Authenticity is one of my core values and one that I felt proud to say I was living. I’d invested significant amounts of my time and effort to get to this place. I’d discovered my core values, I’d finally identified the things that were important and fulfilling to me compared to the things that I did to impress others to live up to ‘their’ expectations. Then something rocked my world. I was fortunate to hear a wonderful presentation by Dr Harold Hillman who discussed vulnerability as a key part of authenticity. I suddenly felt like a robber caught in the spot light and I needed to take a deep breath.
Vulnerability? Even the word itself sounded scary. Doesn’t that mean weakness? This is not the way I was raised! Tell people about my fears, failures and imperfections? Are you kidding? I’ve spent years covering them up! If I’m vulnerable it means I’m not perfect and that’s not the confident, skilled, professional I want the world to see. I wasn’t sure I could do that, hell, I wasn’t sure I even wanted to do that. This caused me stop, think and reflect…. If I’m not being vulnerable and if that means I’m not truly living the authentic life I value so highly, then what am I doing?
After my initial shock of discovering I wasn’t living as authentically as I thought I was, I decided to dip my toe into this cold (seemingly uninviting) water of vulnerability. To my surprise this cool water wasn’t that bad and before I knew it I had jumped right in and found it to be wonderfully refreshing.
3 key things I learned about vulnerability
Vulnerability is not terminal: while striving to be my best I believed that admitting I did not know something, or that I was anything less than confident and competent to my peers and managers, was a fate almost equal to death. The earth would open up and I would disappear into it, being labelled as a failure forever. However, once I started to express my vulnerability, that I didn’t know the best next step or that I had aimed and missed, that I’d dropped the ball or had felt foolish before, then I felt a new and more real connection with people. And with that more genuine connection they also had permission to be less than perfect and to be their authentic selves.
It takes courage and leadership: a profound insight I discovered was rather that showing weakness as I had thought, paradoxically, expressing vulnerability required bravery, courage and leadership. Most of us are not raised to express our fears, failures and shortcomings. To speak honestly, exposing our fears, takes inner strength and that strength provides inspiration and motivation to others.
I felt energised and lighter: I never thought I was perfect but I did have some bizarre internal expectation that I needed to be. I had a belief that people expected perfection from me, whether this was in my career, sports or relationships. Releasing this old belief and speaking authentically allowed a whole new feeling of energy, weightlessness and space in my life. It was as if I’d finally taken off a heavy backpack that I’d been doggedly carrying around for years and I felt the blissful release of its weight.
Hearing the world vulnerability gave me a wakeup call, I viewed it as the final frontier of living my authentic life. Now that I am learning to live in this new land of vulnerability, I am finding it to be a powerful and rewarding way to live.
If you dare, being vulnerable will take you to a new place and deliver unexpected empowering results for you and the people you connect with.
Where can I start to show a bit, just a bit, of my vulnerability?
What benefits are there for me and those around me in being vulnerable?