With so much change and disruption happening in the world, many people are being asked to bring their leadership to a place they’ve never been before. In other circumstances, they’re choosing to do something completely new, but the learning curve is very high. I want to challenge you to not let your fear grip you and keep you stuck. 

Just beyond the edge of our comfort lies discomfort, and that thing is called vulnerability. Just beyond that vulnerability is where learning, growth, and creativity live. It’s the land we want to get to and possess. In order to possess that land, though, we need navigation skills.

Let’s unpack what vulnerability really means. Vulnerability is a deeply human experience; it’s an experience we get when there’s a feeling of uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. According to the research of Dr. Renee Brown, the No. 1 myth surrounding vulnerability is that it’s the same weakness. However, the truth is that vulnerability is the No. 1 measure of courage. 

“What do you do about this thing called vulnerability? You navigate.”

Let’s dive a little deeper. When I feel vulnerable, it arises in my stomach and chest. We loathe it, we don’t want it, and we try to pretend it doesn’t exist. Some behaviors that become a byproduct of this thinking are shaming, blaming, deflection, hiding, and simply faking the funk—i.e., trying to become someone you’re not. Whatever your vice is, it’s not working. It’s counterproductive to what you really want - safety. 

So what do you do when vulnerability strikes? You navigate!

What if I told you there are strategies that can take the gut-punch out of this feeling? In the words of Viktor Frankl: “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” The next time you feel vulnerable, I invite you to try one or all of these strategies to create that ‘space’:

1. Deep belly breathing. Take two to three minutes and just breathe. If you notice that just your chest is rising and falling, you’re not going deep enough. Drop down deeper until your belly button is rising and falling as well. Doing a few sets of this can instantly activate the parts of our brain that create calm. 

2. Compassion. Find that place in your body where you feel the vulnerability. Like I mentioned earlier, I typically feel it in my gut and chest. What you would do is place your hand over that area and say to yourself, “I’m safe, this moment will pass, and I choose not to sit in fear and remain stuck,” and just sit with that. 

3. Support. Reach out to your people (or person) and tell them about your experience. Just get it off your chest. You don’t have to seek advice, but try seeking support and empathy from people who care about you. Empathy is a balm for the soul.

If you can remember one thing, remember this: Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage. It’s a skill set that we can practice and get better at. If you want to possess that new land, you have to get through vulnerability. 

Each time I publish a video blog, I receive emails from folks who want to share their story or have questions. This is such a gift because we learn best through application!  

Last week I discussed how vulnerability is the number one measure for courage AND suggested practices to help navigate the way through the discomfort. In response to this content, a friend wrote: 

Q. How does one continue leaning into vulnerability when their boss uses it as a weapon against you?

A. For clarity, I am referring to relational and not systemic vulnerability. This means exposing one’s self in an authentic way that could put you at risk for ridicule or hurt. I am not suggesting over-sharing or disclosure as qualifiers for vulnerability. Let’s be honest, discomfort makes people do weird stuff. When they aren’t equipped with courage, armor Is the opt-in.

Without any further context, I’ll make this assumption - your boss is someone who matters to you. If that being the case, I do suggest you have an honest conversation about his/her behavior. An easy set up for the conversation is situation-behavior-impact. For example, “John, when we were at the meeting yesterday, you openly mocked and ridiculed me for admitting my mistake. That felt shaming and embarrassing and caused me to question our strong working relationship. Where do we go from here?” Sharing how you feel in a way that honors the importance of your relationship is a good first step. Oftentimes people will say and do things without any awareness. Bringing your thoughts to the front can help set the appropriate boundaries for what’s okay moving forward as well as build trust.

Remember, when you choose courage over comfort, it doesn’t guarantee feelings of safety but it does reinforce the story you’re writing that says, “I matter, too.”

As always, if you have questions about today’s topic or there’s anything else I can help you with, don’t hesitate to reach out to me. I’d be happy to speak with you. Aloha and salamat po.