In a society that so often values brawn and might, vulnerability may not seem like a positive trait to possess — it requires exposing ourselves to the possibility of hurt or humiliation. But as motivational speakers and life coaches (and therapists!) have spent countless hours reminding us, vulnerability is, in fact, one of the keys to leading a meaningful life in which we are both in touch with our truest selves and open to the possibilities of change. It is the foundation of self-confidence, and the launching point for growth and connection.
Vulnerability is crucial in interpersonal relationships, whether they are professional, romantic, familial, or otherwise, in part because it lets the other person know that you, too, are fallible and human. Opening up and exposing our emotions is one of the only ways to build strong, genuine bonds with other people. Or, as American poet Theodore Roethke famously said, “Love is not love until love’s vulnerable.”
On an individual level, this emotional honesty gives us permission to embrace our reality by admitting to our imperfections. “Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it,” author and researcher Brené Brown has said. “Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy — the experiences that make us the most vulnerable.” Here, we’ve rounded up 12 quotes to encourage you to dig deep, shake off societal expectations, and risk being seen, understood, and loved for your authentic self.
What happens when people open their hearts? They get better.
— Haruki Murakami, writer
It’s very hard to have ideas. It’s very hard to put yourself out there, it’s very hard to be vulnerable, but those people who do that are the dreamers, the thinkers, and the creators. They are the magic people of the world.
— Amy Poehler
Let your heart crumble into an infinite amount of tiny, precious seeds. Then plant love everywhere you go.
— Anita Krizzan, writer
There is no intensity of love or feeling that does not involve the risk of crippling hurt. It is a duty to take this risk, to love and feel without defense or reserve.
— William S. Burroughs
Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.
— Brené Brown
When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability... To be alive is to be vulnerable.
— Madeleine L'Engle, author
Vulnerability is the only authentic state. Being vulnerable means being open, for wounding, but also for pleasure. Being open to the wounds of life means also being open to the bounty and beauty. Don't mask or deny your vulnerability: it is your greatest asset.
— Stephen Russell, American actor
All trust involves vulnerability and risk, and nothing would count as trust if there were no possibility of betrayal.
— Robert C. Solomon, professor of philosophy
Love comes when manipulation stops; when you think more about the other person than about his or her reactions to you. When you dare to reveal yourself fully. When you dare to be vulnerable.
— Joyce Brothers, psychologist and advice columnist
We are called to be fruitful — not successful, not productive, not accomplished. Success comes from strength, stress, and human effort. Fruitfulness comes from vulnerability and the admission of our own weakness.
— Henri Nouwen, Dutch Catholic priest
True bravery is being exactly who you are, imperfections included. Vulnerability is the most precious gift you can give.
— Sara Bareilles, musician
The vulnerability of precious things is beautiful because vulnerability is a mark of existence. The destruction of Troy. The fall of the petals from fruit trees in blossom. To know that what is most precious is not rooted in existence — that is beautiful.
— Simone Weil, French philosopher
Photo credit: Joe Holland/ Unsplash