The Paradox of Vulnerability + Power

The Paradox of Vulnerability + Power

In my corporate life, I learned that being strong and being powerful was rewarded.

Back in my career days, I knew that showing weakness was NOT going to get me promoted. That admitting I didn’t know, was NOT the right answer. And that crying in the office just looked silly.

I remember hiding out in a bathroom my first year in corporate, fighting back tears, and telling my fellow female colleagues to tell my boss (a male) that I was NOT coming out and would call him later. I couldn’t face showing him my red eyes and snotty nose, after getting blindsided in our team meeting. I was mortified.

Some of these lessons carried and informed my entrepreneurial experience. While I was no longer worried about having a breakdown in the women’s restroom, I did want to always appear to have the ‘right’ answer for my clients and be perceived as an ‘expert’.  And in all honesty, I often still do.

But this has carried its toll on my business and my psyche. In a quest to always be seen as smart and helpful, I’ve constricted my ability to truly be me – the FULL me – the one that screws up and botches a project or wants to quit or wonders if it’d be easier to get a job at Starbucks rather than ride this entrepreneurial roller coaster one more go.

While being a leader comes naturally to me, being vulnerable and admitting weakness – does not. It never has.

I don’t do vulnerability. I don’t like feeling out of control, or at the mercy of my emotions.

A few years ago, after finally admitting to myself that I had post-partum depression,  I found a therapist to help me through it. I soon learned that her approach was emotion-led. Which means, every other question was, “so how did that make you feel? What are you feeling right now?” I lasted two sessions.

I think things through. I process. I talk it out. I break it down. I re-frame it. But I sure the hell do my best not to feel it.

I know where this comes from and why I do it (that’s a post for another day…and blog) – and it’ll be my life’s journey to work through it and make peace with vulnerability.

But you may be wondering what this has to do with business…

Everything. 

Every day, I tell my clients and readers to be who they REALLY are. To own what makes them different and unique. To trust that what will separate them from everyone else is really standing strong for what they believe in and claiming their stake.

I tell people that if you stand for everything – you stand for nothing. So step out onto that leading edge and actually say what you really want to say. Even if it pisses people off. Even if you get hate mail.

And then, when it really tests you and you wonder if you’ve gone too far – to TRUST yourself and your message. And to know that  the true game-changers in our history said what mattered to them (out loud!). Of course they were scared. Of course they worried that people wouldn’t like them.

But they believed in their message too much to risk keeping quiet. They chose to play big.

Because, as Brené Brown so eloquently said in this must-watch Ted talk, “Vulnerability is our most accurate measure of courage.”

Let’s be clear – and I want to draw a distinction. I do not think that being vulnerable means you have to expose all your dirty laundry for the world to see. And I don’t think it’s about chronically whining about the state of your life or business. You may win readers, but you’ll never gain customers.

Vulnerability isn’t about spilling your guts….it’s about having the guts to be YOU. All of you.

And, most importantly, standing by it. Believing in yourself and your message enough to not waiver when haters and distractors wanna shut you down or call you out. That’s their crap – not yours.

If you want to be on the leading edge, be vulnerable. If you want to rule your industry, have the courage to say what you really think. If you want to win friends and influence people, say something that matters and that isn’t a regurgitated version of everyone else’s thoughts.

It’s not easy. It’s not always glamorous. It’s messy and uncertain. And it’s often some pretty scary shit.

But if you want to be a game-changer and change-maker in your business, this is what’s required.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. ~ Theodore Roosevelt

Photo credit :: Tasayu 

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