Vulnerability and Self-Esteem: An Unlikely Partnership in Living a Life on Your Terms

I’m scared.

I really want this.

But I’m not sure I can do this.

I’m laying all my cards on the table for everyone to see, with no guarantee that the outcome will be one favorable to me.

Yet here I am, exposed, naked, vulnerable, and more alive than I’ve ever been.

You’ve asked me time and time again about how to deal with the exposure, with the vulnerability, of putting myself out there and living a life on my terms.

You want to know how I remain confident while also being vulnerable. The truth is, I’m confident because I remain vulnerable.

Although you may think this is a contradiction in terms, it’s actually very simple and logical when you break it down.

A Direct Relationship Between Strength and Vulnerability

vulnerability-fquote-korakorYou’ve probably spent most of your years covered in various layers and types of armor to protect you from this crazy world.

Some armor is dedicated to protection from emotional pain, some is for mental pain, some is for imagined pain, and still other types of armor you use to protect yourself from interacting with the world in any way that would leave you exposed.

Covering myself in armor never did make me any stronger. In fact, the more I tried to protect myself, the weaker I got.

I discovered that it was impossible to interact with the world on the level I needed to in order to achieve my mission while I was covered in heaps of armor.

It became a constant barrier to forming relationships, learning, discovery, and development.

So, I started peeling off layers. The first to go was the layer that protected me from the judgments of others.

Boy did I get hurt. I was judged in ways I’d feared my whole life.

They called me irresponsible, unpredictable, naïve, selfish, ungrateful, and downright idiotic.

I was an unwelcome invader.

Needless to say, there was a lot of crying, and I considered retrieving my armor from the trash heap.

I didn’t.

I stuck it out, and eventually I developed my own personal shield to these judgments. It wasn’t armor exactly; it was like an invisible force field that repelled unwanted social expectations.

It left me free to interact with the world in the way I wanted to while still protecting myself from unwanted interactions.

Then next layer I ditched was the armor protecting me from humiliation. Then the armor protecting me from feeling failure, rejection, disappointment.

On and on this went until I found myself completely naked, raw, and finally able to have up close and personal experiences with my environment.

The Necessity of Raw Vulnerability

Protecting yourself by avoiding any situation that might harm you doesn’t keep you strong. It keeps you weak, incapable, and scared.

You’re scared because you don’t know if you can handle the world as it is by being just who you are.

You’re weak because you don’t know how to handle the world by being you. How could you? You’ve never tried.

Remaining in your protective shell leaves you emotionally impotent.

It compounds the fear of the world by simply removing you from it. You don’t really trust the armor so, to be safe, you check out of life and anything activity deemed risky.

Is it any wonder that conquering the unknown makes you feel terror and panic?

You need to make yourself vulnerable if you want to live a life on your terms. You must state what you want with assertion. You must be able to handle the fallout after you’ve shown everyone you believe you’re worthy to pursue your dreams.

The Many Unfamiliar Faces of Vulnerability


It’s not always easy to see vulnerability in action. Most often, it looks just like courage or inner strength. I’d argue that half the time, it’s an equal mix of both. You need to have the courage to be vulnerable after all.

Asking for what you want makes you vulnerable. You advertise what your wishes are, and if they’re not fulfilled, humiliation is public.

Asserting yourself makes you vulnerable to the judgments of others.

Saying no makes you feel unpopular and unwanted and, therefore, vulnerable.

Taking risks towards living a life on your terms makes you vulnerable.

All of the above examples of vulnerability have an equal mixture of courage and vulnerability. The result of the equation is self-esteem.

It releases the need to pursue perfection, which is also just another form of armor we use to protect ourselves. When we’re perfect, everything will be ok, so we work for that perfection.

When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, we ditch any illusion that we’ll ever achieve ‘perfection,’ whatever that might be. We expose ourselves to all the imperfect happenings of life.

The conquering of these happenings is what nutures life-long self-esteem.

Vulnerability As A Prerequisite to Self-Esteem

Vulnerability means exposure in some way, shape or form. It means overcoming obstacles and reaching inside yourself from the strength and confidence it takes to keep on going even when prospects don’t look so great.

As I’ve mentioned before, self-esteem is made of of your self-confidence and self-respect. It’s the reflection of how you feel about your competence and worth as an individual.

Consistently exposing yourself to challenges and overcoming them not only builds your confidence in your competence and worth as an individual, it’s also an expression of self-respect in and of itself.

The act of stating what you want, what scares you, what hurts you out loud, is a testament to your strength and shows yourself that you think your desires are important enough to be spoken.

Being openly vulnerable is having the courage and self-esteem to say ‘I am human. I am imperfect. And that’s awesome.’

