I have had direct personal experience of the immense power and potential of ‘vulnerability’. If I look at how vulnerability has played the most significant role in my life it has come down to one key human aspect:
Authentic connection with myself, and therefore with my fellow human beings. It enhances and builds relationships that matter in life and work
More specifically it has facilitated healthy connection with my most intimate relationships; with family members, my close friends, and with a range of people who I have come into contact with in my social life and at work. While it drew my most important relationships closer, and healed some damaged relationships, vulnerability also enabled me to get rid of a whole host of unhealthy and meaningless associations, which were only draining my energy and misguiding my sense of self. Vulnerability is a great cleansing agent.
My view is that I need to actively clean house when it comes to my relationships. In order to make more room for the really important relationships I need to dust away the relationships that are only dragging me down, or simply wasting my precious and limited energy. Vulnerability is the agent to do this. Vulnerability is not just about becoming open and exposed, it is also about being able to set boundaries, and have tough conversations about what is ok or not ok, and then it is about being able to act on it when boundaries are not respected. This applies in life and work. Here are some examples:
- When someone doesn’t take your needs seriously can you call them on it?
- When you need to speak up can you do it, even if it goes against the grain of common opinion, or sentiment?
- When someone acts in a way that undermines your own values can you call them on it?
- Can you ask for help when you really need it?
- Are you able to make the decision to leave a job, or a relationship, that isn’t working, even though you are full of fear of the unknown?
- Can you hold your boss to account for poor behavior, when they have disrespected you, or made you feel small?
- Can you admit you don’t know what you are doing, even if it might make you look weak or incompetent?
- Can you highlight a problem early on by having the courage to speak up about it? This always solves problems faster.
- Can you hold a client to account for their actions?
It's All About Relationship Management
All of the examples above come down to ‘relationship management’, whether it is personal relationships, work relationships, client relationships, your relationship to your job, or your superiors, your relationship with fear, or with yourself.
We define our personal value based on the authenticity and power of these relationships, and many of us are not feeling too good about ourselves because these relationships are struggling for fresh air. In many cases the ‘air’ is more like toxic fumes.
The reason I am such an advocate for ‘vulnerability’ is because it healed my own life. It aided me in dealing with some serious personal problems, addiction being one of them, and it created the "safe and authentic space" in which I could begin the process of personal healing. Without ‘vulnerability’ I would be stuck in isolation and fear, I could be dead by now! It took vulnerability to make known to the people around me that I wasn’t doing well. It took vulnerability to admit that I had made serious mistakes, and that I wasn’t coping. It took vulnerability to be able to relook at the quality of my life and say, "There is a different way I can approach my life". It also took vulnerability to be able to ask for help, and to keep asking for it, and to let people know that I cannot do it alone. It took vulnerability to be able to start again, to be able to feel the fear of leaving old ways behind, and to push forward courageously towards a new way of living.
Being vulnerable in my personal life has been mission critical. As I started to get well and my life began to heal I started to begin the process of working out how to take the personal lessons I have learnt and to start sharing these with others. This again is being vulnerable. The decision to start openly speaking about my own journey, and my own inherent fears and insecurities, came from a blind faith in the power of ‘vulnerability’, simply because it has delivered so much freedom and healing to me thus far. I decided to let the world know that it is important to become vulnerable for you. I chose to do this by openly sharing my own story. It has been regularly uncomfortable but also incredibly and increasingly rewarding. While I go through periods of wondering whether it is working, which is totally normal, I then realize that this feeling isn’t outside, it is inside, it is my own fears acting up. Very recently I posed the question on Linkedin whether it was working because I wasn’t feeling it. Within a few days I received a range of personal messages from people telling me that it has been helping them in their own lives. This is all the evidence I needed to continue. This makes me realise that more often than not it is the ‘fear voice’ within me that makes me doubt myself, not the world out there. Yet another gift of vulnerability!
I have chosen to share the power of vulnerability with others by being vulnerable, which is the best way to do it. I have come into contact with so many people who have desperately needed this in their own lives, but who were frightened of using it. I have helped many to take the brave steps towards being vulnerable, and I have witnessed the many examples of healing and improved relationships as a result.
Some areas I have seen results:
- Dealing with colleagues who cause personal difficulty
- Holding all kinds of people to account for their actions
- Standing up for oneself
- Getting the help you need and helping others
- Accessing support
- Gaining trust and respect
- Being taken more seriously by others
- Removing oneself from unhealthy systems, authority structures, and people
- Being followed in leadership
Vulnerability Facilitates the Process of Identifying Problems
I use this power at work as well. I help my staff to face their own fears, and I encourage them to use vulnerability as a tool to solve personal and professional problems that arise. I model it myself so they become more able to act on it within themselves. I use it in my workshops, regardless of whether it's sales training or leadership development, I use it in coaching, and I show up with vulnerability as and when it is required. It facilitates the process of identifying problems and finding answers to these problems, usually through the increased human connection and trust that comes as a result.
The problem is that people fear that others won’t accept or respect their vulnerability. So instead we become hardened and we stay silent when we feel it. Instead we don’t act on it, we suppress it. We let the problem go unnoticed and we let it fester, until it pops like a lanced boil. When this happens it usually means big problems. There is no need to wait until the issue looms large and becomes a serious write-off. But because we fear that our vulnerability will not be accepted, or respected, we wait until we implode. We take the full cost of silence.
The bottom line for me is this; if you are too afraid to be open where you spend a lot of your time, if you are too afraid to stand up for yourself, or get help, then it is very likely you are not in a healthy environment, and you should become vulnerable more urgently, so you can get out of there! If you don’t you will only die a slow and excruciating death by tolerating the toxic fumes until you are too old, too weak, or too exhausted to change things. There are many such casualties! Don’t be one of them. I would say it is most crucial to become selectively vulnerable in these situations so you can make the right choices to change your environment.
It is important to choose who to be vulnerable with, especially when it comes down to intimate personal issues, because not everybody will treat your vulnerability with the respect and care it deserves, but this doesn’t mean keep it hidden for fear of being hurt. Hurt is part of life and we cannot avoid it. You have to risk something valuable to gain something valuable. But do think about who to be vulnerable with when it is deeply personal. However when it comes to becoming vulnerable in other areas you need to be able to do it with anyone who comes across your path, because people need to know what your boundaries are, regardless of who they are, or what they position is in your life. You owe it to yourself to learn how to do this. Otherwise you will invite what you don’t like as a default of your own unwillingness.
Learning to be vulnerable is something we can all learn to do. It is what will bring you the most answers and it will build trust and human connection where the greatest possibilities reside. By choosing this way you also choose not to choose so many other less suitable options. You really do back certain outcomes over the loss of many others. Be open to losing the others for the gains you will receive from the power of vulnerability and courage!
Do you have the will, desire, and courage to step into the light and freedom of your own vulnerability?
Perhaps your next relationship will depend on it, or your next promotion will come from it, or you will get the help you need from it? This is where possibility, personal power, the best relationships, and human purpose reside. Are you feeling me?
Don’t deny your most important super power...