I love to perform with my band. There is something magical about getting on stage and expressing myself through music. The lights, the excitement, and the connection I make with the crowd, the band, and myself makes me feel truly alive.
Do I get nervous? You bet. Do I worry I might mess up? Yep. Do I worry about what others might think of me? Of course. Do I do it anyway? Absolutely!
“Vulnerability is the risk we take when we put ourselves out there. It is a natural feeling we get from uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure,” says research professor and author Brene Brown in her new show, A Call to Courage, now streaming on Netflix.
And believe it or not, feeling vulnerable is a good thing.
What? Feeling anxious and exposing oneself to the possibility of being fully seen or criticized is a good thing?
“Because there is no courage without vulnerability,” explains Brene. For example, “when we build cultures at work where there is zero tolerance for vulnerability, no open conversation happens,” says Brene. “We end up talking about each other instead of to each other.”
This is true about innovation as well. No innovation occurs where fear prevails over conversation in a company, and people hold themselves and their ideas back in dread of being criticized or failing (Read more on this subject here).
Instead, according to Brene, we need real conversation. We must bring our whole heart and our whole selves to the arena, each and every day. We must choose courage over comfort and create a culture where we feel free to share ideas without worrying about the critic. We must show up fully and let go of our armor, be open to failure and dare to be seen and take risks if we are going to feel fully alive and make a difference in our organizations, our communities, and the world.
Theodore Roosevelt says it beautifully in this celebrated quote:
“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, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; 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 fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
So how do we overcome the fear that comes with being vulnerable?
- Brene Brown says we do it anyway. We dare greatly!
- Second, she says that we get rid of the following myths around vulnerability.
- Vulnerability is weakness – Not true. Vulnerability is the most courageous thing you will ever do.
- I don’t do vulnerability – Everyone does vulnerability knowingly or unknowingly. “You do vulnerability, or vulnerability does you.” Says Brene. People take their pain and work it out on other people when they don’t acknowledge their own vulnerability.
- I can go it alone – Not true either. We need each other. We are neurobiologically wired to other people. We can’t go it alone. In fact, in the absence of love and connection, there is always suffering.
- We can engineer the uncertainty and discomfort out of vulnerability – No, you can’t. The minute a situation becomes comfortable it is no longer vulnerability.
- Trust comes before vulnerability – They actually work together. The more you share the more trust is formed and the more you trust, the more you share.
- Vulnerability is disclosure – Not full disclosure. Vulnerability without boundaries is not vulnerability. Everyone deserves privacy.
So show up my friends! Do not be afraid to get in the arena. And when the time comes, do "it" anyway, it spite of the fear you feel. Only then will true connection and innovation take place.