Hand to Hold's Official Blog: Written by Parents for Parents

Embracing Vulnerability

My Heart in Your Hands by AussieGall available through CCA friend recently shared a link to a presentation by Brené Brown, a researcher and story teller who studies human connection – our ability to empathize, belong and love. Her presentation, entitled “The Power of Vulnerability,” significantly changed how I perceive my personal weaknesses and will shape my new year’s resolutions for 2013 – and hopefully my resolutions for years to come.

Connecting with others is what gives life purpose and meaning. Brown describes connection as a neurobiological need, and through her studies set out to find why so many people deny themselves this basic human need. She spent six years collecting and studying thousands of stories. Her conclusion: vulnerability is necessary for connection.

Hand to Hold is all about connection and was born from my deep, intrinsic need to connect with other parents who had been through a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) experience. I craved this connection and felt I needed it for my very survival. I was vulnerable, and probably for one of the first times in my life, I was able to admit it to myself as well as to others.

Vulnerability is messy. It is uncomfortable and most of us prefer to hide it and/or numb it. Brown theorizes that this numbing process has played a significant role in the staggering number of adults who are indebt, obese, addicted and/or medicated. She also points out that it is impossible to selectively numb emotions so when we numb shame or fear, we also numb our sense of joy, gratitude and happiness.

Brown encourages us to embrace our vulnerability! We must have the courage to admit and show that we are imperfect. We must also be kind to ourselves and let go of who we thought we should be in order to be who we are. Vulnerability can be the birthplace of joy, love and belonging because it means we believe we are enough.

So rather than setting New Year’s resolutions that were ultimately about proving something to myself or others, this year my resolution is to embrace my vulnerability. This will be a year of personal authenticity in which I let go of living life to meet perceived expectations of others. No, this is not a way to get out of my typical weight loss resolution, it is simply a way to be kinder and gentler to myself and leave fear of failure and judgment in the past.

Kelli Kelley About Kelli Kelley

Founder, Hand to Hold - Kelli D. Kelley (TX) is the mother of two preemies – Jackson born at 24 weeks in 2000 and Lauren born at 34 weeks in 2003. She is the founder of Hand to Hold, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated providing support and navigation resources to families who had a preemie, who had a child in the NICU or with a special healthcare need, or who experienced loss. She has experienced the emotional fallout and isolation that having preemies often causes. As a direct result, Kelli has dedicated her life to offering hope and sanctuary to all parents who have had similar journeys. Contact her via email.


  1. Oh, Kelly, the concept of embracing your vulnerability is so gorgeous! Brene Brown is one of my all time favorite writers. Her book the Gifts of Imperfection changed my life. I gave away a copy on my blog last year. I want everyone in the world to read it! You are doing such good work and making such a difference in the lives of so many. Take time to also recognize all that you have achieved and congratulate yourself! XO

  2. Very good advice…thank you!

  3. Mary Dudley says:

    Your New Year’s Resolution is so much like mine as I voiced to you just the other night. I love you so much and am so proud of what you do and most of all what your inner self is all about. You are my champion!

    I am such a proud Mom and Nana!

  4. Kelli, I love this – embracing our vulnerability – I often feel like I live in a constant state of uneasiness and it scares me, I don’t know what’s coming next. By embracing it and not running from it we have a better chance to heal and move forward. Thank you for all that you do and for this beautifully written piece.

    Much love

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