Have you ever allowed yourself to be so vulnerable that you felt naked? That’s what happened to me while I delivered the closing keynote at my fourth annual Work Your Package Women’s Conference. I spoke on the topic, “Your Life. Your. Story: What to Do When You Have a Story to Share”. It was the second time that I had spoken on the topic. The first time was for a webathon hosted by Lucy Brazier, the editor of Executive Secretary Magazine. However, this time was different. This time I wasn’t alone in a conference room with my laptop. This time I was in a room full of women that I am honored to serve and affectionately and proudly refer to as “Mavens”. These women have their own stories to share but there I was sharing mine. And I felt naked but not afraid. Sharing my story was cathartic and allowed me to be unapologetic about who I am. Being vulnerable is liberating because it erases any preconceived notions of perfection or lack of challenges. Being vulnerable is an act of acceptance of oneself. In the article, “Accept Yourself (Flaws and All): 7 Benefits of Being Vulnerable” by Daniel Wallen, here are the benefits of being vulnerable:
1. You will learn to appreciate the quirks that make you unique. Being vulnerable will help you embrace the strange (interesting) and quirky (unique) things that make you special. While you might call certain personal characteristics are “awkward,” they are only awkward if you don’t accept yourself, and consequentially feel uncomfortable in who you are. We are all crazy in our own ways; and if you’re going to be weird, you might as well be confident about it. 2. You will make peace with troubling memories from your past. Being vulnerable will help you get rid of pent-up baggage that bothers you. While it isn’t easy to deal with painful memories, it is better to confront your past than it is to hide from it. We all have made bad decisions we regret, so don’t even think about judging yourself; search for a lesson or takeaway that will help you prevent similar mistakes in the future and let it go. 3. You will attract the right kind of people into your life. Being vulnerable will help you understand what types of people you can most relate to. While you might be tempted to hang out with whoever crosses your path, it is better to choose your friends carefully. We all have made the mistake of telling something personal to somebody we shouldn’t have, and ended up getting hurt due to backstabbing or betrayal; it is good to love all people without question, it is best to only put total faith in true friends worthy of trust. 4. You will find it easier to empathize with the struggles of others. Being vulnerable will help you develop empathy for others. While it’s easy to throw a fit when something terrible happens to us, it is a lot harder to demonstrate compassion for the struggles of another person. We all have been guilty of getting so caught up in our own lives that we forget the world doesn’t revolve around our needs; before behaving like an upset infant, remember that many people face hardships that you couldn’t begin to imagine. 5. You will earn the trust of people at work. Being vulnerable will help you grow closer to the people in your workplace. While you might think you deserve a raise just because of your hard work, you need to remember that no amount of book smarts can make up for a complete lack of emotional intelligence. We all have complained about getting “passed up” for a promotion; before assuming you’re “under-appreciated,” take an honest look at your ability to communicate and work together with your fellow co-workers. 6. You will strengthen your bond with your romantic partner. Being vulnerable will help you bond with the person you love most. While you might be afraid to reveal your deepest and darkest secrets due to a fear of judgment, doing so will put your mind at ease. We all have put up barriers to protect ourselves from getting hurt; but if you hope to spend the rest of your life with a particular person, don’t you think it would be best to be forthcoming with the important truths that they would like to know? 7. You will humanize yourself in the eyes of others. Being vulnerable will help you demonstrate that you are an approachable person who is kind and considerate. While it isn’t easy to find the courage to reveal our true nature, there is no better way to encourage others to accept themselves. We all have fought with a lack of esteem at one time or another.
Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy and creativity.
Exhausted. Irritated. Overwhelmed. That was me last week. Multiple responsibilities from home and work collided and I was left feeling defeated and depleted. I had nothing else to give to anyone or to myself. I didn’t feel like working any of my “packages” and felt guilty about it. I shared my feelings online and received permission to be still. Understand this, I didn’t need or ask for permission. What blew me away was that the people who told me it was okay for me to take a day or several days off were the people who I serve. The people who have attended Work Your Package conferences, have bought the book, read the weekly blog and double-tap my images on Instagram. It was confirmation that I could be vulnerable and transparent to the people I was created to serve without being viewed negatively. Additional confirmation came in the form of a sermon preached by Pastor Battle of Zion Church. The name of the sermon was “A Wounded Witness”. Here are some of the lessons I learned from that sermon:
1. Your wounds are a witness. 2. Some of the stuff you’ve been through, you can’t hide. 3. Being transparent is one thing, being touchable is another. (Reminds me of Dr. Brene Brown’s teaching on vulnerability) 4. Sometimes you have to reopen a wound in order to help someone else.
