How to write about vulnerability? Should I write what others figured out, to make it research-based? Because it should be about the topic, not so much about me?
How often do we have these inner conversations? Not only on this specific topic. Making things neutral, fact-based, rational, and left-brained. Doing so, means to remove authenticity and creativity. It means to remove ourselves from the equation; it means to hide what could make our message unique.
Vulnerability defined as a weakness suppresses people’s true potential
Being vulnerable is being weak – that was my parents’ conviction. I was raised to behave like a young adult. Whenever something hurt me as a child, and I cried for a while, my parents’ main concern was that I stopped crying. The underlying reason was almost never of any interest. Back to “normal” was the motto. I learned to hide my emotions, my sadness, and my tears. I learned to hide my vulnerable and soft part. I learned to hide myself. It seemed to work for many years. Of course, nobody had a chance to come really close to me. And I didn’t build any meaningful relationships. How should I? In the long run, it didn’t work at all. Of course not. My behavior to hide a huge part of myself had to collapse. It happened in iterations over a decade. Until my heart opened up. Until I learned to accept my vulnerability as one of my core foundations, as the prerequisite for finding my journey, my purpose, and my creativity.
For many years, I worked like crazy, in different sales and consulting roles, traveling week by week. Over time, as I got more and more disconnected from almost everything, I questioned the value of the projects I was hired and paid for. The more I looked behind the scenes, the more useless the outcomes seemed to be. Selling and leading performance programs as a consultant was something I could do pretty well, but it was not something I enjoyed doing. I simply did my job; I functioned in this role. My vulnerable part had no place in this world. I was not happy. And I got sick. Deep inside me, the desire to discover the roots of my soul and my heart, the desired to become true to myself was increasing and increasing.
Discovering my vulnerability
Then I found myself in a spiritual leadership workshop in Hungary, back in 2004. I blindly followed the recommendation of a friend to attend this workshop. This workshop changed my life. Completely. I had to face my emotional past that had no space so far. And I was also challenged to overcome various fears. Hiding vulnerability and hiding fears are closely connected. Imagine you are blindfolded, and you work with a person you don’t know yet. This partner guides you through a labyrinth. It only works when you trust this person completely. Saying that it wasn’t easy would be an understatement. It was a huge emotional challenge. I wasn’t used to trusting another person this way. Even worse, I wasn’t aware of that. Even more challenging for me was this: people stand in two rows facing each other, and their arms and hands are connected to each other, building a strong cushion. You stand on a small wall (the height is not the problem!), with your back to the group, and you let yourself fall backward, to be held by the team. Hiding my vulnerability didn’t allow me to stand on the wall saying “Hey guys, I’m afraid to jump. Would you please hold me?” No way. I didn’t say a word. Somehow, trembling with fear, I jumped backward, and the feeling of being held by this amazing group released the last twenty years of hiding my vulnerability. Finally, I allowed my tears to flow. What a trigger!
For me, this was a key milestone. It was the beginning of a new life, the beginning of a journey I enjoy fast forward to today. I stopped hiding my vulnerability, my tears, my sadness, my inner self and my fears. It was the beginning to regain trust in me, to become true to myself. It was the beginning to find my journey and my life purpose years later. It was the beginning to discover my creative potential. All that happened and is happening in iterations fast forward to today. This is a journey that’s never finished. Also, it doesn’t mean that there weren’t any additional and heavy challenges in my life since then. There were a lot of challenges, even more than before. More, because I didn’t hide them from hitting me. However, I’m grateful for every single challenge and crisis that came my way. Each of those challenges told me something I had to learn; about life, about others, but first and foremost about myself. In addition, I learned, what I had to let go to grow.
It means to articulate yourself, your truth, especially if you find yourself in situations with people that matter to you. Vulnerability means to be authentic; it means to be honest. Your vulnerability will touch people if their hearts are open and they have a connection to you. Ultimately, vulnerability never means to say “I’m sorry” for what you are and for who you are.
If somebody’s behavior hurts you, you always have a choice. You can hide your emotions, or you can articulate how you feel in a way that’s not attacking the other person. In many cases, other people are not aware what their behavior means to you. And that’s the same the other way around. If a person truly matters to you, help them to understand your perspective. If they truly care about you, they will be grateful for your openness. A great foundation to grow a relationship. If they don’t care about your situation and don’t value that you have spoken up, you will learn an important lesson how not to waste your gift, your vulnerability.
Just be who you are and what you are. And that needs no excuses.
Vulnerability is the prerequisite for creativity and innovation
I had no sense of my creative potential for many years, see also here. I learned as a child that creativity was not important, and I was also told that I wasn’t a creative person at all. So, I unconsciously hid something I wasn’t even aware of. Years later, I developed a sense of creativity when I started to tailor my dresses, when I started to develop new recipes based on learning and understanding cooking principles rather than repeating other people’s recipes. Later on, I learned to create new ideas in different areas of my life – and most important to trust my ideas and to use them. Writing became one of my favorite parts of being more creative in all aspects of my life. Luckily, I could integrate my creativity and my love for writing with my current profession.
Being true to yourself, discovering your vulnerability and living a vulnerable life means to live a creative life. Vulnerability if the foundation for creativity. Only if you have found the connection to your inner self, only if you are connected to the roots of your soul, only then you can create authentic ideas, you can create art. Your art. Only then, your creativity will be unique.
Vulnerability is the foundation for sharing, connecting and engaging.
Imagine you share your ideas with a group of people. You are very vulnerable at this point. Everybody else can have an opinion telling you why it won’t work and why it doesn’t make any sense. We all know those situations in all aspects of our lives. Think about the very few occasions when people welcomed your ideas and tried to develop them together to a new level.
And now rethink why one of the biggest problems in today’s organizations is a lack of creativity and innovation. Yes, one of the root causes is that we learned to hide our inner self, our vulnerability, our creativity. Brené Brown has conducted groundbreaking research on this topic. You will find a few must read and must watch links at the end of this blog post.
Sharing, connecting and engaging for me as a writer begins with the “Publish” button and to share the art I have made. For a painter, it means to present their art to the public, for a photographer or filmmaker it’s presenting their photographs, stories and films to the public.
I couldn’t write a better statement than this one from Seth Godin. It’s so spot on:
“Vulnerable is the only way we can feel when we truly share the art we’ve made.
When we share it, when we connect, we have shifted all the power
and made ourselves nakedin front of the person we’ve given the gift of our art to.
We have no excuses, no manual to point to,
no standard operating procedure to protect us.
And that is part of our gift.
Real strength is to rediscover your vulnerability and to make it your gift to the world.
- We are all born with love, not with hatred.
- We are all born vulnerable.
- We are all born with playfulness and creativity.
- We are all born as connecting, sharing and collaborative living beings.
Let’s bring all these elements together and let’s live a vulnerable, strong and creative life.
Recommended reads and talks, related blog posts: