The Power of Vulnerability
The Power of Vulnerability
We are often told to put on a brave face and move on, but what happens if we stop and embrace those emotions in a moment of vulnerability? Experts believe that being vulnerable can boost our careers and research even supports building better emotional connections and relationships. So why are so many of us still afraid of being vulnerable?
As the Olympics come to a close this week, I think it's the perfect time to reflect on this, especially in the wake of Simone Biles dropping out of several gymnastics events, only to come back and win bronze in the final event. Her decision was huge for many reasons because world-class athletes don't often drop out of a competition without a physical injury, and certainly not at the Olympics. But what Simone did by prioritizing her mental (and physical) health, she showed extreme vulnerability and has since been recognized for her strength rather than her weakness. And for me, as a life coach, that is pretty darn powerful!
Vulnerability is a big part of authenticity and Connection.
Vulnerability is the courage of putting ourselves out there. It's the courage of being open despite knowing it might hurt us. And once we can do that, we will also be able to experience all the joyful moments of our lives fully. For Simone, I think her final bronze medal brought her the most pride and joy (not her previous golds or silvers). And I believe that it's this willingness to share your own experiences that makes you more approachable.
Brene Brown did this incredible presentation on embracing vulnerability (and I highly recommend watching it when you have time). Still, I also wanted to summarize some of her most powerful points here.
From a young age, we are taught to hide our emotions ("stop crying," "toughen up"…), but over time this creates stress and anxiety, which can also lead to guilt and shame. These were pivotal findings during Brene's research and she is quoted as saying:
This may sound like one of those paradoxical statements and leave you somewhat confused, but the real key lies in the individual's attitude. And this is where life coaching and personal consulting are so important: I want you to be curious about your weaknesses and be comfortable embracing your vulnerability. I don't want you to be embarrassed about making mistakes, and if and when you do, rather than trying to cover it up, learn to say, "I'm sorry. I'll try to fix it."
2. Love Your Weaknesses
Did you know that weaknesses are subjective? They're only REAL weaknesses when they get in the way of what we want to do. We live in a world that tends to focus on what could be improved rather than what's already great about us. By reframing your weaknesses, (which are distinct from vulnerabilities as these result from circumstances out of one's control), you can show the world who you really are and try something (i.e., being vulnerable) even if the outcome is uncertain.
3. Focus on Excellence, Not Perfection
The difference between perfection and excellence is that you accept failure and mistakes and learn from them with excellence. Whereas with perfection, you never admit weakness. Everything must be perfect at all times. No one has all the answers, but I can guarantee you that perfection is not it!
In life coaching, our goal is to reveal your authentic self through a journey of self-discovery. We want you to be the best version of yourself despite your flaws. Perfectionism is the opposite of this; it's not about growth, improvement, or personal achievement; it's about fear and avoidance. Shifting your perspective can lead to real personal growth instead of flawed perfectionism.
4. Dare to be your Authentic Self
Being authentic means that you behave in ways that are true to yourself and your emotions rather than showing the side of you that they expect. Some of the ways you can practice this are by pursuing your passions, listening to your inner voice, making decisions that align with your core values and beliefs, setting healthy boundaries (and learning to say no!), and allowing yourself to be vulnerable.
I think this article sums it up best:
5. Find Connection
Having authentic and fulfilling relationships require a degree of care and Connection and a certain amount of intimacy. Let's explore that word a little bit more and break it down into its syllables: "into-me-you-see." Shazam! We all crave to be seen and known for who we really are.
Achieving this can be tricky, especially in a work environment. Still, you can start building connections by recognizing the unique contributions of each individual, and instead of becoming disappointed or frustrated, consider the human elements at play. Authentic work relationships also require people to bring their whole selves to work, including personal struggles. It might be uncomfortable to express vulnerability or listen to others being vulnerable. Still, if you are in a leadership position, you can really build connections, increase productivity, and stimulate innovation. Because a great work environment is enabled by a culture where people are seen, heard, and respected.
If this is not enough to convince you to be vulnerable in all aspects of your life, just remember Brene's words: "We're all afraid. We just have to get to the point where we understand it doesn't mean that we can't also be brave."
Laura Reichert is the CEO and founder of Triangle Life Coaching.
She offers in-office coaching and virtual coaching via video or phone call.