As my husband astutely pointed out recently, I can be independent to the extreme. I have an aversion to admitting when I don’t know something or that I need help. I like to be right, never wrong, at my worst – inscrutable. I am uncomfortable with feeling or appearing vulnerable. I have lived with a perception that vulnerability implies a weakness, a lack of power, perhaps even some sort of personal failing.
Learning to Embrace Vulnerability
Over the past two years, as my professional life has taken a significant pivot, this perception of vulnerability simply was not going to work anymore. I started LHS Coaching, my very first foray into the world of entrepreneurship. I launched a new community organization – something I’d never done before. I began attending and participating in numerous networking events, programs and conferences filled with strangers who were doing things that were quite different than anything I knew much, if anything about.
There was a lot I did not know, I needed to learn and I simply needed help with. Over the past two years – I’ve learned to acknowledge I do not have all the answers. I’ve actively sought-out experts and collaborators who know better than me. I’ve practiced handling failure with grace and using it as a powerful learning tool. Over the past two years, I had to learn to be ok with being vulnerable. And I had to trust that this vulnerability would be ok with others – that they would still respect and trust me even when I felt insecure and unsure.
Here is an extremely abbreviated list of circumstances where I learned to feel confident and in control both despite of AND because of my vulnerability:
- I set-up meetings with seasoned coaches and consultants, listened to their business journeys and learned from their experiences
- I walked into rooms and conference halls alone without colleagues or friends – boy did that feel vulnerable – introduced myself to strangers and requested support for my new endeavors
- I asked clients to trust me although I was a relatively new professional coach
- I designed new content and workshops and launched them out into the world. I was NOT confident they would work or that other people would be interested in them. I opened myself up to the risk of failure.
I am learning that it’s not just ok to be vulnerable, it’s actually crucial to success. Being vulnerable has enabled me to access and be open to receiving new ideas, transform ideas into reality, make new connections. Being vulnerable has enabled me to depend on people for help. Vulnerability has opened me up to failures which in turn have paved the path to successes.
And, when I allow myself to be vulnerable and ask for help, others around me open up too. They not only share their expertise willingly and enthusiastically but also provide me with opportunities to support them. This give and take, these connections between people, is where the magic really happens. When I open up and make myself more available, people respond and do the same.
Where in your life can you be a little more vulnerable?
According to Thesaurus.com, synonyms of the word “vulnerable” include: open to attack, defenseless, susceptible, weak. Those feel scary. Other synonyms to “vulnerable” are: accessible, sensitive, tender, wide open. Wide Open – YES! This is the definition of “vulnerable” that has served me well over the last couple of years. Consider how this definition can be applied in your life. Does it resonate? Are there opportunities where you can allow more vulnerability in either professionally or personally to enable more growth and engagement?
I’m still super independent. I still like to be right. I still value personal confidence both in myself and others. But – I am learning that vulnerability and confidence are not two opposite sides of a coin. Vulnerability can be powerful – and I am working every day to embrace it, model it in my interactions with others and let it work its magic.