6. Stop giving a censored version of your wounds.
7. Wisdom, grace, life, compassion come out your wounds.
8. Don’t ask why you went through what you did. Ask why you survived it. It’s your credentials. You’ve been to hell and back so that you can help others.
It looks great on social media to appear like you have everything together but behind closed doors that facade is exhausting and eventually, the truth will seep out and your authenticity will be in question. It’s okay to say that you are tired and feeling overwhelmed. Sharing the challenges of life doesn’t diminish who you are as a person, tarnish your “brand” or your effectiveness as a leader. Wounds lead to scars and scars lead to lessons that will help others.
How many times have you talked yourself out of taking the path that would have led you to something extraordinary? I have a friend who has a story that needs to be told to the world. I don’t say this because they’re my friend. I say this because when they told me a small part of their story, a piece of my heart wept and then I was in awe at how they were still standing. Recently I asked my friend when they going to tell their story. They told me they were too young to tell their life story and they were going to wait another 20 years. Insert major eye roll right here. My friend doesn’t know if they going to live another 20 years. Do you know the best stories ever told and the best advice that fit your exact situation are six feet under at the cemetery? If you aren’t ready to tell your story, find a way to document it.
You are too young to do that. Who would want to learn from you? You haven’t lived yet. You are too old. That is an old-fashioned way of thinking. Write a book? No one would buy it. Go back to school? It’s not like you’ll get a promotion when you finish…if you finish. Lose weight? Haven’t you tried to do that already? Vacation by yourself? Are you crazy? Buy a house? You’ll never get approved for a mortgage. Start a business? Do you know how many fail in the first year? You aren’t doing anything original…
These aren’t the lies that other people tell you. These are the lies that you tell yourself.
Lies hold you hostage. Denying the potential positive impact of sharing your imperfect life serves no one. Lies keep you stagnant. I believe you are more resilient than a lie. But it doesn’t matter if I believe it. Do you?
I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes life can just suck. Like sucks to the point that you don’t want to be bothered with anything other than remembering to breathe and to blink your eyes. The amount of negativity the average person can face each day is enough to make your want to throw your hands up in defeat and question why you started in the first place. I get it. I really do. Now here’s where you will probably roll your eyes at me and sigh deeply. I need you to GROW ANYWAY. The concrete in your life can be anything from family members who tell you can’t do it based on your past mistakes to sabotaging co-workers. GROW ANYWAY. Ask for the promotion. Create the business plan. Enroll in school. Lose the weight. Write the damn book. No one ever said that your individual journey would be easy. If you are looking at someone else’s journey and you think they had it “easy”, invite them to have lunch so they can tell you the truth. Success is hard. Following and fulfilling your purpose might be even harder. But I can tell you that it is worth it. Don’t let a little bit of concrete stop you…GROW ANYWAY.
This past election season has shown that fear of the unknown can be fodder for hours of complaints and speculations around the coffee table or the water cooler. Let’s face it, change is scary as hell. What are the big changes you are facing in your life right now? Are you digging your heels in and refusing to budge or are you peeking around the corner at the possibility of what “might be”? Yes, change is scary. But do you know what is scarier? Looking back at your life a month, a year or ten years later and wanting to kick yourself for not making a change. Accepting and embracing change allows for self-reflection and evaluation to take place. You may learn that you are more resilient than you once thought. You may realize that you are stronger than you once gave yourself credit. Yes, change can absolutely suck. But what if the change leads to something miraculous and you realize that you could have robbed yourself of the opportunity to stretch just a little bit out of your comfort zone? What if change lands you in your dream job? What if change finally takes off those last 10 pounds? What if change adds a comma to the balance in your retirement and savings account.
As you encounter change, instead of running away, ask “what if?”
With the all of the “let me share every single second of my day” platforms available, being afraid of the spotlight might sound like an oxymoron. Social media allows people to share themselves 24 hours a days, several times a day and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. We all know at least one person who shares their thoughts, goals and aspirations on a regular basis. Then there are some who can be in a room full of people, have a great product or service and will not talk about it. I want to ask you a question, what are you afraid of? Fear of failure can be debilitating and paralyzing. But the opposite of that is allowing your subconscious thoughts to manifest themselves without outward solicitation. You will become more confident that the path you’ve been following is filled with purpose and there is nothing to fear. As much as you would like to stay quiet and in the shadows, collaboration allows your purpose and gift to be shown to others and give you multiple opportunities to be in the spotlight without requesting it..without campaigning for it..without having success envy..
When it is time for you to be in the spotlight, you might be nervous but you won’t be uncomfortable. I firmly believe that your gifts will make room for you and when they do, make sure you take a bow.
When an awesome opportunity comes your way, what is your initial response?
Is it fear? OMG!!! What!?!?!
Is it doubt? No way in the world am I supposed to be here.
