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Leadership and Vulnerability

What does it mean to be vulnerable, and why is it something that we would ever want to lean into? Life, as it is, has plenty of risk, you might say. We take risks every day when we step outside. We are taking a risk when we drive our car and we are taking a risk when meeting someone new. It is easy, and in our nature to fear. That is why the negativity bias exists. We remember things that had a negative outcome on our lives, in some way, because historically, it was helpful to remember those things, back when we were hunters and gatherers. Fear and pain can both help to keep us safe. If we remember that the wolves can be dangerous, then we can remember to stay away. This fear becomes somatically engaged in our bodies so that we are able to act fast. What tends to happen is that irrational fears come up and we have that same fight, flight, freeze, and/or fawn response, even when we know the fear poses no actual threat.

When we become so risk adverse that our lives become lonely or we lost our sense of purpose, the walls that once kept us safe, might start to feel like a prison. It might feel counter intuitive, but the key to life is leaning in, taking a step forward, and moving toward your truth.

I wanted to bring up the theme of vulnerability and leadership to help encourage and inspire others. What I continue to realize on my own path, is that in order to grow (or to achieve what IFS calls, "Self Leadership") we must be vulnerable, and it is not the most comfortable or easy path.

With all of that being said, I am reminded of something I often tell my clients: "You get to choose." And choosing vulnerability does not have to be grand acts. Vulnerability can look like telling someone how you feel, when part of you wanted to stay silent. Vulnerability could look like calling a friend or looking up therapists near by. It could also involve taking responsibility for something that you did or said that doesn't align with your values. Or maybe you sign up for a class you've been interested in.

To help give color to this idea of vulnerability, shame researcher, Brene Brown shares the below passage in her book, Daring Greatly. She reminds us that a life worth living (to use Marsha Linehans language), involves vulnerability. In order to succeed at something, we must start somewhere. I hope you find the following passage meaningful and as inspirational as I find it to be.

The Man at the Arena

“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”

—Theodore Roosevelt Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910