Only when we’re brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.
I just finished reading Brené Brown’s book Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. I had it in my Kindle library after recommending it to one of my team members a few years ago, thinking I would also find value in reading. Two weeks ago, I finally decided to start reading it, not sure what I would find.
Like many of you I grew up in a world and environment where men don’t want to be perceived as being weak. Whether this is in our personal or professional life, vulnerability and weakness are not traits we strive towards nor readily if ever discuss. Brené even talks about this in her book where she has had people talk about how tough it is for those around us to see our weakness. She recounts a story where a gentleman says that his wife and daughters would rather see him die on top of his white horse than watch him fall off. I too have this same feeling, I don’t want to show my wife and daughter how much I’m struggling at times, I want to put on a brave face and tell them everything is ok. Throughout my career I’ve used the duck analogy, where on the surface everything appears to be ok, but under the surface, I’m swimming as hard as I can to make sure I don’t drown.
I wake up every day with a brave face but there are real struggles I go through every day, we all do. I struggle raising my daughter as I’m not always present and I don’t always listen to her as she tells me about her day or how she created some amazing world in Minecraft. I struggle with my wife as I don’t always express my feelings of joy, love, sadness, happiness, shame, and guilt. I struggle with my job as I take on too much, don’t ask for help when I need it, and don’t always show my true self at work, I’m too business like and don’t let people see me for who I am. I struggle with my team as I’m not always giving them everything they need to be successful, I feel I let them down at times and should be doing more at other times.
It’s tough to admit that we don’t have all the answers, that everything is not OK, and that we are struggling. However, I think it is tougher to walk around with the weight and stress of trying to always come up with the answers, telling everyone you are OK, and not opening up about your struggles. Chances are those around us are going through very similar struggles and there is a lot of comfort in talking and sharing with others. It’s OK to say you don’t know or haven’t come across this before. It’s OK to ask for help and raise your hand. It’s OK to be vulnerable, humble, and emotional. It’s OK to be human. You don’t have to be a duck in the water, where everything appears to be great from the surface, and you are doing everything you can under the surface to prevent from drowning.
Daring greatly is not about winning or losing, say Brené. It’s about courage. In a world where scarcity and shame dominate and feeling afraid has become second nature, vulnerability is subversive. Uncomfortable. It’s even a little dangerous at times. And, without question putting ourselves out there means there’s a far greater risk of felling hurt. She goes on to say that nothing is as uncomfortable, dangerous, and hurtful as believing we are standing on the outside of our life looking in and wondering what it would be like if we had the courage to show up and let ourselves be seen. Sometimes that’s all we have to do, show up and be seen in our true light.
As Brené says in her book, which comes from the Leonard Cohen song “Anthem”, “there’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” Vulnerability is one of the best ways to connect with others. It is also the hardest. Think about this the next time someone asks you how you are doing or how your day is going. It's OK to be vulnerable and tell them.