The Strength of Vulnerability…

SaraA good friend of mine was recently promoted to Lt. Col in the U.S. Air Force – quite an impressive accomplishment for a 38-year-old woman. During her promotion ceremony, she gave a very moving speech in which she thanked those who supported her and told them what they taught her and meant to her. What touched me the most was how authentic, real and vulnerable she was. In her words, “I said I wasn’t going to cry and then my daddy gives the opening prayer, so here I go.” She demonstrated courage, compassion and connection beautifully in her speech.

Military ceremonies are always very impactful to me because it’s an opportunity to see leaders be their true, authentic selves. They always get very emotional when thanking their families for their support. Many leaders believe that they should not show emotion and make themselves vulnerable, but that only makes them seem more human and real. In Brene Brown’s TED Talks “The Power of Vulnerability”and “Listening to Shame,” she says that being vulnerable is what connects us to other people. “Connection is why we’re here. It’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives. In order to feel connection, we must be seen and be vulnerable.” Brene also asked the audience if they believed that being vulnerable meant showing weakness, and the majority raised their hands. Then she asked when they see other people demonstrate vulnerability, if they view it as courageous, and again the majority of the audience raised their hands.

Isn’t it interesting that the very thing that we believe makes us weak, actually makes us appear courageous to others? It’s counter-intuitive, and for most leaders and people in general, it’s very scary. We don’t want to make ourselves vulnerable because then we could get hurt, but the irony is that people are less likely to hurt us when we are vulnerable. Instead, they are more likely to let down their walls and connect with us on human level. When you are in a situation as a leader, parent, spouse, friend, etc. in which you don’t know what to say or do, just express what you are really feeling and experiencing to the other person. You can’t go wrong with telling the truth and being authentic and real. It seems like the hardest thing to do, yet it’s so simple.

“Most people believe vulnerability is weakness. But really vulnerability is courage. We must ask ourselves…are we willing to show up and be seen?” – Brene Brown

 “Vulnerability is not about fear and grief and disappointment. It is the birthplace of everything we’re hungry for.” – Brene Brown

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