That’s what I want to tell you today.

You are human. You are imperfect. And that’s awesome.

Photo Credit 1 & 2

{ 27 comments… add one }
  • Shane April 15, 2013, 11:34 am

    Liz… you really gotta stop tugging at the core of my heart and speaking about stuff like this ON THE EXACT DAY that I’m feeling that stuff.

    And thank you. 🙂

    • Liz April 16, 2013, 2:51 pm

      I wish I could say I’ll stop tugging at your heart strings, but it’s kind of what I strive for. So thanks for letting me know that I’ve done my job, at least one time. 🙂

  • Kathy Gabriel April 15, 2013, 11:49 am

    Ms Liz Seda, you are on a roll!
    Such a timely perspective … right on the button!
    The universe is conspiring! The words hit home big time. Vulnerability and self-esteem are not ”anti-‘ but ‘pro’ courage all the good things that make us resilient.

    … and the video games ‘obsession’ is the equivalent of my Pinterest habit right now!
    That’s OK … we’re awesome; we can handle it!

    • Liz April 16, 2013, 4:42 pm

      Being on a roll is awesome! It’s also scary too. When will the streak end? Gotta enjoy it while I can!

      We are awesome, and we can handle two obsessions at once! I’m just trying to max out my video game threshold. Prospects look poor…


  • Elaine April 15, 2013, 12:22 pm

    Wow Liz! Your timing is eerie…..was just thinking about this very subject as I had just watched Brene Brown’s TED talk on The Power of Vulnerability yesterday! Thank you for adding your thoughts.

    • Liz April 16, 2013, 4:43 pm

      I love Brene Brown! I have both of her books, but I haven’t been able to finish them. She opened my eyes to the true magic of vulnerability. Glad I caught you at an opportune moment!

  • Mark, Toronto April 15, 2013, 12:37 pm

    Thanks Liz for another great thought. You have A refreshing voice and great perspective in personal development.

    • Liz April 16, 2013, 4:51 pm

      Thank you Mark!

  • Morgan April 15, 2013, 5:50 pm

    LOL – Timing indeed Liz! You must be tuning into the cosmic vulnerability owl!

    I was just thinking about that one too. Perhaps it’s from all that video game zen you’ve been taping into 🙂

    • Liz April 16, 2013, 4:50 pm

      It must be! Especially since the nature of the game is real life…I’ve got to think about that…maybe I’ll contemplate it while playing 🙂 lol

  • Brian April 15, 2013, 6:14 pm

    I’ve definitely been carrying around a backward mindset, thinking that the willingness to be genuinely vulnerable was the product of high self-esteem, so it was important to make sure the latter was in “good shape.” I guess we can shed a lot of armor and still be comfortable retaining a couple layers, thinking we’re doing pretty well because life still seems to work. But in truth, there’s that “level” you mentioned concerning your own mission. A deeper level, the one necessary to having an honest chance of living at one’s max. No place for even light armor if I truly want to be operating from there.

    Okay Liz, now get back to your game. I’m interested to see where it leads you, too. 🙂

    • Liz April 16, 2013, 4:45 pm

      Haha Brian! No need to tell me to get back to it. I just got off of it. All my free time is spent on that and you guys. Can’t say I’m not happy about it though.

      And yes, there’s that level where you just need to interact with the world with no protection. It’s a beautiful and scary thing.

  • Kate Kindle April 15, 2013, 8:20 pm

    Another word for it-HONESTY! Good stuff, HONESTY! Gets me into all sorts of trouble, though. But, I can’t live any other way. Some of us have troublemakers close by, you know who I mean: the emotionally dishonest type. Of course, they’re just waiting in the shaodows for an honest person to show themselves (and to destroy the ED’s social game with their honest take on situations) so they can blow us out of the water. So, with them, naturally, I like to be honestly dishonest. A little song and dance, a little patter. Not everybody can absorb the real deal and that kind of fallout I don’t need. A word to the wise. You, Liz, probably know this very well, but folks of my kind sometimes aren’t as aware.

    • Liz April 16, 2013, 4:48 pm

      Kate. I’ve gotta say. I’m not sure what I just read, but it sounded awesome and incredibly profound. Kind of like reading Shakespeare. That’s me being vulnerable. I couldn’t keep up with your witty repartee.

      That’s ok though. Keeps me fresh ;).

