The Ridiculous Advantages of Vulnerability - Proven by a Living Legend

Our greatest fear isn't's failure in public.

That is why venturing outside of our comfort zones is so scary. We set ourselves up for critics, ridicule and embarrassment.

Unfortunately, one of the places that this happens the most is at the gym. Many newcomers simply do not know the proper exercises, the proper weights, or the proper form. The thought of looking stupid exercising in front of others is one of the reasons that many people aren't able to make exercising into a habit. 

This is a terrible feeling, and can be seen vividly through the eyes of Reddit user GnashBros.

a story of vulnerability

Don’t really know where to start, but here goes. I’ve never been strong/big or anything close to those words. I’m 19, 6’5 and 130lbs/59kg. I often go to the gym with my friend but I don’t go when he’s unavailable because I’m not confident going by myself.

Few days ago I started the Stronglifts 5×5 & GOMAD because nothing else seemed to work. It was also a few days ago when I realized I’d have to start going by myself if I wanted this to work.

So today I went to the gym for the first time by myself, feeling pretty nervous. Headed to the locker room and reviewed the proper forms for squatting, deadlifts, and overhead press.

First exercise was squatting. I warmed up with 55 then started 65 for the 5×5. Everything went pretty well until the last rep on the fourth set. Took a nasty spill and landed on my right knee to prevent myself from falling backwards. A couple people laughed. That hurt more than falling down. I got back on the horse and finished up the last set at 60.

Next exercise was deadlift. I never really got the hang of the form for a proper deadlift so I practiced it while looking in the mirror. Started my first set at 55 but couldn’t get the form down, my right knee kept buckling and gave out on the fourth rep, causing me to fall once more. Same people laughed and got many looks in my direction because of the loud noise. Feeling completely embarrassed at this point, I put the bar and the weights in their places, and left with my head hanging low.


You cannot help but feel bad for this guy. There was probably little chance that he would be able to gain the courage to go back to the gym once more after something that embarrassing.

That is, until his story was seen by Arnold Schwarzenegger.


Someone told me about this. I hope I’m not too late here, I’m traveling, but I wanted to chime in. I always say don’t be afraid of failure, because how far can you really fall? You found out – to the ground.

It’s right there. Now you know it isn’t anything that should scare you. You should be proud that you weren’t afraid – not embarrassed that you failed. You could have made excuses not to walk into the door, but you didn’t.

You knew it would be hard, and it would be uncomfortable, and it might be awkward – and you did it anyway. That’s courage. I’m proud of you.

The last guy I rooted for broke a world record in the deadlift. You have more in common with him than you think. First, he started out lifting just the bar, too (when you look at him, he may have been 3 months old at that point).

Second, imagine his courage. He walked up to that bar in front of a big audience and television cameras, knowing that not only had he never lifted that much before – NO ONE on earth had – and it was highly likely he would completely fail. You may not think about it this way, but you showed that courage, on a smaller level.

Finally, I’m rooting for you, too. You took the first step and you fell, but at least you fell in the right direction, so get back up and take the next step. Keep moving forward.

And he did. GnashBros is now a regular gym member. [1]


Whether you are uncomfortable at the gym, on stage giving a public speech, or even answering a question in class, we all fear being embarrassed. We have a natural desire to be admired by people. So we fear exposing our weaknesses to them.

Millions of years ago, exposing these weaknesses could have meant the differences between life and death. Not only because venturing outside of safety and comfort exposed us to predators, but also because if we showed our weaknesses to other tribe members, it could mean banishment from the tribe.  

If we were seen as a "weak member", that meant we could be banished and left to fend for ourselves. If we had to fend for ourselves, we were much less likely to survive the harsh wilderness. So we wanted to hide our weaknesses and ensure that we were liked and respected by our fellow tribe members. [2]


Fast forward to present day and being vulnerable usually isn't a matter of life and death. As Schwarzenegger said in his response, how far can you really fall? For GnashBros, it was to the ground. That was it. 

He didn't die. 

He didn't lose any friends.

And he actually gained respect from one of the most successful people alive.

