Finding Courage in Vulnerability

You encounter vulnerability all the time, but do you ever stop what you're doing when you realize you're being vulnerable to think about how you handle it? Is it a power up or does it have power over you? You need a fresh perspective on how embracing vulnerability can empower your ability to connect. This week, we are sparking the momentum you need to win the week by finding courage in vulnerability.

Ignition Point is all about making a positive impact, so please share the show with someone you think it may help. We designed this weekly podcast for ambitious Young Professionals and aspiring Leaders who want to stay motivated and keep moving forward. Throughout Season 1, we will be connecting fresh perspectives with practical strategies to help listeners feel empowered all week long. You can help us improve by joining our LinkedIn and Twitter Community by using #IgnitionPoint, submitting a review on Apple Podcasts, or emailing feedback to steven@decisiveleap.com.

SHOW NOTES

Welcome to Ignition Point – the show that’s here to help you take the leap, conquer your week, and achieve your goals. If you’re looking to amplify your mindset with a fresh perspective and spark your momentum – you’re in the right place.

Hey! What’s going on? I’m Steven Miller. Thanks for joining me for another Ignition Point. I hope you’re still channeling that positive energy from last week’s episode. I got to chat with some listeners who reached out, and I was amazed at the way the message amplified their actions and centered their focus. Speaking from my own experience, I was in the zone – just executing at a really high level and achieving higher quality results. I’d love to hear about your weekly wins, so send me an email to steven@decisiveleap.com.

It seems like society has made vulnerability taboo. People treat it like it’s a bad word, but if you accepted last week’s challenge to discover and harness your fire, there’s a good chance that you felt or currently feel vulnerable. Many factors come into play when you decide to leap out of your comfort zone like that, and vulnerability happens to be one of the best indicators that you’re headed in the right direction.

It’s like riding a rollercoaster that you’ve never seen before. You’re locked in, mentally firing on all cylinders. You’re completely convinced that you’re about to have the time of your life, and giving high fives all around. Then you reach the peak of the big hill and get your first look at what lies ahead. Right there, everything in your world freezes. There’s a ten-story vertical drop and three loops. Don’t some rollercoasters also run backwards?

It only took one second at the top for you to mentally flip a u-turn. Now you’re convinced that you’re going to fall out halfway through the second loop – if you survive the vertical drop. You think to yourself, “Did I leave the stove on? Am I on Punk’d? I really should’ve hired that stunt double. I’m too young to die!”

Just because you feel the pressures of being vulnerable doesn’t mean you can’t handle the road ahead. But to really understand vulnerability takes an expert’s perspective, so let’s lean into it with this week’s monologue. Let’s get after it!

THE WEEKLY MONOLOGUE

I once had a research professor who told me, “If you can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist.” But, Personally, I believe that life’s messy. Because I’m interested in some messy topics, I work to clean them up, organize them, and understand them. I want to hack into the important things and lay out the code for whole the world to see.

In fact, I believe that stories are just data with a soul, because one piece of research fundamentally expanded my perception and changed the way I live, love, and work.

It was on this project that I investigated human connection. It doesn’t matter if you talk to people who work for non-profits, research facilities, or startups – connection gives purpose and meaning to all of our lives.

You know that situation where you get an evaluation from your boss, and they tell you fifteen things you do great, and one “opportunity for growth?” All you can think about is that opportunity for growth, right? Well, apparently when you ask people about love, they tell you about heartbreak. When you ask people about belonging, they’ll tell you their most excruciating experiences of being excluded. When you ask people about connection, they tell you stories about disconnection.

Very quickly — I ran into something that absolutely unraveled connection in a way that I didn’t understand. It turned out to be shame.

Shame is universal; we all have it. You have probably said to yourself: “I’m not good enough, rich enough, smart enough.” Shame is easily understood as the fear of disconnection. No one wants to talk about it, and the less you talk about it the more you have it. The only people who don’t experience shame have no capacity for human empathy or connection.

What supported this was the idea that, in order for connection to happen, you have to allow yourself to be seen. You have to be vulnerable.

Fun fact: I hate vulnerability. So I thought, this is my chance to beat it back with my measuring stick. I’m going to figure out how vulnerability works and I’m going to outsmart it.

If the outcome isn’t obvious to you already, this was not going to go well for me. I could tell you a lot about shame, but what may be the most important thing I learned had to do with belonging.

Only one variable separated the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging from the people who really struggle for it. The people who have a strong sense of belonging believe they’re worthy of love and belonging. That’s it. They simply believe they’re worthy.

The fear that we are unworthy of connection keeps us disconnected. To deconstruct this further, I took a closer look at all the interviews where I saw people living with a sense of worthiness. What do these people have in common?

I found that they had a sense of courage. The original definition of courage was to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart. So, very simply, these folks had the courage to be imperfect. Courage starts with letting ourselves be seen.

They had the compassion to be kind to themselves first and then to others. As it turns out, you can’t practice compassion with other people if you can’t treat yourself kindly. They had connection, and 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.

They fully embraced vulnerability and talked about it being necessary. They talked about a willingness to do something where there are no guarantees. They thought this was fundamental.

As it turned out, there were people who surrendered and walked into vulnerability when they realized how important it was. A: that’s not me, and B: I don’t even hang out with people like that. For me, Vulnerability was a street fight. Vulnerability pushed and I pushed back.

We live in a vulnerable world. And one of the ways we deal with it is we numb vulnerability. Here’s the problem with that: you cannot selectively numb emotion. You can’t say, “Here’s vulnerability, here’s grief, here’s shame, here’s fear, here’s disappointment. I don’t want to feel these. I’m going to brunch, and I’m just not going to feel these.”

