I had the opportunity to meet with an amazing group of people today. Some who I have known for a while, some who were my mediation trainers’ way back when, and some total strangers. All we had in common was the work we do. Conflict resolution.
A significant amount of time was spent in discussing vulnerability. How should we show vulnerability? How do we show vulnerability? Does it have a place in the work we do? Part of the morning included a video on Ted Talks. My son downloaded that app on my IPhone shortly after I got it. He enjoyed many of those, dare I say, podcasts. He felt they were worthwhile. Me being of little faith, and questioning the soundness of mind and body, had never taken advantage of that. Today I realized I must pursue those Ted Talks more often.
The one we watched was by Brene Brown. It covered vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame. A lot of information to ingest and digest in twenty minutes. I felt myself agreeing with her on so many points. When she spoke about having revealed her own struggles in life, particularly as it concerns vulnerability, I had an ahha moment. I recalled when I started talking about personal issues. Talking about experiences I had. Opening myself to the shame that was sure to follow.
As I started down this path of openly sharing many of my challenges I realized, again and again, my shame was only a perception. What actually happened was that people, many who I had known for years, came forward and talked of their own experiences. Experiences that included anxiety, depression, and various other mental health challenges we experience. It literally opened a floodgate. So as much as I initially felt shame, I quickly came to an understanding of challenges many of us have. I came to the realization that I did not need to feel shame. I was not alone. It gave me a sense of comfort.
As we debriefed the video this morning I shared the struggles I have with the whole question of vulnerability. Do I share with clients that I have had, and continue to have, significant challenges? Do I share with a colleague when I feel uncomfortable or vulnerable? Can my vulnerability actually help others or should I leave it be?
Just in the last week or two a friend and colleague shared with me that they would like a better understanding of the way I opened up and talked about my vulnerabilities. I chuckled when I first read that email. It was a nervous chuckle. Why? Because I continuously feel that I am living a lie. I am out there trying to help people overcome conflict, interpersonal or intrapersonal. At the same time I am dealing with my own conflicts.
This morning, in a small group, one participant suggested “being real”. That resonated with me. When I do my job I need to be real. I have had many life experiences that help me in the work I do. I recall more than one person expressing the thought that had I not experienced my own journey I could not do the work I am doing. That means that I have stories to share. That means I can better understand. That means that I can have empathy for the people I deal with. I continue to experience life. I continue to deal with a variety of challenges. And channeled in the right way I can use those experiences, those challenges, to better help others. Be real. It helps me. It helps you. It helps others. Make it a good one.