Last time, I wrote about how traveling the road between employment and entrepreneurship is just one way to grow and develop as a person; to connect with the essence of who you are.
There's one critical ingredient that's necessary for this to take place.
For the past month or so, I've been studying Brené Brown's The Power of Vulnerability and observing vulnerability in myself, my clients and other individuals I've encountered. (Basically, if you and I have interacted recently, I've been observing your comfort level with vulnerability).
Based on my study and personal experiences and observations, I've learned three things:
- Vulnerability is inevitable
- Experiencing vulnerability can be REALLY uncomfortable
- And yet, resisting vulnerability is EVEN MORE uncomfortable
The fact that vulnerability involves discomfort makes sense. One doesn't have to go further than the definition to connect these two states of being:
adjective \ˈvəl-n(ə-)rə-bəl, ˈvəl-nər-bəl\
: easily hurt or harmed physically, mentally, or emotionally
: open to attack, harm, or damage
copied from Merriam Webster.com
Traveling the Road provides numerous opportunities for vulnerability because you will continually bump up against parts of yourself that need understanding (at the very least) or refining (at the most). These areas will be those parts that are most sensitive, which can make judgment and criticism (from yourself and others), quite painful.
So why travel the Road if vulnerability and discomfort are involved?
Brené Brown concludes that fully embracing vulnerability is necessary for those who want to live wholeheartedly. That is, to live a life of complete passion and commitment. For many of us who have made the transition to entrepreneurship, underneath it all is a desire to live like this. So while we've had to endure many uncomfortable vulnerable moments, we realize that this is necessary if we are to achieve our goal of living a wholehearted life.
I want to get a bit more specific on how opening yourself up to vulnerability can help you as you travel the road between employment and entrepreneurship. The faster you incorporate these, the more wholehearted your life will be.
1. Embracing vulnerability will allow you to embrace Yourself
Instinctively, many of us live to avoid vulnerability. We'd rather not face those parts that are most sensitive because shame quickly follows. And yet, these are the very parts that require compassion if we are to ever feel that we are enough just the way we are.
In quitting law to become an entrepreneur, I quickly discovered that I have a lot of anxiety around money and whether I will always be able to financially support myself. Every time I have a short month and have to tap into savings, this area of sensitivity gets triggered. For a long time, I was afraid to fully acknowledge this because it made me feel so uncomfortable. Recently I decided to fully open up to this part of myself so that I can change my relationship from fear to understanding that money simply flows in and out of life. Every time I feel anxiety, I use it as an opportunity to practice acceptance and compassion. I've slowly learned to embrace it just as I embrace the parts of me I love. (As an added bonus, my anxiety around money is decreasing rapidly).
2. You will discover the individuals who deserve space in your tribe
The moment you open yourself up to vulnerability is the moment you'll be judged and criticized by others. It's just one of those frustrating, yet tried and true, parts of life. Upon being criticized, there will be a compulsion to retreat and hide. To conclude that being vulnerable is a huge mistake.
And yet, leaning into the vulnerability is how you will find those individuals who deserve space in your life.
There will be a select few who decide to respond to your vulnerability with love and empathy. Instead of telling you why you're all wrong or what you "should" do, they will let you know that they are there for you, no matter what. (**I should note this is NOT akin to people who please you and only tell you the things you want to hear. Your tribe will have that unique ability to give you feedback without being "judgey").
Ironically, one of the first people who responded with love and empathy when I opened up about traveling the road was my boss. She could have given me every reason in the book as to why quitting my job was a bad idea. And yet instead of doing this, she simply listened and offered support. I couldn't have asked for a better friend or colleague to support me as I implemented my exit strategy.
3. A vulnerable life will support you
It seems counterintuitive. How can those parts that are most sensitive support the life and business you want to create for yourself?
By fulling embracing vulnerability, you no longer have to waste energy hiding parts of you that you would rather the world didn't see. You can then use this extra energy to go about serving and creating -- two necessary elements for building your business. Even better, by being compassionate and opening yourself up to love and support from those in your tribe, you'll find that the sensitive areas get stronger.
I didn't believe this at first, and fiercely defended areas where I felt most vulnerable. This inevitably led to frustration (with myself and others) and exhaustion.
And my business suffered.
Being deliberate about embracing vulnerability over that past month is having the exact opposite effect. In opening up to my tribe, they've provided resources and support that speak to my vulnerabilities. This has filled me up so that I now have more energy to deeply connect with clients. This in turn has lead to a more successful business.
If you're interested in fully embracing vulnerability yourself, below are a few things you can do to get started.
- Listen to Brené Brown's presentation on vulnerability. (There's also a Ted Talk on this).
- Observe areas where you feel vulnerable. (A great start is to look at the parts you would rather the world didn't know about or see).
- Choose one area of vulnerability and share it with someone you love and trust.
As you travel the road between employment and entrepreneurship, embracing vulnerability will be one of those things that will help you time and time again. So make sure you take it with you. It's going to be a bumpy, yet beautiful ride.