Vulnerability is scary, but it's necessary.
The term vulnerability has been circling around for the past few years and too be honest it has become a bit of a buzz word. It is really important for teachers, leaders and key people of influence to understand and embody in their role.
Vulnerability has been one of my biggest learning curves this year and in this blog I will unpack for you further.
The easiest way to demonstrated vulnerability is when we tell a joke… we have this verse or one liner punch ready to dazzle our audience. We are hopefully anticipating a momentous applause and raucous laugh by sharing our exciting expose.
But, it could be a complete flop. We might muddle our words, struggle to hit the punch line or maybe they won’t find it as funny. It’s a gamble and risk we must take to influence our listeners in our desired way.
Why is vulnerability so important?
Vunerability is essential for connection to occur naturally, effortlessly and deeply. By showing up as our authentic self, minus all the layers, masks and smoke and mirrors, we create bonds and meaningful relationships that inspire others to listen, appreciate and associate with who we really are.
Learning to be vulnerable requires self-awareness, ongoing self-reflection and a high level of consciousness so that you can recognise your inner critic, self-saboteurs like the judge, the stickler or the perfectionist and to reconnect with you true essence and the reasons why you’re here.
In the education arena, we are vulnerable every day, a lesson requires a certain degree of planning, preparation and perspective… it’s far more than just rocking up and stepping out.
Our audience could be 5 or 18 and the degree of comfort will vary accordingly. I recall teaching a bunch of Pre-Primaries a session I had thoroughly prepared including magic, music and movement to help them learn how to meditate and having one student immediately say “This is boring!”. Crushed by a 5 year old after having the courage to be vulnerable…
That is the danger… if we want to truly connect in life. We have to be authentic and to be authentic, we must be vulnerable. The danger is that we may fail, we may get hurt and we have to be brave enough to do it again anyway.
Public speaking is another great example, I recently spoke in front of 180 school principals in Sydney, Australia. I was nervous, slighlty anxious, but there was also a sense of excitement and adrenaline pumping through my veins. I had prepared my most vulnerable presentation to date and was jumping around back-stage like a child waiting for X-mas day.
As I heard the MC, Mr Aaron Johnston start his introductions, I closed my eyes, I took 10 deep breaths and I said “Today you are you. That is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you”.
Dr. Seuss was my pre-flight announcement as I jumped onto the stage and bounced around for over an hour.
Sharing my personal story… my pain, suffering, wins, losses, insecurities and higher purpose. There was limited time spent on data, research or other people’s comments.
I took the stage and made it my mission to be as vulnerable as possible. I encouraged the audience of school leaders to step up and do the same in their schools and lives.
We completed an activity where each principal turned to a partner, sat face to face and shared their biggest worries, fears or stress with the other. We listened to understand and not to respond. We then hugged, thanked our partner for volunteering vulnerability and moved on.
What happened during the intermission surprised me…
Usually at any education based event there is a large majority of women compared to men and in my experience I would guestimate that 90% of the time it is women who come up to me to further discuss any wellness, health or emotional stuff with me.
I am usually flattered to have built trust and connection with some of the female audience from the stage. Working through the many layers and masks a male uses is usually a far greater challenge.
However, on this occasion in Sydney, I was deeply grateful to have shared meaningful and authentic conversations with 4 male principal’s and assistant principals on 4 separate occasions.
These men disclosed their own personal battles with mental health, the challenges they were currently or previously facing and they expressed their gratitude for the vulnerability I shared from the stage and exclaimed that this was important work that more educators’, particularly male educators’ needed to hear.
This personal experience reflected back to me a powerful realisation that what we need to get comfortable with vulnerability not just in education, but in workplaces and organisations across the world. To build great teams, communities and kids we need to allow emotion and authentic connection.
We need to actually foster the sharing of stories and experiences in an authentic way. We must nurture vulnerability and promote that is okay to express what we are experiencing internally.
Suppressing emotions is like holding a tennis ball under water… it is just going to keep pushing its way back up to the surface and when that sadness, anger, hurt etc. does release it will cause havoc on the surface.
This is why we must volunteer vulnerability and learn to dance under the rain clouds before we can in the sunshine.
If teachers’ can show up as their raw, authentic self, speaking about the trials and tribulations of teaching at staff meetings, most importantly, having the courage to speak to a colleague about what may be impacting your mental or emotional well-being will empower and enable better relationships, mental hygiene and support in schools.
I believe there is real power in sharing some information with students’ when they may be struggling a little, why do we accept that it is a requirement to put on a mask and hide any struggles or adversities we are experiencing?
Should our students’ be hidden from the challenges a teacher faces?
If we are serious about safe emotional environments then it must be okay for a teacher to not be okay sometimes.
Failing to express emotions is symptamic for severe mental health conditions. I am not saying teachers’ need to be sharing the specific details about their personal life. But, I encourage you to share with your students’ when you may be feeling upset, sad or impacted by something outside of your classroom.
The power lies in your ability to be vulnerable and to express your true self without all the bullshit and layers.
The challenge is to do this in an authentic way, where you are sharing from the heart.
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