The Power of Vulnerability in Life and in Sport

“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they are never weakness.”

~Brené Brown

A few years ago, I watched a TED Talk by Brené Brown called “The Power of Vulnerability,” and it completely changed my life. Up to that point, I equated vulnerability with weakness. I thought that letting people see me cry meant that I was weak. I thought that asking for help, or being 100% open and honest with my thoughts and feelings, would destroy the perception people had of me, or rather, the perception that I wantedpeople to have of me, of being a strong, unshakeable fighter who could handle anything thrown my way. For me, showing weakness was not an option.

As it turns out, it is much easier to hide behind the persona that you want people to see than to step out and show yourself as you are. My fear of showing weakness not only made it difficult to make meaningful connections with people, but it was the easy way out. In avoiding weakness, I was choosing it over the strength and courage that it takes to let people in and see me and all of my faults and insecurities. I am definitely a strong woman, and I’m a fighter when I need to be, but I don’t need to be unshakeable. I’m human, and there are days when I will need some extra help. I’m not ashamed of that.

It takes real strength to let people see you cry. It takes a lot of courage to speak the truth and let people in and vocalize your fears or dreams. Vulnerability is risky, and it may not always get the reaction you want; putting yourself out there opens you up in a big way, but true connections cannot be made without it. For me, if I let people in and they don’t like what they see, or if they use it against me, those are relationships that I don’t want to pursue. I have no regrets, though, when things don’t go my way. I would much rather be rejected for being who I am, and know where I stand, than be accepted for being someone I’m not.

Vulnerability is critical in any meaningful relationship, and I think it is a key factor in team relationships as well. I think that for a group working toward a common goal, there has to be a certain level of vulnerability among members. It allows teammates to feel like they are equals, and I am much more likely to lay everything I have on the line for someone if I know that we are 100% in it together, and that they will do the exact same for me.

Good teammates are there for each other, and there is zero weakness in asking your teammates or coaches for help, or admitting that you are struggling. For example, if I am struggling on serve receive, there is no shame or weakness in asking my teammate to help me by taking a little more court to ease the pressure a little bit. If I am having trouble scoring, it is much better for me and for the team to ask for some insight into what my coaches or teammates are seeing than trying over and over again to do it on my own. Being real and honest not only helps your team performance, but lets your teammates know that you trust them, and that you are in the battle together.

There is no need to be a hero. There is no need to prove that you can handle everything by yourself. In asking for help and accepting it, you are not only allowing your team a greater chance at success, but you are forging more solid and meaningful relationships with the people around you.

Be vulnerable. Be strong. Let yourself show. It is always worth it.


xo, Sarah


About the Author: Olympian Sarah Pavan, is a Canadian indoor & beach volleyball player, who most recently represented her country on the golden beaches of Rio. Sarah has been playing indoor volleyball for over twenty years, and has been representing Canada a the elite level since 2001.  Follow Sarah on her Instagram, on Twitter and online.