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  • Writer's pictureInterval Health

Why it’s Difficult To Be Vulnerable When You’re Highly Successful

Highly successful people often appear to “have it all together.” At least, that’s how it might look to someone standing on the outside of someone else’s personal life. However, research has shown that successful people and those in leadership positions or high-power jobs are often under more stress. They might be at a greater risk of developing anxiety or depression.

Unfortunately, they’re also less likely to seek out help for those things, even before they develop into something serious. Why is that?

If you’re considered a highly successful person, you may struggle with those things. Do you have a hard time opening up and expressing your feelings, even when you’re overwhelmed? Do you find it difficult to be vulnerable? Let’s dig a little deeper into why that is and what you can do to break those patterns.

You Are Your Own Worst Critic

When you find success in life, you likely have to work hard to get there. Maybe you have a unique talent or physical ability that has helped you reach your goals. Maybe you climbed the corporate ladder. Whatever the case, many people still struggle with their “inner critic.”

It can be hard to be vulnerable when you judge yourself more harshly than others. Maybe you think you don’t deserve your success or that you can’t live up to the expectations people have of you. That kind of negative self-talk creates fear and anxiety and can keep you from opening up.

The Fear of Weakness

Perhaps the biggest reason why it’s so difficult to be vulnerable when you’re successful is the stigma surrounding it. Even now, there are people who view vulnerability and openness as a sign of weakness. Whether you’re in a leadership position or people look to you for any kind of guidance, the last thing you want is to appear “weak,” right? Not necessarily—we’ll touch on that in a moment.

However, vulnerability and weakness have gone hand-in-hand for generations. Many people associate vulnerability with sensitivity and might think someone who is too willing to open up about their feelings can’t lead others or take charge of important tasks. Unfortunately, those stereotypes still exist, especially in high-stakes careers.

You can be especially susceptible to these stereotypes if you feel you have something to prove. For example, women and minority groups might have an even more difficult time showing vulnerability if they’re worried it might make them seem too sensitive in front of others. So, they keep their emotions to themselves and don’t often open up for fear of being judged.

The Reality of Vulnerability

Vulnerability isn’t a sign of weakness. No matter your position or how you found your success, the reality is that you can’t pour from an empty cup. You can’t take care of others or manage that success if you’re overwhelmed by your own feelings. Doing so will cause you to burn out quickly and can take a heavy toll on your mental well-being.

When you really think about it, vulnerability shows strength and courage. It lets those who look up to you know that it’s okay to be yourself. It’s okay to communicate openly without fear. Most importantly, it’s okay not to always have the right answers and to need additional support sometimes.

Unfortunately, the stigma surrounding vulnerability will never disappear if people aren’t willing to take charge and break the cycle themselves. Old habits die hard, and you’re not going to become more vulnerable overnight.

However, if you’re willing to take small steps toward opening up and expressing yourself, even when you’re scared to do it, you can prove that vulnerability and great success can go hand-in-hand.


Jennifer Perera is a mom of two boys, a spouse and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She is also Certified as a Perinatal Mental Health Professional by Postpartum Support International. She has a private practice in Springfield, New Jersey and also sees clients throughout New Jersey , New York, and Pennsylvania via telehealth. Her passion is helping new moms and dads find their joy again in parenthood through individual and couples counseling. She also runs workshops for new parents, teaching them techniques and strategies to help them have a stronger relationship - built to thrive during the parenthood years. Jennifer specializes in working with parents during the prenatal and postpartum periods and those coping with grief or loss issues surrounding pregnancy.


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