“Vulnerability is our most accurate measurement of courage.” — Brené Brown
There was a time when it was easy for me to be vulnerable. At six years old, my family moved to a new town in the middle of the school year. Sadly, the kindergarten talent show had finished a few days before I arrived.
I told the teacher that I needed to dance in the show. The teacher refused, explaining to me that it had finished. My mother argued with the woman, insisting that she let me dance in front of the class even if the show was over.
And I danced in front of the whole class — to the fabulous Gypsy Kings, thank you very much! When I was done, the teacher announced that the original winner of the show was still the winner.
But here’s the funny part: I didn’t care. I got to dance my dance. And my mom had spent hours teaching me a beautiful folkloric choreography from our home country Argentina.
But over the years, it has become a lot harder to be vulnerable. I think Carol Dweck’s work on praise, mindsets, and persistence sums up the reasons behind this kind of evolution (from carefree girl to perfectionist woman).
The good news is I’ve gotten better, but I still struggle. Just recently, I created my first video post ever. During the process of making the video, I felt very confident…until I posted it.
To my own surprise, I got really nervous. The thoughts began spinning through my mind: “Is it even good?” “Maybe I should have done this or that,” “Why didn’t I say this?”
I was at the mercy of my Facebook notifications, checking them every two seconds to read people’s comments and responses. In addition to my Facebook obsession, I was in a bit of a daze, unable to be present with my partner during our Friday night dinner.
I had been swept away, but by what?
My fear of vulnerability.
Once I had put my voice out into the world, I became afraid.
My insight into the fear helped me move through the tormenting phase of slow trickling Facebook “likes” and “shares” (as silly as it sounds).
I observed my intense desire to take down the video and end my state of vulnerability once and for all. I observed my desire to run away instead of lean in. And after a few breaths and directing my attention to the sensations, the discomfort melted away.
I also acknowledged that something bigger was at play. The video wasn’t a very big deal. The video was tiny part of a larger context: I was sharing my voice in a way that was more authentic to me…and that was really scary.
What did I learn from putting myself out there? I learned about myself. I learned about my fear. Based on people’s feedback, I learned what worked and didn’t work with the content. I learned about what I could do better next time. I learned.
Once at a conference in Japan, a Japanese woman asked the Dalai Lama: “How should I live my life?” His answer:
“One thing: learning.”
3 STEPS TO PLAYING WITH YOUR VULNERABILITY
I’m not suggesting that you go out and make a speech in front of thousands of people. Or even sing a song in front of your family. I think there are ways to start small by exploring your edge.
Your edge is an uncomfortable spot but not painful. It’s that place right before pain. Here are three steps to playing with that edge:
Do one thing that feels aligned with your authentic self but you’ve felt a tad afraid or timid to share. Put yourself out there in some way, knowing very well that you will get all kinds of feedback.
After you’ve done it, observe any comfort or discomfort without attempting to change it. Pay attention to the thoughts and sensations that come up. Don’t judge. Just observe. Do this in response to any feedback too.
Express what you learned about the process through free writing in a journal or by talking to friend who you trust.
After you’ve cycled through the steps once, you can repeat them and push your edge further back.
I believe in baby steps: start really small. After a recent session, a client decided to send out a blog piece to a friend for feedback as a first step. She hasn’t shared any of her blog writing with anyone. That was her edge. On her next cycle, maybe it will be more pieces…or more people.
Another note: Sometimes, you don’t need to do anything. Sometimes, just reading a post like this and keeping it in the back of your mind is planting a seed for you.
“…Don’t mask or deny your vulnerability: it is your greatest asset. Be vulnerable: quake and shake in your boots with it. The new goodness that is coming to you, in the form of people, situations, and things can only come to you when you are vulnerable, i.e. open.” — Stephen Russell
I’m still learning. I’m still vulnerable. Right at this very moment.
Do you have a vulnerability story or any thoughts to share? Share it below in the comments section. I dare you. ☺
I want to thank all the bright, intelligent, and beautiful women (you know who you are) who gave me feedback on this piece. I revealed myself to you and not only did you accept me completely, you pushed me to strengthen and clarify what I was hoping to share. Thank you. ❤
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Original photo (modified) by Brandon Nguyen