Skip to content

Ready For A Vulnerability Hangover? Five Ideas From Brené Brown

By Remy Meraz June 13, 2024

Ready For A Vulnerability Hangover? Five Ideas From Brené Brown

Introduction: Embracing Vulnerability with Brené Brown

Exploring the concept of vulnerability

What does it mean to truly be vulnerable? In the words of renowned researcher and author Brené Brown, vulnerability is not just a state but a courageous act, the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change. To be vulnerable means to open oneself up to emotional risk, uncertainty, and emotional exposure—a definition that challenges the conventional wisdom that equates vulnerability with weakness. Instead, vulnerability is a powerful catalyst for personal growth and deeper connections with others, offering us a greater sense of freedom and authenticity in our lives.

What does it mean to be vulnerable?

Being vulnerable involves more than just sharing parts of ourselves with others; it is about being honest with who we are, embracing our imperfections, and daring greatly in the face of potential judgment and criticism. This openness can sometimes lead to a "vulnerability hangover"—a term coined by Brown to describe the rush of regret and fear after we've shared our deepest emotions or uncomfortable feelings. Yet, this discomfort is often a necessary part of growing, learning, and forming genuine human connections. It invites us to cultivate self-compassion and resilience, showing us that the path to true self-understanding and mutual trust in relationships often begins with being vulnerably open.

By understanding the real meaning of vulnerability and how experiencing vulnerability hangovers can be a part of our journey toward self-discovery, we are better equipped to navigate the complexities of life and relationships with courage and self-love.

Join our Newsletter

Transform your career with our personal growth insights. Get one valuable tip right in your inbox every Saturday morning.

The Five Ideas From Brené Brown on Vulnerability

Idea #1: The Benefits of Being Vulnerable

How vulnerability leads to personal growth

Embracing vulnerability opens us to new experiences and deeper connections. Brené Brown highlights that being vulnerable allows us to confront our fears and tap into our true potential. This process is not without its discomforts; it involves exposing our innermost thoughts and feelings, risking judgment from others. Yet, it is precisely this emotional risk that fosters personal growth, enhancing our self-awareness and emotional intelligence. By acknowledging and expressing our vulnerabilities, we not only learn more about ourselves but also create opportunities for genuine relationships and personal transformation.

Having a ‘vulnerability hangover’ is good for you

The concept of a "vulnerability hangover," where we feel regret or fear after being open, might seem daunting. However, Brown argues that this is a sign of having taken significant emotional risks, which are necessary for growth. Such experiences push us beyond our comfort zones and, though they might involve negative thoughts and self-doubt, they ultimately strengthen our resilience and self-compassion. Embracing these moments can transform them from sources of stress and anxiety into powerful lessons in courage and self-acceptance.

Ready For A Vulnerability Hangover? Five Ideas From Brené Brown

Idea #2: Differences in How We Experience Shame

Women and men experience shame differently

According to Brown's research, shame—a powerful emotion tied to vulnerability—is experienced differently by genders. Women often feel shame around the expectations of perfection and pleasing others, while men commonly feel shame when perceived as weak. This disparity highlights the importance of understanding how various factors such as culture, gender, and upbringing influence our experiences of vulnerability and shape our emotional responses. Recognizing these differences is crucial for fostering empathy and supporting one another in our journeys toward emotional vulnerability.

Idea #3: Understanding the Psychology Behind Vulnerability

Narcissism and the fear of being ordinary

Brené Brown's insights extend into the fears that fuel our resistance to vulnerability, such as the fear of being ordinary—an aspect closely linked to narcissism. This fear drives individuals to shield themselves from vulnerability, opting instead to project an image of exceptionality. Brown encourages us to embrace our ordinary aspects, which connects to the broader, more relatable experiences of life, enhancing our connections with others and allowing us to live more authentically.

Idea #4: Identifying and Managing Your Feelings

Identify your feelings and emotions

Part of becoming more vulnerable involves recognizing and naming our emotions. Brown emphasizes the importance of emotional awareness as the first step towards managing our emotional exposure. By understanding what we feel and why we feel it, we can better navigate our emotional landscapes, leading to healthier coping mechanisms and decision-making processes.

Coping strategies for overcoming vulnerability hangovers

To manage the aftermath of being vulnerable, Brown suggests practices such as mindfulness, which keeps us anchored in the present moment, and journaling, which helps us process our experiences. Establishing a support network of trusted friends and family who offer understanding and kind words can also be crucial in overcoming fears and building resilience.

Ready For A Vulnerability Hangover? Five Ideas From Brené Brown

Idea #5: Creating a Safe Space for Vulnerability

Find your safe space

Creating a physical and emotional environment where we feel secure enough to share our true selves is essential for practicing vulnerability. This safe space could be anything from a supportive friendship or a family relationship to a specific place that gives us comfort and peace. The security of these spaces encourages us to lower our defenses and share more openly.

