I just finished watching Brene Brown give a TED talk about the “Power of Vulnerability”. Obviously, I was not the only one to watch this amazing speech (since over 2 million people have seen it) and after listening to her express herself so well, I’m not at all surprised.
During her talk, Brene asks those in the viewing audience to “let yourselves be seen” and assures us that “we/you are enough.” She ends her speech with these words. “Vulnerability is the birthplace of change, creativity, courage, and innovation.”
I urge you to watch this TED talk. It is the perfect invitation to come on out and express yourself – what every speaker who desires to be successful must be willing to do. I love how Brene speaks to the power of being vulnerable.
To be vulnerable means to be “susceptible to physical or emotional attack or harm”, so the impulse to protect ourselves comes naturally; it feels like self-preservation. But living in an armored suit also keeps out the good stuff. To get the good stuff we need to be open to the not-so-good stuff, even the bad. This is where every speaker will come to, eventually, and where only a few will truly succeed. To express yourself openly and honestly is not always as easy as it seems.
So often in my work, especially with groups or teams of people, I encounter the quiet or reluctant participant. These people find it difficult to express themselves in a group environment, sometimes out of pride, but more often out of a very real fear. Being the center of attention is just too painful for the latter, under any circumstances, and I feel deeply for them. They suffer in ways that outgoing people can never understand.
As an actor, my biggest challenge was to permit myself to express vulnerability. It was so much easier to be tough and pretend I was super confident. As a course of action, my acting teacher made me do vulnerability exercises – for two years. I learned all about vulnerability, essentially how to be emotionally available and not defensive.
• I learned that when I was vulnerable, I was believable.
• Vulnerability taught me how to take more chances.
• When vulnerable, you come face to face with your fears
• Vulnerability is not cutting off your fear or running from it – but being open to it.
• Vulnerability is not a weakness, but a strength.
• Vulnerability is the point at which you really start to experience life and begin to feel yourself in your own skin.
• Vulnerability permits you to answer “What Makes You So Special?” (A question I posed in an earlier blog).
Make no mistake – this is a major lesson of life. When you express your vulnerability, you begin to face a fear that has most likely been in charge of how you live – for a very long time. People will begin to see, hear, and feel you in a very different light. Along with this new way of being may come moments of embarrassment, self-consciousness and awkwardness that are truly uncomfortable. Try not to let these feelings lead you away from your vulnerable self. Instead, embrace where they are taking you, which is into a deeper, valuable level of self-awareness.
In time, you will discover that you are stronger, more confident and less susceptible to being hurt when Presenting You.
Remember, this is the place where you can discover:
• Innate creativity
The real stuff of life – the GOOD stuff … and maybe the answer to “what am I doing here?”
Start opening your vulnerable side by encouraging it.
• Ask yourself what makes you feel vulnerable.
• Check your first reaction to the feeling.
• Take note when you avoid it, deny it, or try to shut it down.
What are some times in your life when you have felt vulnerable? Perhaps you can say some words out loud that are related to a very vulnerable time in your life to help you recreate that vulnerability. One of the best exercises I used as an actor was an “imaginary monologue.” The easiest way to describe how this works is this: You talk to someone – imagine them in the room with you and tell them how much you love them, or how they hurt you, or how you cannot wait to see them again. You can talk about any subject that will tap into and help you express your vulnerability.
Begin to listen with a vulnerable heart, as well. When others are speaking, allow yourself to be affected and permit yourself to express it. Stop judging yourself, and stop comparing yourself to others. Just be – open. That’s true vulnerability.
Once you’ve opened yourself to express your vulnerability, you’ll be amazed at the difference it makes in Presenting You. I invite you to share the differences and the changes you experience as a result.