VALUES AND VULNERABILITY - Why is vulnerability so hard and what can we do about it?

Updated: Jun 2, 2020

2020 marks the tenth anniversary of me feeling financially safe for the first time in my life – my whole life - and so I am really excited about it, professionally. It feels like a milestone year; a year of reflection and aspiration. I wonder if the two go hand in hand?

I didn’t grow up in a home where there was a lot of financial stability. I know that our values come from a decision we made at some point in our lives in response to an experience, usually a painful one, in order to keep ourselves protected from the pain happening again in the future. Our human survival strategy is largely based on decisions that we are not even aware we have made, based on memories we may not even consciously remember; and then mostly, as we bumble through life and work and marriage etc., we wonder why certain things trigger us (and that’s if we are self-exploring, which too many people are not). Most of us cannot even define what our values are (and even if we have been on a workshop about it, we’re often left not really feeling why they matter or what they mean in terms of how other people perceive us). Our values are what we use to protect ourselves when we feel most vulnerable; and therefor they drive our reactions to things we don’t like or agree with (they have other uses to, but I am trying to keep this under 1000 words!). When I say ‘reactive’ read emotional; and annoyingly, it’s this emotion that forms the basis of our unconscious behaviour, assumptions, judgements; and decisions, which paradoxically makes us vulnerable. When I facilitate my personal mastery programmes I often work with leaders, managers, decision makers, supervisors, sales people & entrepreneurs (i.e. people whose job it is to influence other people); and I ask them if they are aware of how they ‘show up’ - meaning what do others really think of them. If they tell me they are friends with their staff/ clients/ colleagues I am glad but also worried. Just because you like one another it doesn’t mean you trust one another enough to tell the truth – how vulnerable is that!

I think that my value of determination came from my drive to seek security, another of my core values, which is probably why 2020 feels like such an important year. These values clearly protect that which makes me feel vulnerable. Certainly, my intention this year is to build my business even more consciously in every sense of the word; and a big part of that is about practicing what I preach, which is largely about building a muscle for vulnerability (which by the way is a skill that requires practicing), because it turns out that vulnerability is the launch pad for building trust; and authentic trust between people is what’s needed for success in any context.

But being vulnerable (and what that actually means in terms of our choices and behaviour) is a) misunderstood and b) incredibly hard to actually put into practice, especially in that moment when our survival instinct gets us all defensive. Ask me, I know; and I teach this stuff practically every day. One of the big reasons for this, is because vulnerability requires bucket loads of self-awareness, which is super hard to achieve when we time-poor & stressed out. In my experience it requires being willing to let go of what you think you should be in favour of who you really are. This takes an oversized commitment to building self-esteem & figuring out who you really are.

I personally have put in thousands of hours over the last 15 years in an attempt to address those two things in both my personal and professional capacity. I have explored countless modalities, (my favourite being the Enneagram) & spoken to an embarrassingly large number of coaches, therapists, social workers, gurus & people on a similar mission. I have witnessed hundreds of people’s journeys over the last decade as a facilitator & coach; and what I can offer with total conviction is that if you not are working on yourself, exploring who you really are, and what’s important to you, as well as building your self-esteem as an ongoing practice, you will never be able to be vulnerable. If you cannot allow yourself to be truly seen, you will never influence others, because they will not know who you are, so why would they trust you? And if they don’t trust you, they will never really follow you.

Learning to be vulnerable is not a workshop you attend or a book you read, it’s about deciding that it’s important (and if you haven’t decided that it is you are in trouble so make sure you read my article on why it’s the secret ingredient to a successful career); and exploring ways to be comfortable with it and then practicing it consistently.

To start you off this process ask yourself:

1. Is there anything about myself, my life, my choices, my circumstances that I deny, hide, pretend, defend, wish away or need to forgive myself for?

2. What are my five top values?

3. What does that mean in terms of my behaviour and why are these values important (i.e. what are you protecting within yourself when you call on them?)

#vulnerability #personalmastery #leadership #emotionalintelligence #socialintelligence


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