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Self-esteem and Vulnerability

Self-esteem and Vulnerability

Self-esteem is difficult to define but a lack of it is one of the most common reasons people come for counselling. There is a close link between self-esteem and perfectionism and between a self-esteem and a sense of shame and between self-esteem and vulnerability  – and between all these issues and anxiety, depression and addiction.

This is the third and final blog in a series which focus on the work of Brene Brown, research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. She has spent the past ten years studying vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame. Her two Tedtalks are among the most-viewed on  (2010) and  (2012)

As a counsellor I highly recommend listening to her to my clients – she is a funny and engaging speaker who is willing to talk about challenges in her own life as well as her research findings. I also recommend her books to many of my clients – whether they are struggling with anxiety, depression or low self-esteem. I can honestly say that of all the psychology / self-help books I’ve read over the years, they are far and away the best. Apart from the fact that she is an excellent writer, she bases everything she says on her twelve years of interviewing many thousands of men and women of all ages on issues such as self- esteem and perfectionism, shame and vulnerability.

Daring Greatly

In her book “Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent” which was number one on the New York ties bestseller list, Brene Brown takes Theodore Roosevelt’s speech “Citizen in a Republic” as her inspiration:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly…”

What does it mean to be be vulnerable?

She says that every day we experience the uncertainty, risks, and emotional exposure that define what it means to be vulnerable, or to dare greatly. Whether we are talking about a new relationship, an important meeting, our creative process, or a difficult family conversation, we must find the courage to walk into vulnerability and engage with our whole hearts.

Based on twelve years of research, she argues that vulnerability is not weakness, but rather our clearest path to courage, engagement, and meaningful connection.  She says “owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. 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. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” She says “Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.”

and “Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”

Need some advice and support?

If you are struggling with low self-esteem and would like to talk it over in complete confidentiality, call Alison Winfield, Mindfully Well Counselling Cork on 087 9934541.


Book a counselling session today!


“Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent” Brene Brown takes  and Lead B. Brown (2012) Penguin

See also my blogs on: Self -Esteem, Perfectionism and Self-Esteem, Shame and Recovery