      • Kate April 16, 2013, 7:32 pm

        Sorry about how complex my statements seem. Truth is, it’s hard to explain. But…..around certain types of people, the truly honest person is in deep danger. I can’t overly accentuate this. Honesty has a price.And honest dishonesty (otherwise called ‘total bullshit’, is the way to handle these evil doers. Remember, Satan is the father of lies. Lying, dishonesty in all aspects of living and communication and even in emotions, lying, is the hallmark of an evil person. So, the truly honest WILL expose them cause they’ll see it and they’ll call it as such. Hope this is clearer.

        • Morgan April 17, 2013, 2:39 am

          Hmm, so it’s like how honesty is good, but you shouldn’t be honest if a Nazi asks you if you are hiding someone in your attic.

          • Kate Kindle April 17, 2013, 3:22 pm

            Right! Or….if a Nazi gives an honest person the Nazi salute, the honest person would be wiser at that point to be a bit dishonest and salute him right back with a ‘Heil Hitler’, but only if he wants to live. Or…..say, a close, trusted relative is a bit too nosy in a way that is getting under your skin. Confrontation won’t work cause they’re inflexible, too. Dishonesty will put them off the scent.

  • Trevor April 16, 2013, 4:46 am

    You’re right Liz. It comes down to having the courage to be your true self. Because showing your authentic self to the world is the ultimate exposure. If you’re rejected, you can’t tell yourself “it’s just because they don’t know the real me.”

    That’s tough.

    Instead, you have to learn that not everyone will accept you for who you truly are. And learn to be OK with it. That’s where you’ll find real strength.

    Not easy by any means, but necessary to live a life on your terms.


    • Liz April 16, 2013, 4:49 pm

      It is isn’t it? Same thing when you talk about putting in your best effort. If you give it all you’ve got, vocalized your mission to the world, and you still fail, there’s nothing you can hide behind.

      Cheers Trevor! You always have something great to add, and I like that.

      *I encourage people to check out Trevors blog. It’s very in your face and honest.

  • Marj April 16, 2013, 10:35 am

    Wow! Terrific post and very thought provoking. Love, that is to say, true love does make us vulnerable. I learned that the first time I fell in love. Now that I am a father and having fell so deeply in love with my only son as I watched him come into the world I know there isn’t anything I would not do for him. I am humbled and honored and yes, terrified at times that I may not be able to meet his needs and desires. The essence of love is sacrifice. It is love refined. Love is a verb. So, if I say, “I love you”, then this means I will avail myself to you and give what is needed if I have it to give. This should not be taken lightly. People shouldn’t take lightly what you are doing, Liz. It is an act of love that requires strength and the mark of a pilgrim who is unveiling life’s mysteries and truths. Keep it up, please.

    • Liz April 16, 2013, 4:55 pm

      Thank you Marj. And congratulations on your son. I’ve head there’s nothing more potent than the love you have for a child, and I can definitely empathize with that.

      I think I really like thinking of myself as a ‘pilgrim who is unveiling life’s mysteries and truths.’ That’s exactly what I am! Maybe I should put that in my about page.

      Thoughts? 🙂

  • karen crossett April 19, 2013, 2:54 am

    Hi liz, great article. Visibility-Vulnerability is showing up in our lives instead of disappearing and hiding under the weight of low self esteem. If the human race became less critical and cherished an open heart we could enjoy and respect vulnerability. It is a definite change in mindset when we realise happiness and self esteem is opening up to our life energy and embracing it.
    Thanks for the thoughts and Have a good day.

    • Liz April 19, 2013, 11:24 am

      Thanks Karen. I think we definitely go through life too often with our arms crossed when they should just be wide open.


  • Nick Goodall April 21, 2013, 9:22 am

    I like your ideas on the armour (I’m english, I add a ‘u’), it’s true that we often block ourselves off – it’s conformity. I find it incredibly valuable going out there naked, bare and exposing oneself to the elements. Yes it’s scary, yes we may be shot down, but yes – we grow. Our self-esteem grows, our knowledge grows, and best of all – our experience grows.

    I really liked your take on the topic, and I can admire you going out to get hurt yourself, Liz!

    • Liz May 3, 2013, 1:23 pm

      Absolutely Nick! Who would I be if I didn’t practice what I preach. Many times, practicing it is what gives me the courage to write it.


  • Cheryl Ragsdale August 23, 2013, 2:41 am

    The smallest indication of stepping into something that might go wrong brings up all kinds of vulnerable feelings. I’ve learned to respect fear when it rises up –every time I try something new. I respect my fear, but I don’t like being afraid.

    I’m learning to hang out with my vulnerable feelings for a little while longer. From that perspective, I try not to overload my self with more than I can digest. Plus, I try to surround myself with supportive and protective people.

  • Trung August 29, 2013, 2:48 pm

    I thought this was a guest post at first, it was very different from your usual style. It read like a poem 🙂


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