Vulnerability: where do you feel vulnerable right now?
For me, writing this email was a lesson in vulnerability. This week was extremely confronting–a family I love suffered a terrible loss, I jumped from part-time work into full-time entrepreneurship, and I prepared to open a new venue in Washington, DC. I faced a lot of uncertainty and many different emotions, including fear, grief, joy, gratitude, and inspiration.
When I sat down to write this email, I realized I wanted to appear a certain way, rather than be vulnerable and authentic. And yet, in recent months, I’ve learned that vulnerability can foster one of two things. By running from vulnerability, we isolate ourselves. By opening to it, we build our bonds with others.
In the last few months, I’ve chosen to get messy with vulnerability–to get in the ring and duke it out when necessary–and I’d like to share a few short (and humbling) stories of the results:
When I decided to quit my job, I dreaded telling my coworkers. I thought they would feel betrayed and angry. Instead, when I shared the news, my boss asked, “How can we support you?” Each person in the office understood my need to follow my dreams. And, once I was completely open with them, I felt my relationship with my colleagues flourish. In this case, vulnerability gave me access to authenticity and the space to pursue my calling.
With My Friends:
Death often intimidates me. As an empath, the sorrow I feel in the people left behind can be overwhelming. When I heard the news of my friend’s son’s passing, I wasn’t sure if I should reach out. What if the family felt I was intruding? What if they wanted to be alone? What if I cried during the visit and it seemed inappropriate? Instead, they welcomed the support from me and other friends. At their home, we met the extended family and were inspired by their love, strength, and openness. In this case, my vulnerability allowed me to serve my friend in his time of need and to grow closer to him.
With My Family:
As I prepared to leave my job this week, I had a tense conversation with my mom. I noticed I was short with her. I noticed I felt angry at her for no reason. I noticed I did not want to share all of the hopes and fears I had about my work. Instead of digging in my heels, however, I allowed myself to get vulnerable in an email:
“This adaption period is rough,” I said. “If I ever sound like a bitch, call me on it. Tell me to get real. Ask me to be honest with you about how I’m feeling. I may get angry or I may cry–those are both important parts of my processing right now. I know my coping mechanisms are to get passive aggressive or hide what I’m doing. Obviously, neither of those works well for our family or for my business. Thanks for understanding and for being as committed to my dream as I am. It means a lot to know that you are on my side.”
By getting vulnerable, I was able to enlist my dearest support network (my family) in my transition. Rather than reinforcing negative patterns of communication, I introduced a new level of intimacy. The result? Beautiful words of encouragement from both my parents.
So many times, we resign to make the journey into the unknown alone. But why? We fiercely protect our independence at the expense of the opportunity to transform our closest relationships.
As Brene Brown said, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of everything we’re hungry for.” She’s right–whether it’s in love, our career, our self-care, or any other area of our lives.
So, let’s come back to the original question: Where do you feel vulnerable right now? This weekend, I invite you to consider the following questions.
What does it look like when I am scared to be vulnerable? (In other words, what do you do or how do you act when things feel out of control?)
What are the benefits of avoiding vulnerability?
What are the drawbacks?
What would be possible if I could put my fear aside?
When you study and nurture your vulnerability, you find your largest areas for growth. When you learn to work with your vulnerability, you can create a new reality.