Is it skepticism? They must want something from me. What’s the catch?
Or do you look at opportunities as a way to show your talents? Do you embrace opportunity as a way to give to others or display servant leadership? Do you honestly believe you deserve the opportunity? Do believe you were born for that moment when you received that call, text or email telling you that all the work you have done, often unnoticed or unappreciated, had finally paid off?
Missed opportunities are the parents of regret and a lifetime of “what if’s”. Opportunity doesn’t have a tendency to knock twice. Even if you don’t know the “how” embrace the “now”, learn as you go and enjoy the journey.
I’ve heard this a dozen times, if not more, at various conferences I’ve attended throughout the years. And while I’m sure the speakers mean well and they say it because it’s catchy or to motivate attendees to stretch beyond their comfort zone, I often wonder if it does more harm than good. It makes the assumption that if you aren’t scared of your dream, then it’s not worth having. Not every dream will scare you. And if it doesn’t, whose to say that it’s not big enough? Let’s face it, not everyone has dreams of being a billionaire and a CEO. Some people dream of getting an advanced degree so that they can pursue their dream of serving the community as an elected official. Some people dream of saving money to take their love ones on a once-in-a-lifetime trip. For those people, their dream is big and it may not necessarily scare them. Does it mean it’s not big enough? Absolutely not.
Ignore the “dream shamers” and keep pursuing your dreams whether they scare you are not. Uncertainty about the unknown can cause anxiety but do not let your dreams scare you. Let them exhilarate you and propel you towards being extraordinary.
There I said it. I’m talking to myself, too. My Type A personality trait wrote 10 different drafts of this post before my need to be transparent took over. Blame it on the fact that I’m a recovering people pleaser or that it has finally sunk in that this blog is read in 81 countries. Either way, the desire to provide something of quality and not fluff is important to me. However, the need for perfection thwarts progress.
You will never be perfect but you have to start somewhere and do something. Someone right now is sitting on ingenious idea that will make them tons of money and create a legacy for their family but they won’t release it because it isn’t perfect. Someone is re-reading their draft which can be the next great American novel for the twentieth time instead of sending to a publisher. There’s a project your supervisor or client is waiting for and you are at the verge of not meeting your deadline because you think the report needs “just one more thing”.
Vince Lombardi, one of the greatest football coaches of all time said, “Perfection is not attainable but when we chase perfection, we can catch excellence.” In the midst of striving for perfection, you will push yourself outside of your comfort zone…which is a GOOD…no GREAT thing. Worse things could happen. But doing nothing because you are paralyzed by fear doesn’t make space for growth or improvement. Yes, I said the “f” word and I will talk about that more later. Oh what the heck, let’s talk about it right now. Did you know that paralysis of perfectionism is based in fear? What are you afraid of? Who are you afraid of disappointing? If you fail…SO WHAT. There are valuable lessons to learn that only present themselves when you fail.
Don’t allow the fear of failure keep you from getting stuff done and being extraordinary.
I’m a huge Jay-Z fan and one of my favorite songs is “Public Service Announcement”. (Watch his performance at Carnegie Hall here). These lines right here speak volumes of truth:
“No matter where you go, you are what you are player And you can try to change but that’s just the top layer Man, you was who you was ‘fore you got here.”
Now let me tell you why this can be applied to absolutely everyone, whether you sell out arenas or work a 9 to 5. No matter where you go, there you are and you take ALL of you with you. What do I mean by that? No matter how much you try to run away from a situation, you take ALL of you with you to the next situation. Your insecurities, bad habits and idiosyncrasies…all of it. When you don’t face that reality, you may think that leaving a situation that isn’t “working” for you is the best thing to do. Until the next situation doesn’t “work” for you either. A situation can be a job, a relationship, business venture, friendship, organization, church, etc. If you keep leaving to find a new situation because you think it will be different from your current situation and the same old issues continue to show up…the common denominator is you.
Every company isn’t horrible. The excitement of a new job will fade quick because “They are just like the last company I worked for!” is likely to come out of your mouth within a month. Every romantic relationship cannot be “not worth the trouble”. Finding a new romantic interest is not going to erase your memories of the last failed relationship because you haven’t fallen in love with yourself first. You don’t lose friends because people are untrustworthy. You aren’t authentic and you are wearing a mask and people who you claim are your friends deserve more. Stop it with the excuses. Own up to who you are.
Am I being a little harsh? Yes. Judgmental? Probably. But I don’t work at a bakery and never have so I don’t sugar coat anything. I call it how I see it. And if you have been reading my blog long enough, you will know that I’m transparent enough to admit when I’m making excuses. I’m not telling you to change. I’m hoping that you will become self-aware so that you can eliminate the barriers that keep you from being extraordinary.