They started their presentation with a 10-minute litany of why they are “f’'d up,” and this led into a conversation about vulnerability. Their attempt to connect with us with pseudo vulnerability was less connecting, and more ‘this person could really benefit from some therapy.”
I think vulnerability is often misunderstood. For lots of folks, vulnerability is to puke your fears, failure, and shortcoming all over anyone who may listen. In a sense, it is airing our fears of not being enough and our own self-hatred as an act of piety. A hangover of an ancient error that God is great and we are shit. You may remember this as the idea of “original sin.”
Even worse, I suppose, is when we put on a pseudo vulnerability to give the appearance of being vulnerable while not being vulnerable at all. In short - it is a show. It is particularly nasty because it is deceptive.
I am coming to understand vulnerability as much more about showing up, living into life and living in a way that is more and more in line with greater authenticity — stepping onto the stage with our best intentions, best thoughts, and hard work — going all in. Despite being afraid; afraid of failure, loss, criticism - that we would step up, take a chance, serve, and innovate. It is in showing up that we are practicing vulnerability.
“There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.” - Elbert Hubbard
Our culture is failure phobic. To fail, to make a mistake opens us to the jackals of the peanut gallery who have never stepped up to do anything new or meaningful. The trolls, haters and armchair quarterbacks have a digital soapbox and hack away without ever having to risk accountability or to do anything that makes a difference. This behavior cannibalizes the very heart of service, statesmanship, innovation, and creativity - hell, life itself! These voices have NOT earned the privilege to speak into your life in any way that matters.
Hear me! There is no such thing as perfect people - certainly not those who have actually attempted anything great. We need to ditch the idea that flawless perfection is a requirement - the BS that tells us before we can try new things, ask new questions, draw different conclusions that we must be perfect ourselves. It does require genuine humility - the ability to speak and live what we believe (experienced to be true) while being open to new information and perspectives. It takes great vulnerability as we lean into love - know that as we do we will surely make some mistakes, be misunderstood and fail.
A good friend took the helm of a small not-for-profit. Lots of good work by her predecessor but the organization had become stagnant. One of my friends first order of business was the major fundraiser. In the past it had been consistently “successful” but my friend, recognizing shifts in media, communication, and giving patterns decided that she would make some significant shifts to the flagship fundraiser. She confided in me that she wasn’t sure if it would succeed, and if it flopped it would be catastrophic. Yet still, she had a deep nudge that things needed to shift, for the long-term viability of the Foundation.
She worked hard. Very hard. She considered the criticism, the warnings, and leveraged them to fortifying her strategy. She executed her plan, navigated the bumps and hiccups, and when the smoke cleared she significantly surpassed the fundraising goal, not to mention previous records.
This is a success story. It could have gone the other way too. The point is, my friend didn’t phone it in. She leaned deeply into her experience and trusted her gut, doing so in a way that was authentically her. Was she scared? Petrified. But here’s the thing, you will never achieve anything remarkable until you show up. Moreover, we will never experience the vibrant sense of being alive unless we truly live.
Authentic vulnerability is something we live into. It is smart, heartful risk-taking. It is something that is embraced and practiced in the every day of life. Practicing vulnerability builds capacity within us, and afford us the skill to engage life - all of life - in a more creative, vibrant, meaningful way.
Love well, friends.