As I was finishing these posts, and reflecting upon all of these articles, I realized there was more to say. Specifically, more to say about vulnerability and resilience. Let’s take a look, shall we.
Vulnerability and Resilience
What do vulnerability and resilience have to do with each other? Maybe it is readily apparent to you; yet, for me, the insight on these two just came this past week. Really. Funny how insight works. Fun.
Alright, before we get into our discussion, let’s define our terms. Important.
Now, though I disagree with the above definition of vulnerability, it works in this particular conversation when we consider resilience as a counterpoint to vulnerability.
Counterpoint meaning that the more vulnerable you are, the more resilient you will become. We must add here, however, that being vulnerable must be done within a context where you are safe and there is trust. Imperative.
When you are in a context that has both safety and trust, being vulnerable suddenly becomes a possibility. Not easy, no. Yet possible.
And, within this possibility, there is space, yes, for development and growth, and yep, for transformation as well; and, there is also space to develop resilience.
You see, when we are open, meaning open to new things, new experiences, new unknowns, we are vulnerable. We have to be. Anytime someone says, you know, I don’t know the answer to that, or don’t know, they are immediately being vulnerable.
Think about how often you say, I don’t know. Humans do not like to not know. Period. We like to know, like to believe we have control, and that we look good and are often right.
However, within a context of looking good and being right, there is no room for growth, no room for vulnerability. You cannot be vulnerable if you know everything.
And, guess what? Even those that say they know, don’t know. Not everything. Not possible. The greatest minds of all time knew this truth.
Really, they did. Let’s take a look at one of them now. Here you go.
“Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.” Confucius
A great quote. What confucius is pointing to in this quote is that when we know the limit of our own knowledge, we are immediately open to learning. Right away.
This then is the real knowledge Confucius is talking about. Knowing that we don’t know everything. Knowing also that to own we don’t know, to be open to learning is being vulnerable. Wise.
When we, however, act as if we know when we don’t, we are closed, and are also closed to learning. Simple. Unwise.
When we are open to being vulnerable, we can enter into contexts where we can learn more. More from people around us that are willing to share of themselves, as we are ready to share with them.
As we enter these vulnerable contexts, which can cause fear and anxiety, we begin to develop our resilience. Really. Right away.
Sometimes people think that being vulnerable means doing something way outside of our comfort zone. That’s possible, yet what is more probable is that we enter into vulnerable contexts, one step or action at time.
Taking small steps is important. And, guess what? Gradually those steps will become larger. Yep. Why?
Because as we develop and grow, what we know grows, just like our resilience, as does our comfort zone. Yep. And, when our comfort zone grows, we feel more comfortable being vulnerable more often.
Remember, however, that it takes time. Development is not a light switch. It is a process. One step and time.
What Can You Do?
When you are ready, take a step outside of your comfort zone into the land of vulnerability. You get to choose the size of that step.
Remember, it’s not about the size of the step, it’s about taking that step; and, taking that step when you are ready.
If you are not yet ready, that’s okay. It is. It’s not about the right or wrong time. It’s about sharing with each other that which we have to share; and moving ourselves and the people around us that we love forward. Doing so when we are ready.
And, you know what?
Know matter what other people have told you, you can do it. You are strong. You are powerful. You are beautiful. You are vulnerable and resilient.
I’ve written a lot about vulnerability lately. Why? Well, for many years, I avoided vulnerability at all costs. Really, I did. I was not interested. Actually, I was disinterested to the point of high levels of anxiety. Today? Not the case.
Today I believe that, although being vulnerable is hard work, it is where all the wonders of being a human being live.
Wonders like innovation, resilience, love, compassion, and much more.
In fact, writing an article like this just a short two years ago would have been impossible. Too vulnerable, too much unknown, too much anxiety. We can pretend, or feel as if, anxiety is only our issue. Let me tell you unequivocally, it is not.
Many, many people all across the world suffer from anxiety. An aside, real quick, promise.
I was once in a therapist’s office, and they were talking to me about anxiety levels, and I said something like, I believe the entire population of the United States suffers from low-grade anxiety. What did they say? Yep, that’s true.
Now, I could write more about that, however, I’d like to get back to the current topic. Vulnerability.
I believe that vulnerability is important to our individual development. Showing us where we have growth opportunities if we choose, to be vulnerable, and grow into and eventually out of these opportunities. That’s development.
I also believe that vulnerability is a transformational space, which anyone can enter. Of course, of their choosing, when they are ready. What happens, you ask, when you are vulnerable on a regular basis?
Well, many things. However, I think there are 4 things that are distinct to being vulnerable where we get back much more by being vulnerable than we do by making the choice to not be vulnerable.
Alright, here, then is
The 4 C’s of Vulnerability: Why Vulnerability is Transformational
There is something about being vulnerable that exposes us to more of our own humanity. And, when we are exposed to more of our humanity, we get to know more about everyone else’s humanity. It works that way.
And knowing both about our own humanity, while also knowing about everyone else’s, gives us more sight about our shared humanity.
Connecting more deeply to the similarity of those around us. When we can connect with others in that way, we get more out of our relationships. Really.
Think about the relationships you have. Are you able to be vulnerable? Hm. If not, well, you may want to rethink those relationships. Why?
Because to be vulnerable you must be in a context that is safe, and with people that you trust. If you are not, vulnerability is way too scary, and rightfully so.
When we are vulnerable, we are exposing parts of ourselves that we don’t normally expose. And, it takes safety and trust to get there. It does.
Therefore if you are in relationships with people where vulnerability is out of the question, I would question the need for those relationships. Hard. Yet, might be needed.
When we are in a safe space, with people we trust, we can be more open, and inside of that openness, being vulnerable becomes more available.
And, as was aforementioned, when we get to share that vulnerable space with someone else, we transform that relationship into something quite different. Beautiful.
Another quite lovely byproduct of being vulnerable is the opportunity to develop more compassion.
See, when we are vulnerable, we have the opportunity to experience grace for ourselves in doing something that makes us either nervous, fearful, or anxious.
We may not always extend ourselves that grace and the accompanying compassion, yet it is there. As was aforementioned, I was actively disinterested in vulnerability for many years. Over 20 in fact.
However, that does not mean I was never vulnerable. I was. And, inside of those vulnerable moments, some of which were long moments, I did not extend myself grace, nor the accompanying compassion. Nope.
Yet, know that developing more compassion for yourself inside of being more actively vulnerable, is possible. How do I know? Because I am actively vulnerable on a regular basis today. Every day in fact.
Anyone that participates in contexts and experiences that stretch them, that make them feel vulnerable, deserves grace and compassion; and, I can provide both to myself today. Growth.
Another opportunity inside of being vulnerable more often, and developing more compassion for yourself, is that you will also develop more compassion for others. It works that way.
Anytime we can extend ourselves more of something, we can now also extend it to others. And, believe me, everyone can use more grace and compassion today. Seriously.
Inside the space, you create to be more vulnerable, while extending to yourself and everyone else around you more grace and compassion, you have transformed yourself and that relationship.
In those precious moments, our shared humanity is realized, and we can recognize ourselves in each other. It is a beautiful experience. Connecting with another human being on that level is transformation.
It takes courage to be vulnerable often; and, when we are more often vulnerable, we get to develop more courage and resilience. Often, I think, people believe that some people have courage and resilience and others do not. Not true.
Like any other skill set, courage and resilience can be developed.
You can grow yourself into a more courageous and resilient self by doing things that are outside of your comfort zone.
And, it just so happens that being vulnerable is outside of most people’s comfort zone. I would actually argue that it is outside of everyone’s comfort zone. That is the nature of vulnerability inside of being human.
When we create the opportunity to grow into a more courageous and resilient self, we also get to model that behavior for people around us.
Family, friends, coworkers, acquaintances, and, yes, even people we don’t know at all. Inspiring.
And, inside of creating more inspiration in this world by being more open and vulnerable, developing ourselves, while also showing others that developmental growth is possible for them too, you get transformation.
Transformation for yourself, yes; and, transformation for those that choose to journey with you into vulnerable situations and contexts, which are created by stepping out of your comfort zone and into spaces that are vulnerable.
When we have deeper connections with ourselves, and likewise, with people close to us, built upon safety and trust, there is an increased likelihood of more collaboration. Fun.
Though I think I’ve always naturally gravitated towards collaborative contexts and people that share a collaborative spirit with me, I was not always available to these types of contexts or people.
Remember, I actively avoided and resisted my own vulnerability for a long time, which also means that I, in many ways, missed out on deeper relationships with people where collaboration was more possible.
Now, I am surrounded by these types of contexts and people.
Even with people that I at one time did not share this type of connection, that connection is more apparent today. And, it can be for you too.
When we are available to a natural human inclination within us to share ourselves with others, to connect with them deeply, and to share all that we have to offer, we are or have become natural collaborators. Really. At that moment, or in those moments, it is true.
A byproduct of entering into collaborative contexts more regularly also means that there is a higher likelihood for innovation to occur. And, inside of innovative contexts transformation is regularly apparent. Why?
Because when we are vulnerably collaborating, we are out on a limb, deeply connected to others in that safe and trusting context, where courage flourishes, as does innovation. And, what often follows innovation is transformation.
In closing, I will also offer that where there is the possibility of developing more of a vulnerable self, there is also the possibility of developing less nervousness, fear, and anxiety.
What I’ve learned in the past three years, is that avoiding and resisting things that make us uncomfortable only brings more nervousness, fear, and anxiety. An example? Sure.
When I was working in the private sector, before going back to University at 33, I worked for several large corporations; and, at one of them, I wanted desperately to be promoted into a leadership role.
Well, at that time, I had a great supervisor and mentor, and that goal became a reality.
As many of you know, when you are in leadership roles, the need to speak in front of groups, your team, business, or organization is rather mandatory. It’s part of it. How did I feel about that? Horribly anxious. Really. Sky-high anxiety.
I remember the first time being in front of the group, I would eventually lead, at a district meeting. I had a 5-minute speech to give. 5-minutes, that’s all. Might as well have been an hour. Phew.
I was so anxious that the paper I was using for a guide, actually I was reading directly from it, was shaking like a leaf in my hand. Actually, my whole body was shaking like a leaf. Really.
Well, I continued to take on small parts in the meetings, 5 minutes became 10, and 10 developed, over time, into giving entire 1 to 1.5-hour district meetings to the group by myself. The point?
It took time. One step at a time. Bite-sized chunks, as they say, within a context where safety and trust were present.
And, yep, I developed more courage, resilience, much deeper connections with that team, and we did become highly collaborative. Fun.
Since that time, I’ve led several teams, including the team I am on right now and have taught at University. Transformation.
And, you can also be a part of a vulnerable transformation. It’s not complicated, yet it is, as we’ve discussed. Difficult.
Yet, when you take it one step at a time, one action at a time, knowing that it is a process, not a light switch, you can rest in ease knowing that if you persist you will be doing vulnerability more often.
And, guess what? Without even knowing it you will have developed deeper connections, more compassion, and courage, and you will probably find yourself in collaborative contexts more often.
Vulnerability is transformational, and you can partake in it if you choose. Choose well.
Do you ever feel stuck? Like you are doing the same thing every day, getting the same result, and wondering why this is so? Yep. Happens to all of us at some point in our lives. In fact, it is possible that it happens often.
On any given week, I would say that I get stuck multiple times. True. Really. I have no issue owning my stuckness, as it is inside of being stuck that you learn to become unstuck. How?
Well, let’s take a look at 4 things to notice and 4 ways you can, right now, today, if you choose, move from stuck to unstuck.
1. Notice Frustration and Worry
When we are stuck, emotions like frustration and worry arise more often. Why? Because internally we know that the actions we are taking are not working. They are, rather, a product of being in a rut. Or, being stuck.
Yes. Why? Because it is an impossibility for anyone to know everything there is to know on any subject or topic. Really. Impossible.
1.What can you do if you are thinking, feeling, and acting this way?
Once you notice your frustration and worry, stop what you are doing. Really. Stop. Take a break, and think about the thoughts you are having. Are you considering all options? Or, are you merely reacting to the situation at hand? Important distinction.
Then, ask someone their opinion. Seriously. Often, when I am stuck, it is someone else that shows me another way forward. The coolest part about this? That you get unstuck and learn something new at the same time. Pretty cool.
2. Notice your own fear, especially of the unknown
Yet, like anything we do, it gets easier the more we practice getting out of our own way. When you experience fear about an action you are thinking about taking, more than likely it is a product of an innate need to look good or be right. Yep.
We are so concerned that we might look silly or foolish, we don’t take action, or we take action within a limited framework. Which, when you really think about it, is kinda silly and foolish.
In order to become unstuck from our fear, we must be vulnerable;and, take the action there is to take, especially when we feel nervous. When you are nervous, you are growing. Yep. At that moment, you are growing your own developmental spectrum.
2. What can you do if you are allowing fear to keep you stuck?
Take the actions anyway. Move forward. Let go of the need to look good, and be right. When we are stuck in looking good or being right, we cannot grow. There is absolutely no growth with that mindset.
A growth mindset is about being open, vulnerable, and the practical knowledge that we know way less than there is to know.
Learn to become comfortable in not knowing, and looking silly. You will find that when you take action from a standpoint of not knowing, and being okay with “looking silly” that people will actually respond to you. Why? Because they have the exact same fears. The exact same. When you get outside of your fear, you will inspire them.
3. Notice when you are avoiding situations, tasks, or contexts
Because we are actively resisting a situation, task, or context, which means in that area of our life, we are stuck. Yep. When we avoid, we don’t move forward. We standstill. Stuck.
Further, when we avoid, we can also feel off, and not so well. Frustration, worry, and anxiety can be higherbecause internally we know we are avoiding something that needs our attention. See, we can’t get out of ourselves. Even when we think we can get out of it, we can’t.
However, when we are open to our own avoidance, we can actively choose to notice it, and begin to consider how to move forward. It doesn’t mean that that area of our life will move forward all at once, or simply. Noticing our avoidance, however, does mean we are now open to creating movement.
3.What can you do when you are being avoidant?
Pay attention to those situations, tasks, and contexts that you are avoiding. When you notice them, stop yourself and ask, why. Why are you being avoidant? Get to that reason if you can.
Whether the reason is at the surface or not, begin to consider things you can do to move forward. Once you choose an action, take it. No matter how small. Take that action. It will be uncomfortable. Especially at first.
Remember though, it is inside of the continual actions we take every day that comfort will come. And, comfort in what is uncomfortable today will come. It will.
4. Notice when you are holding tight to your current reality, and begin to let go
It is the same as being stuck. When we hold tight to our current reality, we cannot let go. Impossible. We are then stuck. Essentially, holding onto our current reality is being stuck. They are synonymous. Why?
Because you cannot become unstuck from that which you are stuck to. We must learn to let go. If we do not, we end up living in a false reality where things are static and do not change. Yet, that is not the real world. The world changes with or without our consent. Just look at the current reality right now.
4.What can you do when you are holding tight to your current reality?
Practice letting go. Choose an aspect of your life that you believe you are stuck in, and begin to consider what about that current reality you can live without. And, let go.
Once you’ve let go of that aspect of your current reality, create something new to fill that reality, to move forward.
As with the other suggestions, you can focus on smaller aspects of your life where you are stuck first. Practice, practice.
When you’ve practiced letting go in smaller aspects of your life, you may be ready to try something larger. Take it one step at a time. Slowly. There is no hurry here.
Alright, there are 4 things to notice, and 4 ways to move from stuck to unstuck. Remember, being stuck is a normal part of life; and becoming unstuck is a wonderful learning experience.
Moving from stuck to unstuck is a developmental growth process. You simply need to be open to notice when you are stuck, and then to take a different action in that area of your life.
My invitation to you
Notice when you are stuck. Be at peace with it. It is okay, normal. Once noticed, create a new action in that area of your life. When you’ve created that new action, create the next one, and then the next one. And, so on. I think you will be surprised at what you get back.