Be Vulnerable

*Disclaimer: This is day 2 of the #btbc15 challenge on the “Daring Greatly” book study by Brené Brown (I’m enjoying it SO MUCH, by the way!).  I was out of town for the weekend so (sadly) I didn’t have the chance to blog.  Hopefully I’ll be back on track soon. Thanks for your patience!*

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The Friday’s teachers meeting was over. I had presented my work with Reader’s and Writer’s Workshop in the 4th grade classroom to my fellow elementary teachers. My aim was not only to show results, but most importantly, to encourage them to go the extra mile to achieve our goals. The Q&A that followed the presentation was warm. Now I was packing up my stuff. It was already time to go home after a long week when a teacher came right up to me.

“I need to talk to you,” she said.

“Oh, okay,” I replied. I was both surprised and honored.

The next half hour was spent explaining the challenges she’s faced and her point of view of the whole situation. She opened her heart. I leaned in to listen carefully, trying to understand. We ended up agreeing that it would be a good idea to work as a team in the following year.

I went home satisfied and rejoicing. How in the world did that happen?

I know. Vulnerability. That’s what it was.

My presentation was more than facts and data. My aim was to encourage, and there was no other way I could achieve this if I stood in front of everybody pretending that I had it all together from the very beginning, and that I had it all together now. ˆSo my presentation was mingled with the story of my struggles at the beginning of the year to figure out pretty much everything I wanted to do. I had new standards, a new curriculum, a new position. I wanted my students to become readers and writers, yet I didn’t know where to begin. It made me literally sick of my stomach. Those were hard, discouraging months. But I did something. I prayed. I asked questions to others with more experience than I. I taught myself to live one day at a time. To teach one day at a time. To trust the research and the best practices I had read about, even when in practice it was all so new and foreign to me. “Would this work? Will my students learn? Are they enjoying this?” Anxiety hit me really hard. But at the end, the sweat and blood paid off––the new strategies were working, my students were learning and enjoying it. These days I wasn’t feeling like I was coming to work anymore. It felt that good.

Brenner says in her book Daring Greatly, “Vulnerability begets vulnerability; courage is contagious” In my presentation, I had shown the ugly parts of my journey this year; my weaknesses and how I managed it. It produced connection. It produced a spark.

Most of the time we want to be seen as having it all together, especially at work. We think that hiding our flaws, which are apparent to many others, would make us invincible and respectable. Far from the truth! Yes, it is hard to ask for help, to listen to advice you don’t want to hear but desperately need. Yet, if we really want to become better at what we do, we must embrace the reality of our weaknesses. We must be honest with ourselves. We must dare to agree with reality so that we can grow. There are areas in which we may be more vulnerable than others. Is it easy?  “After running from vulnerability, I found that learning how to lean into the discomfort of uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure was a painful process,” says Brenner.

A painful process. Yes.

Fruitful? Yes!

Some inspiring quotes from Intro, chapters 1-2 from Daring Greatly:

Perfect and bulletproof are seductive, but they don’t exist in the human experience. We must walk into the arena, whatever it may be––a new relationship, an important meeting, our creative process, or a difficult family conversation––with courage and the willingness to engage. Rather than sitting on the sidelines and hurling judgement and advice, we must dare to show up and let ourselves be seen. This is vulnerability. This is daring greatly. (page 2)

The opposite of “never enough” isn’t abundance or “more than you could ever imagine.” The opposite of scarcity is enough, or what i call Wholeheartedness. (page 29)

I define vulnerability as uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. (page 34)

Love is uncertain. It’s incredibly risky. And loving someone leaves us emotionally exposed. Yes, it’s scary and yes, we’re open to being hurt, but can you imagine your life without loving or being loved? (page 34)

Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness. (page 36)

When we don’t acknowledge how and where we’re tender, we’re more at risk of being hurt. (page 39)

Far from being an effective shield, the illusion of invulnerability undermines the very response that would have supplied genuine protection. (page 39)

We love seeing raw truth and openness in other people, but we’re afraid to let them see it in us” (page 41)

The willingness to show up changes us. It makes us a little braver each time. (page 42)

Vulnerability is about sharing our feelings and our experiences with people who have earned the right to hear them. Being vulnerable and open is mutual and an integral part of the trust-building process. (page 45)

Nothing has transformed my life more than realizing that it’s a waste of time to evaluate my worthiness by weighing the reaction of the people in the stands. (page 56)

Sometimes our best and greatest dare is asking for support. (page 56)

Your turn: do you consider yourself a vulnerable person? What are some of the benefits you’ve gained from being vulnerable? Share! 🙂

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