The Power of Vulnerability

Lauren Kelly


How does it make you feel? This word is very powerful, and if accepted, can lead to deep and meaningful connections between people. Recently I’ve recognized myself being exposed to vulnerability in several different capacities:

  • As a passenger: On a plane when the man next to me told me he does volunteer work in the US, received his Public Administration degree from Harvard, and is from and still lives in Cairo, Egypt (Do I dare to ask about his story?  Yes, I do.)
  • As a daughter: At home on the couch with Mom.  She insisted that I watch a segment that she DVR’d from The Glee Project that focused on vulnerability.  The contestants were asked to “expose their deepest insecurities” and wear them while shooting a music video for “Mad World.”  They visibly labeled themselves with their insecurities, which included ‘fake, numb, misunderstood, rejected, fat.’
  • As an employee: My second time being fortunate enough to have training from Phired Up Productions for the leadership consultant position.  Vulnerability is a key element in their definition of Social Excellence (one of my personal favorite trainings).
  • As a consultant: At the Fraternity Executives Association Field Staff (a conference for about 200 fraternity and sorority consultants from across the US) when we participated in a “powerful conversations” exercise, also thanks to Phired Up.  We were asked to share with a new acquaintance, the last time we cried, laughed, and other emotional experiences.
  • As a facilitator: During my time leading recruitment workshops at the Sigma Kappa chapters at Auburn University (shout out to Theta Xi!) and the University of Arizona (and another big shout out to Zeta Omicron!).
A close up of some of my new Theta Xi friends at Auburn!
Zeta Omicron members very excited on bid day at the University of Arizona!
And while I was visiting Auburn and the U of A, I chose to draw upon some of my exposure to vulnerability.   Whether in sorority recruitment, on a plane or at home, it’s important, and sometimes life-changing, to make emotional connections with people.  Isn’t that what makes us human after all?

So, I picked a video clip from another TED talk to reference during these workshops.  In “The Power of Vulnerability” Brene Brown shares her “ studies [on] the  human connection — our ability to empathize, belong, love. In a poignant, funny talk at TEDxHouston, she shares a deep insight from her research, one that sent her on a personal quest to know herself as well as to understand humanity.”

The piece of the video that I focused on is her discussion on courage.  When researching  the human connection, Brown discovered that one group of people who stood out in her research were what she calls, “whole-hearted.”  The pattern she found in this whole-hearted group’s behavior was that they each embraced a sense of courage. She continues to explain that the word courage comes from the Latin word, cour, meaning heart; and the original definition of courage in the English language was “to tell a story with your whole heart,” and in turn, embrace vulnerability.

I highly encourage you to watch the whole video (about twenty minutes short).  But I understand if that’s to much time to fork out, and then I would recommend taking just seven minutes (start at about 3:16 and watch through 10:04).

So I challenge you.  Embrace a vulnerable moment.  If in the middle of recruitment, that young woman or man you’re meeting on a college campus may become one of your lifelong friends, because you chose to take the conversation to a deeper level. Or, the Egyptian man sitting next to you on the plane might have an internationally recognized volunteer position, and may become a keyboard pal (I just coined that term – a.k.a., pen pal).  Or, maybe you simply become better friends with your self (see my other blog post below).

Have fun and keep me posted on your experiences – I’d love to hear your whole-hearted stories!
All the best,



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