Emotions Aren't A Sign Of Weakness: The Benefits Of Being Vulnerable

Medically reviewed by Andrea Brant, LMHC
Updated April 23, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Everyone experiences emotions, whether they decide to accept them or not. While ignoring emotions can lead to physical and mental health challenges, vulnerability can improve relationships, mental health, and self-acceptance. Many people find it intimidating to be vulnerable, as it requires self-awareness and a willingness to take the risk of trusting others. 

Are you afraid showing your emotions will make you seem weak?

Several strategies can make opening up easier, including showing compassion, embracing imperfections, practicing mindfulness, and developing healthy boundaries. If vulnerability is challenging, you may want to work with a therapist who can provide individualized guidance and support.  

What does it mean to be vulnerable? 

Vulnerability can be described as exposure to potential risk. By nature, vulnerability includes some relinquishing of control, which can trigger feelings of insecurity or instability. Emotional vulnerability involves acknowledging sometimes uncomfortable feelings, including anxiety, anger, jealousy, guilt, and loneliness. Emotionally vulnerable people accept painful emotions rather than avoid them. 

According to Berkeley Well-Being Institute, vulnerability consists of two steps. First, one must observe emotions without thinking about or acting on them. Next, we validate feelings by acknowledging that it’s okay to feel however we feel. Validation requires the absence of shame, judgment, or criticism. Though it can be frightening to share feelings honestly, emotional vulnerability is often considered a strength due to its ability to improve intimacy, enable honesty, and build self-love. 

Why it can be hard to open up

Many people admire those who share their vulnerabilities while simultaneously believing that vulnerability in themselves is unacceptable or too risky. Professor Brené Brown studies vulnerability at the University of Houston and sums it up: “Vulnerability is courage in you and inadequacy in me.”

Often, people find vulnerability difficult for these reasons:  

Conflating vulnerability with weakness

Many people fear that vulnerability will make them seem “too emotional” or “weak.” To protect themselves from the judgment, uncertainty, and risk that can come with vulnerability, they may attempt to suppress emotions. But people experience emotions whether they’re willing to acknowledge them or not. Embracing vulnerability is a strength, not a weakness, and it can foster more authentic relationships with yourself and others.  

Worrying about the “right” feelings

There’s no right or wrong way to feel. Attempting to adjust your true feelings to fit the mold of how you think you should feel can make you feel inauthentic or invalidated.  


Your trust has been broken before

It can be challenging to embrace vulnerability if you’ve experienced relationships that did not feel safe or secure or where your emotions were not respected. However, building safe spaces for vulnerability with trusted allies, such as close friends, family members, or therapists, can help. 

Fear of abandonment or rejection 

If you worry that people you care about might leave or reject you, it can be extremely difficult to trust them or be open about your emotions. People who experience fear of abandonment may blame themselves, avoid emotional intimacy, or lack trust in their partners. In addition to working with a therapist, it can help to work towards emotional awareness and self-compassion. 

The benefits of being vulnerable

There are many benefits to becoming more emotionally vulnerable, starting with increased emotional intimacy. According to one study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, healthy relationships require intimacy (a sense of closeness), which can be improved through vulnerable revelations and emotional support. Being vulnerable can strengthen open communication and reduce the frequency of conflict in relationships.

Being vulnerable can also build trust. When you share your vulnerabilities with someone, you’re taking a risk by revealing something that they could potentially use against you. Therefore, when someone respects your vulnerable revelations, trust will likely increase. 

When done in safe spaces, vulnerability can allow people to rely less on control and emotional isolation, which can build a stronger sense of self in both individuals and groups. Writing for the London Journal of Primary Care, Paul Thomas explains that this is why music, visual art, and story sharing in small groups can encourage vulnerability.  

Tips for embracing vulnerability

There are several steps you can take to improve vulnerability in your relationship with your partner, family, friends, colleagues, and yourself: 

Show yourself compassion

Many people are self-critical and engage in negative self-talk, which can promote shame and low self-esteem. Research shows that practicing self-compassion, on the other hand, can increase vulnerability and reduce avoidant behaviors, burnout, stress, and shame. 

You can start working on self-compassion by noticing when you think negatively about yourself, reframing thoughts with gentler language, and treating yourself like a close friend.

Think of mistakes as learning opportunities

Perfectionism can drive low self-worth, high stress, reduced career growth, and symptoms of depression and anxiety. People with perfectionistic tendencies typically avoid vulnerability, which can inhibit interpersonal relationships and contribute to loneliness. 

Instead of aspiring to perfection, it can be helpful to focus on setting reasonable goals, letting go of others’ expectations, and engaging in more positive self-talk. By acknowledging that all people are flawed and complex, you may help yourself become more comfortable with imperfection.  

Develop healthy boundaries 

To safely practice emotional vulnerability, it is essential to establish boundaries. Vulnerability includes some degree of risk, and sharing everything with everyone is not always a good idea. Try starting small by sharing a bit of sensitive information with someone and gauging whether they respect your revelations and trust you enough to reciprocate. Over time, your relationship may become more trusting, and vulnerability may feel safer.  

Practice mindfulness

When you’re feeling overwhelmed, it can help to re-center yourself with mindfulness. Practice present-focused deep breathing, noticing thoughts and feelings that come up, and allowing them to pass by without judgment. Mindfulness can promote emotional acceptance and self-compassion while reducing shame. 

Getty/Xavier Lorenzo
Are you afraid showing your emotions will make you seem weak?

Why try therapy?

People who find vulnerability challenging often experience low self-esteem and shame, which can worsen mental health. A 2017 study published in Frontiers in Psychology found that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can effectively improve self-esteem and mental health. 

For individuals who find it difficult to discuss their feelings with an in-person therapist, online therapy may be preferable. Through online therapy platforms like BetterHelp, participants can match with a therapist uniquely qualified to assist them in their specific endeavors. There’s no need to compromise on other priorities with the ability to set videoconference meetings or phone calls at times that work for your schedule. You can also text your therapist in the moment.

A 2019 study found that online therapy gives clients ‘distance’ from their therapist, which can help them feel more comfortable and in control of sessions. Additionally, a 2022 study conducted to assess the value of online cognitive behavioral therapy for adolescents found that it can effectively improve self-esteem and quality of life while reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression. 


Vulnerability entails an openness to potential risk by accepting and exposing sometimes painful and raw emotions. While the human experience includes experiencing uncomfortable feelings, it can be difficult to acknowledge or share them with ourselves or others. 

Though it makes sense that many people avoid sharing intense feelings, the benefits of vulnerability are numerous, including promoting intimacy, trust, and a sense of self. By emphasizing self-compassion and healthy boundaries while devaluing perfectionism, you may be able to increase vulnerability in your life. 

If you’re experiencing low self-esteem, shame, or other mental health challenges in addition to vulnerability, you might want to work with a licensed therapist. Online therapy can effectively address challenges with vulnerability and self-esteem, and many people find it easier to open up to a therapist online. Reach out to a compassionate, nonjudgmental counselor at BetterHelp for personalized support.

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