The other day a few colleagues and I wrapped up a project planning session feeling quite satisfied. After many hours of pushing our thinking as a team, tapping into the creativity and resourcefulness of each other, and putting a whole lot of heart into our ideas, we were finally ready to solidify the blueprint from which we would work from.
This got me very excited… So excited that I blurted out, “This is so great!! It’s going to be amazing!!” But before letting anyone react, without skipping a beat, I added, “Oh sorry, sorry… Maybe I’m being too optimistic.” Fortunately, one of my wise colleagues stopped me in my tracks, pulled my ludicrous apology from its roots, and tossed it back in my face with kind sensibility. She said the following words which impacted me greatly.
She said, “Of course you’re not being too optimistic!… You own it, girl!… You’ve worked hard to get to where you’re at!… You’ve worked too hard to get here not to embrace and celebrate it!… You own it, girl! … You Own it!”
She was right. I had worked hard to get to where I was at. I had earned the right to express pride and enthusiasm in our collective accomplishment. But for some reason, I felt the need to apologize for being overly optimistic – if there was such a thing. Reflecting back, what it boils down to is this… We go about our lives in one of two ways: either through fear or through love.
I think my apology stemmed from a place of fear. Fear of coming across as arrogant… or worse… inauthentic. It’s not like I was celebrating my own success, but rather the success of our team. Yet I apologized but was put in my place by a caring colleague and friend whose response stemmed from love. Love that embraced spontaneity and optimism. Love that embraced vulnerability.
Through my fear of coming across as inauthentic, in that moment, I failed to recognize that it is through the very nature of vulnerability that we make the greatest, most authentic connections with others.
Researcher, Brené Brown, through her extensive research on the power of vulnerability, reminds us that connection is why we are here. She encourages us to lean into the discomfort of whatever feelings we may be having, as these are what give true meaning and purpose to our lives. Unravelling this notion of connection, she discovered that shame and fear were at the root of any sense of disconnection. Feelings of shame were feelings of unworthiness. And thoughts such as, “I’m not good enough”, “I’m not smart enough”, “I’m not thin enough,” and so on, had one underpinning commonality – vulnerability.
Brown also discovered that people who have a strong sense of love and belonging simply believe they’re worthy of it. She searched for what these people had in common, and found this:
People with a strong sense of love and belonging had…
- the courage to be imperfect
- the compassion to be kind to themselves first and then to others (because as it turns out we can’t practice compassion with other people if we can’t treat ourselves kindly)
- connection as a result of authenticity (they were willing to let go of who they thought they should be in order to be who they were)
- fully embraced vulnerability (believing that what made them vulnerable, made them beautiful… they didn’t talk about vulnerability being comfortable nor did they really talk about it being excruciating… they just talked about it being necessary, such as the willingness to say “I love you” first, the willingness to do something where there are no guarantees, the willingness to hear back from the doctor, the willingness to invest in a relationship that may or may not work out)
Through her research, Brown discovered that vulnerability is at the core of shame and fear and our struggle for worthiness, but vulnerability is also the birthplace of joy, creativity, belonging, and love…
And so, she encourages us to lean into our vulnerability, as discomforting as it may be. She encourages us to let ourselves be seen… vulnerably seen; to love with our whole hearts even when there’s no guarantee; to practice gratitude and joy in all moments, including those moments of terror; and to believe that we’re enough. When we do this, we stop screaming and making excuses, and rather, we start listening. We’re kinder and gentler to the people around us… and we’re kinder and gentler to ourselves.
So, the next time you apologize nonsensically or make up excuses, ask yourself:
Is your vulnerability showing up as fear or is it showing up as love?
Who are those people in your life who starve your fear by feeding your love?
And lastly, think:
Who is that one person who will candidly, yet so graciously, remind you that you’ve worked too hard to get to where you’re at not to see it, embrace it, celebrate it and Own It… ?
Reference: The Power of Vulnerability, Brené Brown
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