When you hear the word vulnerable what does it conjure up for you? Do you think weak, pathetic, exposed or do you think confident, courageous, willingness to be yourself? Unfortunately, I think we have over time been socialized to automatically think about it in a negative context. That by telling someone what you are worried about, by sharing a concern you are showing the world your faults, your weaknesses.
But what if we thought about it with a different perspective, by sharing our vulnerability we are in fact telling people this is what I am concerned about and therefore this is what I need from you. If we are being clear about what we need then aren’t we more likely to get it? Let me put this into context. I was working with a client the other day, she was aware that discussions were taking place about moving her back to her old team as they were to achieve their targets. She wanted to stay with her new team as it was better for her development. Working through our session my client concluded that by being open, by being vulnerable and telling her manager that this was her preference she was more likely to achieve her objective as her manager would know what she wanted as opposed to second-guessing.
However, is it good to be vulnerable in every situation? Having considered this I think there are some extreme situations when you are physically or emotionally in a dangerous situation that you may want to hide your vulnerability or when you are trying to reassure you own kids about something and you don’t want your own fears to transfer to them. But in the main and in a working and career context I have come to my own conclusion that sharing your vulnerability can be the best outcome in the longer term.
I remember being interviewed a few years ago for a senior HR position with a well-known insurance company and was asked what I felt I would need to do to take on my interviewer’s role. This was not the job I was applying for but would be my natural progression, my potential boss’s job. My response focused around building confidence in my knowledge of the organisation (I had no prior experience of the industry) and to have had time to build relationships with my key stakeholders. I was advised that ideally, they were looking for a successor but that this was 12 to 24 months away. I was not successful in my interview and when presented with feedback, they had explained that this answer had caused them concern as they were worried I didn’t have confidence in my own abilities.
Was I wrong to share this? Had they interpreted my honest response as being a weakness? By being vulnerable and putting it out there did I miss out? I like to think that this was a lucky escape. The areas I had specified that I would need to work on to be ready for the next role would all have been achievable in a 12 months period and therefore did they actually want someone earlier – I didn’t want this level of responsibility.
Secondly, it raises questions for me about being able to be true to yourself, would this organisation not be very supportive, would I have to constantly put on an act and therefore if I wasn’t able to be me then I would be living in a constant state of conflict.
Why are we not comfortable with showing our vulnerability? Brene Brown is an expert in this matter. She believes that behind the unwillingness to be vulnerable are fear and our ability to cope with uncertainty.
When you contemplate leaving your soul-sucking job to find something new when you know a relationship is not right but don’t do anything because you are uncertain of what you do want or what the future will look like you close yourself off to a new adventure. When you don’t take that leap into a new job or stop yourself telling your partner that you don’t want to be with them anymore because of your fears you are stopping yourself from living the life you want.
By not being vulnerable we are restricting ourselves from growing and being the person we really want to be and instead of being the person we think others want us to be, which is ironic really because those who love you want you to be you, they love you for all your imperfections!
I found this out for myself as I left a role as a Senior Vice President of HR to set up my own coaching business. I had to be vulnerable in order to build the life I wanted. I wanted to help people and make a difference, I wanted to work when and where I wanted. I didn’t have certainty that my coaching business would work out, I had to face my fears about whether I would like it or whether I would be good enough. I had to learn new skills but it was worth it because I am now finally in my 40s being me, and not playing a character of who I thought people wanted me to be.
Does this resonate? Then here are three suggestions for you:
- Understand what is holding you back from being you, what is your fear?
- Think about what it’s costing you to not be vulnerable how you are restricting yourself.
- Take one small step to push yourself forward towards what you really want!
Accept who you are, we need to let go of who we think we should be and instead get comfortable showing who we really are.
If you are facing a challenge in your career and need focused support to move you forward why not get in touch and book a free introductory call and we can explore how we could work together to be a happier version of you.