What being vulnerable taught me

This week, I challenged myself to try something different. I challenged myself to open-up and be vulnerable in the workplace.

What I mean by this is that I made a choice to be 100% real and authentic with the people in my company. I’m not saying that I sat down and had a big cry with them all, sharing my feelings and what-not. That would be pretty inappropriate, to say the least. What I meant was that I decided to take opportunities as they came to be myself and speak up more.

What started this decision was my frustration with myself at not speaking more and holding myself back in the workplace due to my shyness. In fact, in a recent catch-up with a senior leader that I arranged where I had asked her for career advice. Rather than telling me courses to go on or roles I should apply for, she took the opportunity to call me out on my weaknesses. She simply told me straight, “give every opportunity a shot. Be yourself, speak up more. You’re an intelligent woman, you’ve plenty to offer.”

This was flattering coming from a person in her position. Her honesty was certainly appreciated. It’s exactly what I needed to hear. In some ways, I already knew this myself but kept holding myself back as I didn’t fully believe it. However, to make an impact and go far, particularly in business, I need to speak up and be heard.

If any of you are familiar with Brené Brown’s work, the power of vulnerability, you’ll know that “true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world. Our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.” If you’re not familiar with Brené Brown’s work, I would highly recommend watching some of her talks on YouTube. She’s very inspirational.

Taking all of this on board led to my decision to be more authentic and real this week. And per usual, I ended up throwing myself in the deep end first. First thing Monday morning, I facilitated a 3-hour session with a colleague to a team that I have never met before.

Talking in front of 15 people was the easy part. Sharing a personal story with them to help them understand the material however, meant sharing a part of me that I wasn’t normally open about in the workplace. The moment came for me to share. My colleague wasn’t aware of what I was going to say. I had simply told her, “I got this”. Although, internally, I was freaking out. My palms were sweaty, knees weak, arms were heavy 😉 (No vomit on my sweater though, if you got that reference.)

I told my story as confidently as I could. Kept talking till I reached the end. I made every effort to be real with them and ensure that I was talking from the heart. From me. When I finished, I looked at them all, quietly looking at me. My initial thought, “I’ve lost them. They didn’t understand. They think I’m an idiot.”

There was no time to freak out though. I was leading the session and had to get on with it. So, I continued and asked the team, “any questions, comments, thoughts?” To my surprise, the first response was, “no questions, just want to say thank you for sharing. That really helped.” This person’s comment was met with nods of approval from the rest of the team. I felt in that moment I had truly connected with my audience.

I’ve been reading a book lately called, “the Confidence Code” by Katty Kay & Claire Shipman. Coincidentally, the chapter I’m at this week talked about “nothing builds confidence like taking action, especially when the action involves risk and failure”. The rest of the session was a great success. They gave great feedback and as a result I’m even more confident for the next time I facilitate one of these sessions.

Speaking up and being heard, I have in this week created some real, genuine connections. I’ve also built more confidence in myself. I’m glad I did this and I’ll be making every effort to do so more in every aspect of my life. I know I won’t change overnight but all I can do is try moving forward.

I could go on and on about this because, as my delightful boyfriend puts it, once you get to know me, I never shut up. So, I’ll end this post here with a challenge to you. I challenge you to give what’s scaring you, what’s holding you back, a go. If it’s being quiet like me, try speak up. Be vulnerable and present your authentic, imperfect self to the world.  

Let me know if you do and how you get on!

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9 thoughts on “What being vulnerable taught me”

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