You can’t numb the hard feelings without numbing all the other emotions. So when you numb vulnerability, you also numb joy, gratitude, and even happiness. Without these, you end up miserable, looking for purpose and meaning, and then you feel vulnerable. Creating a dangerously vicious cycle.

You need to think about why and how you numb. People habitually make everything that is uncertain, certain. They’ll say “I’m right, you’re wrong. That’s it.”

This is what politics looks like today. There’s no conversation. There’s just blame. You know how blame is described in the research? It’s a way to discharge pain and discomfort.

People pretend that what they do doesn’t affect others. They do it in their personal lives and at the corporate level, ignoring that their actions make a huge impact on other people. When they aren’t held accountable, it’s almost as if they had reverted back to how we behaved when we were toddlers – just running around pointing fingers. I would tell a toddler the same thing I would tell these companies: “Look, we just need you to be honest. So, say you’re sorry and that you’ll fix it.”

There is another way to let yourself be vulnerably seen. It may be difficult, but you can practice showing gratitude and joy in the face of fear. When you wonder, “Can I love you this much? Can I believe in this this passionately?” Just stop and say, “I’m just so grateful, because to feel this vulnerable means I’m alive.”

When you approach vulnerability with gratitude, it serves as a reminder that you are worthy, because we all feel this way. Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren't always comfortable, but they are never weakness.

STRATEGIES FOR SUCCESS

The way this speech flows brings me back to that rollercoaster I spoke about before the monologue. That big uphill climb represents connection, and vulnerability is found when you’re about to go up, when you reach the peak, and when you get back to the bottom.

On the way up, let’s assume you allow yourself to be vulnerable. This allows you to feel that you belong on the ride, which opens you up to feeling worthy of the journey, and then you are able to summon your courage as you approach the top.

Here you experience vulnerability again, but you have a choice to make. Do you embrace vulnerability and feel those same emotions in reverse order on the way down? Or do you push back on vulnerability and experience disconnection? Let’s say this time you push back. Disconnecting forces you to experience grief, shame, the fear of being unworthy, and ultimately disappointment. This is where you’ll discover misery, which triggers a search for purpose and meaning, returning you to the bottom of the hill, to another vulnerable moment.

The funny thing is that you encounter vulnerability in its many forms all the time, but you never stop what you’re doing when you realize you’re being vulnerable to think about how you’re going to handle it. Vulnerability is really powerful, but it’s not a power you can harness. The power it has is determined by how you respond to it when you face it. When you embrace it, vulnerability serves as a power-up. When you push back on it, it acts as something that has power over you. You may struggle with it, but if you want to move forward it can get easier. Look back on how it went wrong and try doing something differently next time. Being vulnerable makes being vulnerable the next time easier.

When you’re in a vulnerable position this week, I hope you choose to embrace it and establish more meaningful connections that help you to gain greater control over how your thoughts translate into actions.

Start by taking small steps to accept vulnerability. Let your feelings come forward in a positive way and allow your genuine self to materialize. This can pay off both subconsciously and by leveling up your relationships. Recently, one of my mentees reinforced this strategy by sharing what happens when you put your guard up. He said, “when you internalize what you feel, you create detrimental behaviors for coping with emotional stress.” Think about that for a second. You’re actually doing more harm when you don’t allow yourself to be vulnerable. So don’t try to turn off what you feel.

Just this past weekend, a close friend of mine told me about the way he used to view our friendship, reflecting on how it had evolved since then, and how he doesn’t want the past to hold the friendship back into the future. Extending yourself with that degree of honesty allows you to be vulnerably seen. That’s just one way you can start accepting vulnerability as an opportunity. Try that in your own way this week.

You may not realize this, but what motivates our actions magnifies how vulnerable we are. Without spoiling the movie, one character in Avengers Endgame sets this up perfectly, saying, “Everyone fails trying to be who they’re supposed to be. The measure of a person is in how well they succeed at being who they are.”

So, take a look at how your thoughts turn into actions. What is your motive and how do you measure your success? Do you measure it on how you live up to what you think the world expects of you or do you define success as putting in your best effort? You need to get out of the gray area between being yourself and trying to be who you think you are. Draw a line in the sand between the two and commit to being yourself. Now is the right time to add succeeding at being yourself to your to do list.

The last thing you should consider this week is that vulnerability is a fluctuating force. When you open yourself up to it, you’ll feel a wide range of emotions and one day you will be pushed to your breaking point. It’s inevitable, so prepare for the worst-case scenario, because when it happens you need to know where to turn. Take a moment to determine who in your life is part of your network of help. Who can you lean on for support when the going gets tough? Knowing who you can turn to does amazing things for your mindset and will give you the confidence and courage to take risks – no matter how high the stakes.

Believe in what you’re doing and embrace vulnerability. This week, allow yourself to be vulnerably seen, find the courage to be who you are, and identify who you can lean on when you need support. It’s all about trial and error. If you give it a shot, fail and find yourself disconnected, keep your chin up, forgive yourself for the misstep, and look for your next opportunity to try to get it right.

Ignition Point is all about making a positive impact, so please share the show with someone you think it may help. You can also help us improve by joining our LinkedIn and Twitter Community by using #IgnitionPoint, submitting a review on Apple Podcasts, or emailing feedback to steven@decisiveleap.com.

We hold out until the end of each show to share who inspired each week’s Ignition Point for two reasons. To keep you curious and remind you to focus on the Motivation. This week’s Ignition Point was adapted from Dr. Brene Brown’s 2010 Lecture on “The Power of Vulnerability” at TEDxHouston.

Remember, your only limitation is the one you create! So stay motivated and keep moving forward. If you put in the hard work right now – one day – you could be the one motivating the world with your story.

I’ll be looking forward to speaking with you next time on another Ignition Point.

Now get on out there, and win the week!