we don’t have boundaries, the risk is that our children won’t either. We can talk all we want about the importance of boundaries, but if we don’t show them, how can they learn? Inadvertently, by avoiding boundary collisions with them, we are teaching them to avoid conflict at all costs. 

In practice, this might look like learning to put themselves, their needs, and their feelings away for the sake of peace. Alternatively, they might feel the need to control other people and situations even more. If they haven’t had the experience of surviving a collision of needs or wants, and feeling loved and accepted through that, conflicting needs will feel scary and intolerable.

Similarly, if we hold our boundaries too harshly and meet their boundary collisions with shame, yelling, punishment or harsh consequences, this is how we’re teaching them to respond to disagreement, or diverse needs and wants. We’re teaching them to yell, fight dirty, punish, or overbear those who disagree. 

They might also go the other way. If boundaries are associated with feeling shamed, lonely, ‘bad’, they might instead surrender boundaries and again put themselves away to preserve the relationship and the comfort of others. This is because any boundary they hold might feel too much, too cruel, or too rejecting, so ‘no boundary’ will be the safest option. 

If we want our children to hold their boundaries respectfully and kindly, and with strength, we will have to go first.

It’s easy to think there are only two options. Either:
- We focus on the boundary at the expense of the relationship and staying connected to them.
- We focus on the connection at the expense of the boundary. 

But there is a third option, and that is to do both - at the same time. We hold the boundary, while at the same time we attend to the relationship. We hold the boundary, but with warmth.♥️
Sometimes finding the right words is hard. When their words are angry and out of control, it’s because that’s how they feel. 

Eventually we want to grow them into people who can feel all their feelings and lasso them into words that won’t break people, but this will take time.

In the meantime, they’ll need us to model the words and hold the boundaries firmly and lovingly. This might sound like:

‘It’s okay to be angry, and it’s okay not to like my decision. It’s not okay to speak to me like that. I know you know that. My answer is still no.’

Then, when they’re back to calm, have the conversation: 

‘I wonder if sometimes when you say you don’t like me, what you really mean is that you don’t like what I’ve done. It’s okay to be angry at me. It’s okay to tell me you’re angry at me. It’s not okay to be disrespectful.

What’s important is that you don’t let what someone has done turn you into someone you’re not. You’re such a great kid. You’re fun, funny, kind, honest, respectful. I know you know that yelling mean things isn’t okay. What might be a better way to tell me that you’re angry, or annoyed at what I’ve said?’♥️
We humans feel safest when we know where the edges are. Without boundaries it can feel like walking along the edge of a mountain without guard rails.

Boundaries must come with two things - love and leadership. They shouldn’t feel hollow, and they don’t need to feel like brick walls. They can be held firmly and lovingly.

Boundaries without the ‘loving’ will feel shaming, lonely, harsh. Understandably children will want to shield from this. This ‘shielding’ looks like keeping their messes from us. We drive them into the secretive and the forbidden because we squander precious opportunities to guide them.

Harsh consequences don’t teach them to avoid bad decisions. They teach them to avoid us.

They need both: boundaries, held lovingly.

First, decide on the boundary. Boundaries aren’t about what we want them to do. We can’t control that. Boundaries are about what we’ll do when the rules are broken.

If the rule is, ‘Be respectful’ - they’re in charge of what they do, you’re in charge of the boundary.

Attend to boundaries AND relationship. ‘It’s okay to be angry at me. (Rel’ship) No, I won’t let you speak to me like that. (Boundary). I want to hear what you have to say. (R). I won’t listen while you’re speaking like that. (B). I’m  going to wait until you can speak in a way I can hear. I’m right here. (R).

If the ‘leadership’ part is hard, think about what boundaries meant for you when you were young. If they felt cruel or shaming, it’s understandable that that’s how boundaries feel for you now. You don’t have to do boundaries the way your parents did. Don’t get rid of the boundary. Add in a loving way to hold them.

If the ‘loving’ part is hard, and if their behaviour enrages you, what was it like for you when you had big feelings as a child? If nobody supported you through feelings or behaviour, it’s understandable that their big feelings and behaviour will drive anger in you.

Anger exists as a shield for other more vulnerable feelings. What might your anger be shielding - loneliness? Anxiety? Feeling unseen? See through the behaviour to the need or feeling behind it: This is a great kid who is struggling right now. Reject the behaviour, support the child.♥️

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