Adolescence is a period of immense physical and emotional vulnerability. For most of us vulnerability has negative connotations – we see it as a weakness and something we should try to avoid. Vulnerability is defined as being easily hurt, influenced or attacked, so it makes sense that we try to avoid it at all costs!
On the other hand, vulnerability is necessary for meaningful human connection. It is the foundation upon which healthy relationships are built.
In 2010, a social worker and qualitative researcher from the University of Houston delivered a TED talk about the power of vulnerability. In her presentation, which has since accumulated 42 million views on YouTube, Brene Brown shared the results of her extensive research on human relationships. She found the people who were most connected were those who embraced their vulnerability and believed they were worthy of love and belonging. These were the people who had the courage to be imperfect, authentic, and compassionate to themselves and others. She concludes that while vulnerability is at the core of shame and fear, it is also the birthplace of joy, creativity, belonging and love.
Just as adolescence is a vulnerable period, it is also a time of great opportunity. If young people are too guarded, they may miss out on important social and emotional learning experiences. They may feel lonely, disconnected and unable to be themselves. This is the balancing act of adolescence – taking risks so we can grow, while also learning how to survive and feel safe in the world.