3 Lessons I’ve Learned From Embracing Vulnerability

And why you should try it too.

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Photo by Danny Clark

In 2010, Brene Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston, delivered a TedX talk on the power of vulnerability. Twenty-five million views later, she’s written a bestselling book on the subject, titled Daring Greatly. And on Saturday, she delivered a keynote address at South by Southwest’s 2016 Interactive conference in Austin, TX, where she shared three of the most important lessons she’s learned from allowing herself to be more vulnerable.

1. If you’re going to be brave, you’re going to get hurt.

Brown talked about seeing aspiring filmmakers at SXSW getting ready to put their work out in the world—and likely having it criticized. “You’re brave with your life, you’re brave with your work, you’re going to have your ass kicked,” she says. But that pain is worth it: “It’s choosing courage over comfort."

2. Vulnerability does not = weakness.

Many of us were raised to believe that vulnerability was a character flaw. But think about when you’re most vulnerable: Maybe it’s going on a first date after your divorce. Or trying for another baby after a miscarriage. Or planning for your kids’ lives when your wife has terminal cancer. Those are actually moments of great strength and power.  “Vulnerability is our most accurate measure of courage,” Brown says.

3. Tune out the opinions that don’t matter.

“There are a million cheap seats,” Brown says—and the people sitting far away from the game are often the most mean-spirited. She quoted Theodore Roosevelt, who said the credit doesn’t go to the critic, but to “the man who is actually in the arena.” Here’s her perspective: “If you are not in the arena getting your ass kicked on a regular basis, I am not interested in your feedback.” But that doesn’t mean you should ignore everyone’s feedback. Choose a short list of people whose opinions you trust—and plug your ears when anyone else tries to sound off on your life.