Emotional Resilience Starts with Vulnerability

In my TEDxTalk, I tell a story about a video I saw by Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski explaining how lobsters grow. When a lobster grows, its shell becomes constricting and uncomfortable. The shell doesn’t grow with the lobster, so in order to grow the lobster has to shed its shell to grow a bigger one. When it’s time to upgrade, it just scurries under a few rocks and hangs out vulnerably while it waits for its new shell to grow. The only way for the lobster to grow is for it to be uncomfortable and vulnerable while it’s making a bigger, better shell.

Vulnerability can be scary. We crave certainty, and building emotional resilience requires us to get uncomfortable with ambiguity and the unknown. It means that we risk being hurt but are still willing to forge ahead into the unknown because ahead is the only way to go. 

One of my favorite authors, Brené Brown, says, “We can choose courage or we can choose comfort, but we can’t have both.”

We all go through the universal experience of shame, judgment, blame, lack of self-esteem, and even self-loathing. It is only through our willingness to embrace our imperfections that we can find courage, emotional resilience, self-compassion, and that ever-so-elusive peace of mind. The way to beat perfectionism is to acknowledge where we are most vulnerable. 

Vulnerability can be scary. We crave certainty, and building emotional resilience requires us to get uncomfortable with ambiguity and the unknown.  

Our thoughts drive our actions and our actions become our habits. If you’re ready to embrace your inner lobster, here are 4 ways to proactively choose vulnerability to grow emotional resilience: 

1. Start with the way you talk to yourself about yourself.
I talk a lot about communication in business and in relationships, but in this case, it has to start with how you communicate TO yourself ABOUT yourself. It’s difficult to see the world in a way that is inconsistent with the way you see yourself. If you’re sending yourself messages like “I’m not good enough” and “I’m unhappy”, you start to find those things because we find what we look for. Building resilience starts with self-compassion. Blaming our actions rather than our character allows us to feel guilt instead of shame. In his newest book, Resilient, Dr. Rick Hanson asks, “What would you do if you were on your own side?” Approach yourself with the same kindness you would show to a friend.

2. Focus on your strengths and magnify them.
We each have strengths and talents that come naturally to us and that we enjoy. It is interesting that most of us spend so much time trying to fix our weaknesses that we become burned out, frustrated, and mediocre. Rather than spend all of our time and energy dwelling on fixing weaknesses, the real goal should be developing our strengths and leveraging them to take ourselves to a whole new level. When we allow ourselves permission to develop our strengths rather than fixate on our weaknesses, we end up happier, more effective, and more successful. 

3. Don’t give up authenticity for likeability.  
I certainly can’t speak for everyone, but I will admit (reluctantly) that in an effort to fit in, belong, and be liked, I have been guilty of this, as I’m sure many are. One would think that after the judgmental relationships and cliques we had when we were younger, we could let go and truly be ourselves. We aggregate our perfect moments and post them on Facebook, and then spend our time worrying what other people think about us. Social media can be great if it helps you connect with others and build relationships, but not when it starts impacting your mood or causes you to constantly compare yourself with others. Stop comparing yourself to others and start embracing who you are and what you have to offer.

4. Lean in to fear and move forward.
Self-doubt and fear can be paralyzing or motivating. People who are successful have self-doubt, fear, and uncertainty. If you feel like that, you are in good company. But you can choose your thoughts and perspective to move forward anyway. Give yourself time to process whatever emotions you are feeling. Get curious as to why you feel anxious or afraid. Don’t judge your feelings, just observe them. After all, if you’re not uncomfortable, you’re not getting better. But remember, when you stand up to feelings of fear, discomfort, and anxiety, you flex your courage and resilience muscles and come out stronger for it.

We are all works-in-progress and learning to let go happens gradually. Emotional resilience is not about winning the battle against fear and self-doubt, rather it is the strength to power through the storm and still keep your sail steady. We move toward being the best we can be, forgiving ourselves for our shortcomings, and appreciating all the parts that make us who we are.

– Anne

P.S. – Don’t forget to participate in our Gratitude Challenge 🙌 ! You could win a $250 Amazon gift card or a donation to the charity of your choice just by telling us what you’re grateful for!


We live in a world where we are bombarded with information, saturated with stimulation, and overloaded with deadlines, tasks, and deliverables. Demanding schedules, competing priorities, and a never ending list of to-do’s have made stress and burnout common place. Stress is the leading cause of heart disease, depression, anxiety, diabetes, high blood pressure, and a whole host of other ailments, and it has literally become a public health epidemic.

Resilience Training & Productivity

The good news is that research has found a way to help combat the many challenges associated with stress, and companies that practice this are more productive, more profitable, and higher performing as a result. More and more organizations are turning to resilience training to help their employees manage stress, navigate change, and overcome obstacles and setbacks.

Resilience Is A Skill That Can Be Learned

Resilience is not a personality trait but rather a set of skills and habits that can be developed and honed, and there are skills, behaviors, and attitudes that can be learned. For example, research has consistently shown a link between job satisfaction and the degree to which managers express gratitude to employees. Gratitude affects your brain at a neurological level, producing serotonin and dopamine (the brain’s feel good neurotransmitters), and reduces cortisol (our stress & “fight or flight” response). Practicing mindfulness has been found to significantly impact and improve the part of the brain responsible for memory, attention, and emotional regulation.

One size does not fit all. Learn a ton of cool ways to build your courage resilience.


This is a resilience revolution, and it starts with you!

anne grady resilience keynote speakerAnne Grady is a Speaker, Author, and #TruthBomb Dropper.

Anne shares practical strategies that can be applied both personally and professionally to improve relationships, navigate change, and triumph over adversity. And she’ll make you laugh while she does it. Anne is a two time TEDx speaker, and her work has been featured in numerous media outlets, including Harvard Business Review, Entrepreneur, Forbes, Fast Company and Inc. magazines, CNN, ESPN, and FOX Business. She is the best selling author of 52 Strategies for Life, Love & Work and Strong Enough: Choosing Courage, Resilience and Triumph.

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