Before I talk about showing our vulnerability and the part it plays in us flourishing, I thought I would give you a quick health update. I think it has been around 10 weeks since I first experienced a persistent cough and since then a myriad of other symptoms. I am much better now, the only after effects is lack of fitness. Any attempt at moderate exercise (carrying ironing upstairs and walking for about a mile) leaves me breathless and with a headache. So I am carefully building up my level of activity, and starting some rehab exercises. So all is good.
Back to being vulnerable. Many writers on leadership, personal development, and well-being including the wonderful Brene Brown, Simon Sinek, Martin Seligman to name but a few write about the importance of allowing yourself to be vulnerable. Let me explain what I mean about vulnerability. When completing her research that formed the basis of ‘Daring Greatly’, Brene Brown asked a variety of people what they understood being vulnerable was. The comments that came back were:
- asking for help
- starting my own business
- writing something I wrote, or creating a piece of art
- having a first date after my divorce
- saying I love you first and not knowing if I will be loved back
- admitting I am afraid
- crying in front of my children
- falling in love
- deciding to leave
I look down that list and recognise some of them and recognise the feelings some of them evoked in me. Every time I have written my blog, I close my eyes as I press publish and then feel sick for about an hour wondering if anyone has read it, and then I wonder if anyone likes it. Most weeks I tell myself I am not going to write anymore blogs as the anxiety it creates is not worth it. Well actually it is worth it. The comments on the whole are really positive and are often from people who have been helped by what I have written. As more core value is usefulness then receiving feedback like this plays to that and creates a positive, restorative response in me. Now there are people that consider it naval gazing and self indulgent (some of these critiques come from me), and maybe I should not be sharing some of my personal thoughts. That is the thing about being vulnerable, you have to take a risk, you have to willing to accept that sometimes when you take that leap or enter the arena it will not go as you hoped and you will get hurt.
We are conditioned however to protect ourselves from being hurt, so we put a suit of armour on. The problem is that this prevents us from developing as we protect ourselves from failure we never learn how to improve our game. If we never say “oh shit I got that wrong…” or “I am sorry I don’t know” or “can you help me…” we never learn and more importantly we never gain the trust of those around us. I was in a zoom meeting the other day with some fellow coaches when a couple of them starting talking about their emotions this week, one started crying watching the TV the other person described having a meltdown in a supermarket. Both decided to share something very personal and something that they would not normally be (publicly emotional), they decided to be vulnerable with the group. The reaction was instant the whole group smiled in recognition, with everyone expressing that they had all had very similar experiences this week. The trust in the virtual room grew. In a professional setting it can be very easy to wear the armour of your profession and not show vulnerability. That is fine but if that had happened then would not have discussed the subject further and would not have discussed how to coach people using video conferencing and how to ensure the emotional safety of people, or not to the extent we did by acknowledging the emotions that were present in the room.
Being vulnerable helps you grow, it makes you more resilient and it helps you connect with those around by building trust.
It takes great courage to enter the arena without your armour. What makes it easier is being prepared to fall, and not being afraid of failure. If I wrote this blog with the objective to write the best blog ever written and for anything less than a thousand views a failure, then maybe I would never publish it. Fear of certain failure would grip me. Now I write this blog to be useful, more importantly I write it to support personal development and to share my experience and thoughts in the hope that others will share their experience and thoughts with others so we all help develop each other. As Simon Sinek would say, that is my just cause. It is a lofty ambition, something I will never fully achieve, but it is worth attempting. It is worth being vulnerable for. If you have a purpose or a just cause then you are more prepared to be vulnerable in your actions to serve your purpose. Falling and failure is all part of the process of working towards your just cause, they are just development points.
As with nearly everything I write about, identifying your reason why is so important. It does not have to be big or worthy, it can be just to be comfortable and contented, or to be healthy and happy.
At the moment we are all feeling vulnerable, we are not weak, it is not something to be ashamed of. It is something to be embraced, something to be acknowledged and used to help us develop. If you are undecided as to whether take that plunge in a new venture, or share something, ask yourself does it serve your purpose or is supporting your just cause. If it is be vulnerable take that step, enter the arena.