"The difficult thing is that vulnerability is the first thing I look for in you and the last thing I am willing to show you. In you, it is courage and daring. In me, it is weakness." - Brene Brown
I was having a conversation recently with a coaching colleague and we were discussing some challenges one of her clients was facing with needing to be in control. In the language of the strategic interdependence model developed by DeAnna Murphy and Strengths Strategy, Inc, the client seemed to spend a lot of time operating from independence (I serve me.). As we explored the possibilities for how my colleague might best serve this client, the question that came up for me was, "What is your relationship with vulnerability?" This applied to both coach and client.
I then began thinking about vulnerability, my personal journey with it, and how reframing my view on vulnerability has transformed my life. I carried the perspective that vulnerability was weakness, and this was reflected in how I showed up in my life. This led to self-protective thought habits and behaviors incongruent with my authentic self. I felt this inner conflict that manifested in frustration and at times feeling lost. Upon reflection, I had spent much of my time operating in the "toxic triangle" from independence, needing to be in control, or dependence, where the theme is waiting as you might associate with the "victim mindset". I say this not from a place of self-judgment but one of truth. The truth hurt, as it sometimes does.
As I learned to accept myself without judgment, both my strengths and my areas of weakness, I was able to let go of those thought habits that weren't serving me. I recall while I was at Georgetown, at the start of the first day together since our last class, two classmates each greeted me as I made my way from the elevator to the classroom separately, yet with the same exact words, "You look lighter." They were not referring to my weight, but the weight of the world that no longer resided on my shoulders. I was showing up differently, in congruence with the person I wanted to be. I had freed myself to be myself.
Since, I had last seen them four weeks earlier, I had experienced my breakthrough with vulnerability and my friends provided validation of this transformation. I had re-crafted the story I was telling myself to the one I chose to tell, congruent with the person I was becoming. In truly accepting myself without judgment, I began to see myself and the world with new eyes. I embraced who I was, and showed up with confident vulnerability, ready, willing, and able to operate from interdependence (I serve us, so that we can serve others.) How could I serve others through coaching and not be authentic? How could I be authentic if I was unwilling to be vulnerable?
In my years of coaching wonderful clients from college graduates transitioning to the workforce to C-suite executives, I have found myself asking this question about one's relationship with vulnerability often. It is not weakness to be vulnerable, it is demonstrating your humanity, and in doing so, your strength. Vulnerability is what makes us all human; it is what unites us and helps us build authentic connection with others.
My primary strengths are in the Relationship-Building domain as defined by Gallup's StrengthsFinder 2.0. Imagine, particularly as a coach deeply committed to serving others, shutting off access to the best part of myself because of thought habits that were not serving me and largely stories I concocted in my mind. They were untrue. As Buddha said, "The mind is everything. What you think, you become." Who do you want to become? What will it take to become version 2.0 of you?
As you continue your journey, I invite you to accept yourself without judgment, and to consider how you will use your pen to write the story of your life from now forward. Step into your boldness, connect with your core values, your truth, your authentic self and live fully from this place. I would like to end where we began, in support of your courage on your unique and wonderful journey, pondering the question (without judgment): What is your relationship with vulnerability?
Be Bold. Be You. Breakthrough.℠