Keep it up till you feel more comfortable sharing

Consistency is key in becoming more emotionally open. Brown advises to gradually share more as you feel comfortable, and to recognize that building trust and openness takes time. As we continue to engage in vulnerability, our comfort with sharing and our capacity to handle others' vulnerability also grow, fostering a culture of mutual trust and understanding.

Join our Newsletter

Transform your career with our personal growth insights. Get one valuable tip right in your inbox every Saturday morning.

Practical Steps to Take After a Vulnerability Hangover

Getting things off our chest: pros and cons

Sharing our deepest emotions and vulnerabilities can be a liberating experience, leading to significant personal growth and deeper connections. However, revealing our innermost thoughts often comes with a cost. Brené Brown refers to the aftermath of such disclosures as a "vulnerability hangover," a period marked by doubt, anxiety, and negative thoughts. While the act of sharing is crucial, it's equally important to recognize and prepare for the emotional turbulence that might follow. The discomfort we feel can serve as a powerful catalyst for self-discovery and strengthening our emotional resilience.

What to do if we initially feel worse after sharing

Experiencing a vulnerability hangover is common after sharing uncomfortable feelings or difficult truths. If you find yourself feeling worse rather than better, here are a few steps to help you navigate and overcome these emotions:

  1. Acknowledge your feelings: Recognize that it's normal to feel vulnerable or regretful after sharing personal aspects of your life. Accepting these feelings without judgment is the first step toward moving past them.
  2. Seek support: Turn to trusted friends, family members, or a mental health professional who can offer empathy, kind words, and perspective. Sharing your feelings of vulnerability can often help alleviate the weight of carrying them alone.
  3. Practice self-compassion: Remind yourself that daring greatly by being emotionally vulnerable is an act of courage. Treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding you would offer a friend in a similar situation.
  4. Reflect on the experience: Consider what you can learn from the experience. Did it bring any new insights or strengthen any relationships? Focusing on the positive outcomes can help shift your perspective from regret to appreciation.

By implementing these strategies, you can better manage the negative feelings that come with vulnerability hangovers and turn these experiences into opportunities for growth and deeper connection.

Ready For A Vulnerability Hangover? Five Ideas From Brené Brown

Conclusion: The Path to Resilience

Roundup: Embracing vulnerability hangovers

Vulnerability hangovers, although uncomfortable, are an essential part of our emotional and psychological growth. These moments of regret or fear following deep sharing are not just inevitable but necessary. Brené Brown teaches us that through these experiences, we learn more about our true selves and develop greater emotional resilience. Embracing these feelings rather than avoiding them allows us to build inner strength and self-compassion, key components of a healthy mental and emotional life.

Encouraging continuous personal growth through vulnerability

The journey of personal growth through vulnerability is ongoing and dynamic. Each act of opening up, each moment of feeling emotionally exposed, and every vulnerability hangover we overcome, brings us closer to our authentic selves. This process, though fraught with emotional risk and discomfort, is ultimately rewarding, as it leads to a deeper connection with others and a fuller, more joyful life. By daring greatly, acknowledging our feelings, and caring for our mental load with kindness and understanding, we turn vulnerability into a powerful ally in the quest for a more connected and fulfilling life.

Read more about: Well-being, Self Advocacy

About Remy Meraz

Remy Meraz, co-founder, and CEO of Zella Life, is a visionary leader who leveraged corporate glass ceiling challenges as a woman of color to drive systemic change.

While leading and cultivating high-performance teams from VC-backed startups to Fortune 500, she consistently faced obstacles such as inadequate mentorship, lack of psychological safety, and non-personalized training. Taking matters into her own hands, she turned to executive coaching and NLP training. This life-changing growth experience led to breaking leadership barriers and a passion for cognitive psychology.

Motivated by her experiences, she co-founded Zella Life, an innovative AI-driven coaching platform bridging the talent development gap by enhancing soft skills and emotional intelligence (EQ) in the workplace.

Her vision with Zella Life is to transform professional development into an inclusive and impactful journey, focused on the distinct needs of both individuals and organizations. She aims to promote advancement and culture change by ensuring every professional's growth is acknowledged and supported.

Today, Remy is recognized as an influential innovator, trainer, mentor, and business leader. Under her leadership, Zella Life has delivered significant measurable outcomes for numerous well-known brands. This track record of positive outcomes garnered attention and funding from Google for Startups and Pledge LA, establishing Zella Life as a pivotal force in the learning and development arena tackling and resolving fundamental talent development issues for organizations of all sizes.