5 Ways Vulnerability Helps You To Succeed


We often think of vulnerability as something inherently bad. However, I’m going to put forward the radical proposition that vulnerability is actually something that can help you succeed in life. These are words that I live by. They’re also concepts that I teach my students at The Art of Charm.

The point isn’t that the way to make connections is to share all of your darkest, most intimate and painful feelings all the time. The point is that you can only make meaningful connections by opening yourself up, being vulnerable and exposing things about yourself to others. Deciding what is the socially appropriate amount of vulnerability to show is up to you. One thing is certain, however: the power of vulnerability is underrated.

1. Creating Connections

When it comes to creating connections, there’s no substitute for self-expression. Expressing yourself lets people know who you are. It also gives them a point of reference to connect with. This relatives to vulnerability, because the higher vulnerability you show, the greater risk you take, but also the greater chance you have to connect with someone.

Think about it: What provides a more powerful connection: Common pop cultural references or shared painful or embarrassing experiences? Not to get too heavy here, but it’s obviously the latter. What’s more, sharing the latter opens you up much more and is a much greater risk.

2. Sharing New Ideas Requires Vulnerability

When you open yourself up, not everyone is going to like it. That’s something you just need to accept. However, there’s a benefit to opening yourself up and taking criticism: You learn how to take it in stride.

Consider the workplace: Say you’ve got a killer new idea for work. If you don’t share it, it’s going to go nowhere. You make yourself vulnerable by sharing the idea with others. But without opening yourself up, it’s just going to bounce around in your head.

There’s another benefit to sharing new ideas: The feedback you get might be the thing that turns your kernel of an idea into something really special.

3. You Learn to Take Criticism

Learning how to take constructive criticism is something that every successful adult has done at one point or another. If you ever want to evolve as a person, you need to learn how to listen to, engage with, take on and react to constructive criticism from others. Vulnerability creates an opportunity for you to start doing that. It allows you the opportunity to grow in a way that constantly being closed off does not.

One thing we’re always on about here at The Art of Charm is the idea that all personal growth takes place outside of your comfort zone. It’s not easy to take criticism, especially after you’ve just made yourself vulnerable to someone else. But while it’s not comfortable it is a great way to grow and become more than what you are today.

4. Creativity Requires Vulnerability

Think about a favorite work of art. It doesn’t matter if it’s a film, a song, a book, a painting or even a photograph. Think of a work of art that has really changed your life. Something that will stick with you until the day that you die.

Now think about how much this reveals about the artist. A lot of my favorite music, for example, is about breakups, hard times and other stuff that’s just hard to talk about. On the other hand, art that doesn’t reveal much about the artist, that doesn’t let you inside, that doesn’t reveal any kind of vulnerability generally isn’t very great art.

It’s not that there’s no value to light, fluffy fun; It’s just that light, fluffy fun doesn’t make for great art. The best art out there is vulnerable, with something to say about that vulnerability. That’s why we can all relate to it: It shares things that we don’t share with others, that we think are burdens we carry all by ourselves.

5. Vulnerability Shows Strength

Being able to reveal parts of yourself is a demonstration of strength. People who never reveal anything about themselves generally hide a lot because they’re afraid to reveal things. Sure, some people are just quieter and more reserved: But there are also men who don’t share because they don’t want to be judged.

Again, this is a high-risk, high-reward area: The more vulnerable you make yourself, the greater risk you’re taking, but the greater reward that can be reaped. On the other hand, if you don’t reveal much, but remain not vulnerable, you’re not going to get a lot in the way of rewards.

The trick here is striking a balance and knowing what is situationally appropriate. You want to allow yourself to be vulnerable in ways that are appropriate to the situation. We’ll be writing more about this as our research progresses at The Art of Charm.