We build up situations to be much bigger in our heads than they actually are. GnashBros left the gym feeling completely low. He felt as if he could never become a regular exerciser and that everybody in the gym was going to make fun of him if he ever came back.

But would any gym member even remember him?

Would they even care?

Does it even matter?

Life outside of our comfort zone looks scary. And sometimes venturing outside of it actually is scary. But the more we venture outside of it and make ourselves vulnerable, the more comfortable we become. We learn that making mistakes is not the end of the world and the real embarrassment is not having the courage to even try.

HOW TO become comfortable being VULNERABLE

It will never be effortless to make yourself vulnerable, but there are tactics you can use to be more comfortable with it.


We all have an ideal world that is based on our own belief system. So when we spend our time walking around, watching TV, or observing our others' behavior, we judge everything we see against our own ideals.

For better or worse, we judge people we see on their attractiveness, their communication, or their intelligence. Every time you do this, you train the brain to believe everyone else is also judging you. [3]

Because you spend your time judging others against a high ideal, you now judge yourself based on what "you should be". This leads you to fear being vulnerable because you are afraid that you will not live up to your high standards.

To overcome this tendency, you must train the mind to let go of judging. When you recognize that you are judging others, especially based on performance, stop. Think about whether you being judgmental is helping anything or just feeding your ego.

Then try to allow yourself to see things from the other person's perspective. This trains the mind to become more open to learning and making mistakes – helping you become more comfortable being vulnerable. [3]


Almost all of our fears of being vulnerable take place in the future. We envision venturing outside of our comfort zone, we see ourselves failing, and we feel the embarrassment that our future self will go through.

This fear adds an extraordinary level of stress and anxiety on us for no reason. Our thoughts of future failure may not actually happen, and even if they do, we envision the consequences being much worse than they actually will be. 

To avoid this phenomenon, you must train your brain to stay in the present. There is no suffering in the present. You don't foresee future failure and you don't dread past embarrassing moments. You simply deal with whatever situation is in front of you. 

To become more present-minded, practice 10 minutes of daily meditation. This will train your brain to let go of fears of the future and regrets of the past. To get started, you can practice a simple meditation exercise at the bottom of this article.


When you read the introductory story about GnashBros, you felt his struggle. You felt his embarrassment and you felt empathy for his failure. You saw things from his perspective and how hard it must have been for him to go through it. 

But when you saw Arnold's response, your perspective shifted.

You were able to see that he should be proud that he knew he was going to be embarrassed, but he went to the gym anyway.

You saw that his failure really wasn't that big of a deal. Because how far did he really fall? To the ground. That's it.

Now all of the sudden, you felt proud of GnashBros and you felt a rush of enthusiasm hoping that he won't give up on his goal. This shift in perspective is powerful. It literally causes our brain to tap into our large reservoir of mental energy and provides us with a rush of motivation and willpower. [4]

To shift your perspective and tap into this willpower, ask yourself, "what would my best friend tell me to get through this challenge?" Our best friends have been proven to give us better advice than we give ourselves. They see our challenge through a perspective of objectivity and support. They will give you motivation to keep going, not beat yourself up. [5]


Being vulnerable is scary. We have a natural inclination to fear the worst, because that fear helped to keep us safe millions of years ago. In today's world, though, being vulnerable usually isn't a case of life and death. And venturing outside of your comfort zone will lead to extraordinary growth!

Simply knowing this, though, won't make being vulnerable easy. To help yourself push beyond your comfort zone and become vulnerable, let go of your judgments, stay in the present, and shift your perspective to how your best friend would see your situation. Then you may just find the courage to be vulnerable and achieve your dreams!


  1. This Guy Had An Embarrassing Day At The Gym - So Arnold Schwarzenegger Gave Him A Pep Talk. (2015, March 22)
  2. Dunbar, R.i.m. "TSB: Mind, Language, and Society in Evolutionary Perspective." Annual Review of Anthropology 32.1 (2003): 163-81.
  3. Greene, R. (2012). Mastery. New York: Viking.
  4. McGonigal, K. (2012) The Willpower Instinct: How Self-control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It. New York: Avery.
  5. Heath, C., & Heath, D. (2013). Decisive. New York: Crown Business.