If the idea of being vulnerable or showing vulnerability fills you with dread, it is a great time to connect with this state of being.
Many of us struggle with this because it means that we are opening up that part of ourselves that we would prefer others didn’t see, those times when we struggle with our insecurities, admit that we aren’t coping or that we have thoughts or behaviours we would prefer not to share.
In competitive work settings it can feel like being vulnerable might create an opportunity to be overtaken, overlooked, scrutinised or judged. In many cases, this is not wrong. Would you rather be judged though for who you really are or a façade that doesn’t reflect you, your flawed, true self? When did it become not okay to show emotion in the office, convey your feelings or admit to not having all the answers? Imposter syndrome suggests that there are many of us who worry that we aren’t good enough for the job we have and it will be only a matter of time before we are exposed for the fraud we are. Because we haven’t practiced vulnerability, no one else knows our fears or what we are struggling with.
I was thrust into a leadership role in my early twenties, long before I was ready, without the tools to be effective and a nauseating inner fear that I would be a terrible leader. I didn’t have anyone who stood out as a role model at the time, so it was also hard to consider the type of leader I wanted to be or what I wanted to support in others or to grow myself. My solution to this at the time was to tell no one of my fears, internalise and dissect every decision I made, on my own and constantly berate myself for my missteps along the way. It was not a happy or fulfilling time. In fact, I got quite sick with a suspected stomach ulcer. It was literally and physically eating away at me. In hindsight, had I practiced vulnerability I could have reached out to get the help I needed. I know there would have been people willing to mentor me or coach me if only I’d asked.
The benefits of being vulnerable are that you get to know yourself better, to understand what drives you and what prevents you from doing things you would really like to do. If you open up to your fears then you create opportunities both within and outside yourself to deal with them. You also get to observe vulnerability in others and connect with this too. I worked with someone once who said, “I’m nervous, I’m not sure how to handle some of what might happen in this meeting, I need to know that you’ll be by my side to support me when the questions come.” How empowering is it to hear this? To know that someone else doesn’t have all the answers either, that they aren’t always infallible. People don’t always need us to help them find a solution they just need us to show compassion, to stand with them in solidarity and when the time comes to show vulnerability too because after it all it is this reciprocity of vulnerability that creates the deepest connections and leads to the greatest growth.
When do you feel vulnerable?
How do you deal with this?
Who are you vulnerable with?