Connection and Vulnerability

The need and desire to connect with others remains essential. The prolonged need to physically distance, teach, learn and work remotely coupled with the inability to visit friends and family due to travel restrictions and other necessary coronavirus prevention precautions is taking a toll on us all. In recent months, there has been encouragement to reach out to others and remain connected. This is because connection with others gives our lives significant meaning and purpose. We are all wired to connect and as childhood trauma expert Bruce Perry says, “We are born to love.”

We all know what it feels like to be in the presence of others (even virtually) but not truly feel connected. I have felt this lately through virtual telehealth sessions and trainings where everyone is trying to remain calm, get used to the technology and juggle barking dogs and household demands with the person or people with whom we are interacting. Educators are feeling disconnected from students because they aren’t in person or lack of participation. We all know how middle and high school youth loathe turning on their cameras. Sometimes we spend hours talking to a computer without seeing faces.

Brene Brown has taught us that true connection requires vulnerability. We all desperately need connection, but it comes at a cost – we must get comfortable with discomfort and that isn’t easy.

What does this really mean? How can we do get there, and what are the benefits?

Vulnerability is consciously and intentionally choosing yourself to be seen, and to be seen fully. To say it another way, being vulnerable means that we make a decision to be honest with ourselves and others by exposing and sharing authentic thoughts, feelings, opinions, and even appearances. This is not an easy place to be – it is uncomfortable and scary. It takes courage. The fear of others thinking you are not worthy or not good enough because of your uniqueness is universal. We all experience this unease in some way. But, it is essential for true connection. So how can we, as child-caring adults, practice vulnerability so we may reap the full benefits of connection?

  • Compliment others, tell them they are appreciated, you respect them, you love them.
  • Establish clear boundaries. Maybe you need more time to prepare for a meeting or only want to answer email during working hours.
  • Admit if you need help or support. Reach out and let someone know you are struggling.
  • Say “I’m sorry.” Take responsibility for your actions and do not blame.
  • Tell someone if they are being hurtful or insensitive. You can be kind and truthful simultaneously.
  • Be unique. Don’t hold back trying out a new hairstyle. Let your taste in music, art, or politics be known.
  • Be okay with “not knowing. “ Ask questions. Be curious.
  • Tell yourself daily that you are worthy of being loved.
  • Believe you are enough, exactly the way you are! There is no such thing as perfect.

Szalavitz, M. & Perry, B. (2010). Born for love: Why empathy is essential and endangered. Harper Collins: NY, NY.


Ted Talk with Brene Brown

The power of vulnerability

Making connections, despite one's vulnerability, is crucial to establishing belonging among all of us. I dive deeper into establishing belonging in our Back to School During a Pandemic series. Enjoy a free episode below.

You can join the conversation! In Back to School During a Pandemic, Dr. Soma walks alongside professionals, answering your questions and providing insight and support during this trying time. Learn more on our store.

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By Dr. Caelan Soma, PsyD, LMSW

Dr. Caelan Soma, PsyD, LMSW, Chief Clinical Officer, provides oversight for all clinical operations and research at Starr Commonwealth. Dr. Soma provides trauma assessment and trauma informed, resilience focused intervention for youth utilizing evidence-based practices, including TLC’s SITCAP® model programs.

About Starr Commonwealth

Starr Commonwealth is dedicated to the mission to lead with courage to create positive experiences so that all children, families, and communities flourish. We specialize in residential, community-based, educational, and professional training programs that build on the strengths of children, adults, and families in communities around the world. To schedule a training or consultation, please contact or call 800-837-5591.