Being vulnerable is scary. It’s something I don’t tend to do. It would mean letting my guard down, letting people too close, risk being hurt or judged.
But yet it’s something I ask others to do all the time.
I ask my boys to try something new. I ask them to share with me how they are feeling when they are upset.
I ask teachers to try a new strategy in their class. I urge them to use social media to not only share their classroom but to build their PLN and learn from others. I ask them to step out of their comfort zone.
I ask students to show up every day and give it their all. I ask them to try new things, and persist when it’s difficult.
Am I judging any of them? No way! I admire them for their willingness to put themselves out there. I applaud them for their courage to try something new, knowing that it may not have the best outcome. I love them even more for their openness and conversation.
Why is it that I am so fearful myself? As I read Daring Greatly this summer by Brene Brown, I spent some time reflecting on this question. There are so many takeaways that resonated with me as I read. Many times I felt like she was talking directly to me, like she had a window into my life :)
As someone who likes to be right, being vulnerable means taking a risk, and that can be hard. When taking a risk, you don’t always know how it will end up. For me, fear sets in before I even take the first steps. What will people think? What will people say? What if I screw up? All of my perceived expectations start running through my head. Sometimes I defeat myself before I even start. It’s what Brene Brown would call shame, and there is no way to get rid of it but rather develop a resilience to it.
I need to work on not letting shame or fear overtake who I am and what I want to do. In order to do this, I need to be honest and kind to myself. I need to be realistic. Many of the expectations I think others have of me are really what I have put on myself. I also need to have my people; my support. The ones I can be open with and lean on. The ones who are on my side and want me to do well, but they’re also the people who can give me honest feedback to help me grow. And really, I need to get over it. So I make a mistake. The big plan flops. Things don’t turn out as planned. Someone doesn’t like what I did. It hurts. Someone doesn't like me. Oh well. Isn’t that life? I can still move forward.
As a parent I need to be able to model to my sons that it's ok to be vulnerable. It's ok to take risks. I can't just tell them. I have to show them. As a leader, I need to do the same thing. If there comes a time when I can sit back and think, this is easy. Things are always comfortable. Then that’s a sign that I’m not being vulnerable. And if I’m not being vulnerable, then likely I’m not continuing to learn and try new things. I’m not pushing myself to grow. And that, in my mind, is not a place where I want to be.
“When people stop caring about what people think, we lose our capacity for connection. When we become defined by what people think, we lose our willingness to be vulnerable. If we dismiss all the criticism, we lose out on important feedback, but if subject ourselves to the hatefulness, our spirits get crushed. It’s a tightrope, shame resilience is the balance bar, and the safety net below is the one or two people in our lives who can help us reality-check the criticism and cynicism.” Brene Brown