“Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome.”
I sat in a training this week that began with an invitation to think about this quote. Then, we took a moment to write down what vulnerability meant to us and what it would take for us to feel ok about being vulnerable with each other.
I admire and respect Brene Brown and her work immensely. That being said, even just the word vulnerability makes me shudder. In the exercise, I wrote about how vulnerability means showing my lack of expertise or knowledge of something, or admitting I don’t know something, or showing my soft underbelly that I try very hard to protect. I cling to my appearance of being intelligent and capable as a flotation device in life. I have learned in recent years that I mainly choose goals and tasks where I can be almost assured of success. I don’t like looking stupid or incompetent and I avoid those situations as much as I can.
I’ve also learned through my enneagram that asking for help is not something I am good at (but giving help is!)
Reading Brene Brown’s work and others has me tiptoeing up to bigger challenges these days. I’m setting goals that are further and further past my comfort zone. Sometimes, I try things I might fail at. I have become less comfortable coasting through life. I’m not jumping at challenges quite yet, but I’m getting better.
When my daughter and I went to help on a farm project recently, it was in response to a facebook post appealing for help. The farmer had taken advantage of several growth opportunities in recent times and managed to find herself overwhelmed with challenges. She started her facebook post by saying that asking for help was hard for her, but they needed help moving a truckload of gravel. I messaged her that we would be happy to help. She was extremely grateful.
Imagine her surprise to have over a dozen people show up to help. From teenagers to retirees, men and women, all strangers, all grabbing shovels and buckets and wheelbarrows. We moved and spread two truckloads of gravel in less than two hours (including a 30-minute break to go get the second load). Far more work done far more quickly than she and her husband could have managed alone. We made quick work of her challenge.
I watched people work together who had never met, just to help someone in need. All because she made herself vulnerable and asked for help. Big dreams and big goals can lead to some big challenges. Big challenges can be faced and overcome, sometimes with a little help from our community. A lesson I need to remember.
What I also learned today is that asking for help also opens up opportunities for others to contribute, to make a difference, to share their own worth. It feels good to help. For my daughter, an aspiring farmer, it was an opportunity to get an insider’s look at a real-life situation on an operating farm. Perhaps others who pitched in had different motives. Who knows what moved that group of random individuals to show up, but just by helping we each got something out of the experience. At times, it also offers the chance for people to let you down, but thankfully with a good circle you always have backup and support waiting in the wings.
When we make ourselves vulnerable, we invite others to step up, step in, and play a role in our lives. The next time I am in my self-focused trying-to-hide vulnerable mindset, afraid to admit I don’t know something could use some help, I’ll remember to reframe it as offering opportunities for others to shine and share and connect. It’s not wrong to take on a task that turns out to be overwhelming to manage alone at times. It’s a testament to ambition and big dreams. May I start dreaming bigger than I can handle solo.