The Blog title alone sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? At least that’s the reaction I get when I bring my Dare To Lead™ program to board rooms and corporate teams. I’ve heard more than once, “Are you crazy? Vulnerability at work is suicide!” Dramatic, yes. Accurate, not so much. Prevalent? Very.
The concept of vulnerability is perhaps best explained by David Whyte, an author whose works focus on grief.
“Vulnerability is not a weakness, a passing indisposition, or something we can arrange to do without, vulnerability is not a choice, vulnerability is the underlying, ever present and abiding undercurrent of our natural state. To run from vulnerability is to run from the essence of our nature, the attempt to be invulnerable is the vain attempt to become something we are not and most especially, to close off our understanding … of others. More seriously, in refusing our vulnerability we refuse the help needed at every turn of our existence and immobilize the essential, tidal and conversational foundations of our identity.”
Being vulnerable is being real, being authentic and not bulking up or shrinking away when faced with uncertain or challenging situations. It’s being comfortable enough in our own skin to face the 3 elements of vulnerability defined by Brenè Brown: Risk, Uncertainty, and Emotional Exposure. It can be so uncomfortable that we avoid it at all costs. And yet by doing so, as we remain behind our invisible wall, we rip ourselves off of joy, contentment, connection, and the satisfaction of handling a challenge without counterfeiting who we are. And the exorbitant amount of energy we can expend on keeping up pretenses, hiding who we really are, and building emotional barriers takes its toll. It’s one big elaborate defense designed to compensate for the very human fear that we are simply not enough.
In truth, what’s the worse that can happen? We make a mistake (and are not perfect!), or we get rejected, embarrassed or abandoned. We might get criticized, judged, or made fun of. Emotionally we may feel that we will never survive, that we might “die of shame”, but we never do. We somehow pick ourselves up and move on in our lives. If we can face that emotional pain, lengthen and deepen our tolerance for it, then we stand a very good chance of learning to be ourselves in any situation. So go ahead, admit to a mistake, ask a “stupid” question, step out of that comfort zone and into where life really exists, and be who you are, beautiful flaws and all.
Stay tuned for next week’s Blog where we (really) finish up our focus on Soft Skills as we consider the topic of Emotional Intelligence.
Weekly Challenge: Make a conscious choice to step out of your comfort zone, allowing the discomfort to pass through you and dissipate.
Supporting Your Success!