Vulnerability: A Surprising Strength?

Occasionally, life stops us in our tracks with a powerful message.

During one of our regular beach walks a few years back, my wife and I paused to watch the 2017 World Adaptive Surfing Championships. In this sport, so-called “disabled” athletes deny their physical limits, competing for international medals.

Watching these acts of great courage and persistence brought tears to my eyes, and one moment in particular caught my attention.

A young man in his mid-20s was preparing to surf in the championship heat. He had been left paralyzed below the waist following a horrific car accident. His flaccid legs simply wouldn’t respond to any messages from his brain asking them to support or move him.

His coach bent over and scooped him up like a child to carry him into the water.

I wasn’t sure how I’d feel to be this young man. But I know that I would probably struggle with a deep sense of inadequacy at having to be carried like a child.

How sad—not for him, but for me!

Far from my piteous response, this young hero had embraced his vulnerability, graciously accepting the loving help of his coach.

Through his “weakness,” he was strong.

Human history is filled with stories that capture the intimate juxtaposition of vulnerability and strength.

A hero is frequently born from a character who hits rock bottom. Urban legend has it that successful entrepreneurs must experience bankruptcy before they enjoy success. The mythological phoenix flies up from the ashes of its predecessor, rising with new life. Out of war comes peace.

Vulnerability is a powerful seed for rebirth and growth.

In both her scholarly and her popular writing, resilience expert Brené Brown highlights the value of the “face-plant,” that moment we find ourselves face down in the arena of life. She guides her followers on how to respond to this situation, suggesting that, when we embrace vulnerability, and even seek it out, we open the door for profound, transformational growth.

Without accepting his vulnerability, this elite athlete wouldn’t have been competing at the highest level, and he wouldn’t be wearing the gold medal and the champion’s title that is rightfully his today.

In contrast, how often has “strength” been my own weakness? How many victories have I denied myself by hiding behind false strength or frail ego, instead of asking for and accepting help?

How many victories have you denied yourself the exact same way?

Challenge yourself to explore your own vulnerability.

When we are truly vulnerable, we engage in powerful actions that fuel growth. We listen, ask for help, yield to insurmountable challenges, and above all invite rebirth.

When you embrace your vulnerability, you, too, will be a champion.

Dr. Roddy Carter, MD, has over 30 years of experience working across a range of medical disciplines and corporate settings. 

At the height of his successful career, Roddy experienced a personal health and happiness awakening. During this profoundly transformative time, he began applying his deep knowledge of performance neuroscience to his everyday life. He discovered that, in moments of stress, the brain develops intricate psycho-protective adaptations to ensure our short-term survival; however, these adaptations often impose substantial residual limitations, create profound (and often hidden) distress, and prevent us from reaching our innate potential.

Today, Roddy is an executive coach and author dedicated to helping others unlock their full potential throughout their lives by applying compassionate neuroscience and sharing his unique approach to Personal Mastery™.

To learn more about Roddy and his coaching services, and to follow his blog, visit You can find his books, BodyWHealth and Sunset Lessons, on Amazon.