Do you remember the first time you touched something hot and it burned your hand? You were more cautious the next time you approached the stove. Do you remember the first time you disobeyed your parents and got grounded? You paid attention the time and got home before curfew. What about the first disappointment or heartache? You remained guarded a little bit longer before you allowed yourself to be vulnerable.
Wisdom seldom comes from pleasant experiences. It often comes from a source of pain or hardship. The tactic to survive what you once thought was so debilitating is to apply that wisdom to future circumstances so that you can make better decisions and share that wisdom with others. Your “little birdie” is strengthened with each experience and has an amazing memory. Are you trusting it and applying your wisdom to help you navigate the inevitable pitfuls you will face during your journey?
“I love that you have wild ambition but don’t get in your own way.”
“You are a titan, but you are like a bird with no place to land.”
“You know I support you but do you have time for this?”
I won’t go into detail about what prompted the statements and question but I will share this: If you cannot fearlessly share your goals and challenges with the people on your personal board of directors, you are surrounded by the WRONG people. I declared that I was going to take a little bit of a break. That break lasted for about a week. My people will not let me off the hook that easy. My people have called me out on my nonsense. They held up the mirror and forced me to see my hardheaded ways. Don’t laugh. I’m willing to bet you have hardheaded ways too. Are you turning away from the mirror? Are you ignoring the calls and text messages? Are you telling yourself you just have to get “everything under control” and things will be better? The Perfectionist Trap is real.
Whenever you feel overwhelmed, take a moment to write down everything that is currently on your proverbial plate. Be honest with yourself and if you have a hard time doing that, ask a member from your board of directors to “remind” you of your commitments. Are you overcommitting yourself? Success is awesome but you won’t be able to enjoy it if you are a hot mess.
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.