I’ve been focusing on shame, vulnerability, and authenticity lately.
I watched a TED Talk by Brene Brown (http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability?language=en) in which she laid out her ideas about how shame and vulnerability are often seen as weakness, but in reality it is only when we accept them and embrace them that we make progress. All of her ideas reinforced my thoughts on authenticity – not being afraid to show the world who I am and express myself, my feelings, and my ideas. I followed that up by re-reading sections of Stephen Covey’s book The Third Alternative. Again, the idea that it requires vulnerability (seeing myself) and acceptance of others as human beings (seeing you) to get started on the path to synergy.
I have made some attempts at embracing my vulnerability and being more authentic. Throughout, it has been a challenge to overcome my shame – my fear of appearing weak or stupid – and speak my mind. I have done it at work and with my parents. At work, I finally spoke my mind and told the others in my technology leadership team that I really had no idea what I was doing there. I wasn’t sure what my role was, or what was expected of me. The worst-case scenario did not happen; in fact, quite the opposite. Two others stepped in behind me and made the same admission. Another had a bit of a light bulb moment and was surprised that I felt that way, and indicated that he thought we needed to fix that right away. I hope that my supervisor sees that as a sign of my leadership abilities; specifically, the ability to say what others are only thinking.
While I was at my parents’ house over the weekend, my dad brought up a story that someone had shared at church. It was one of those stories where somebody lost something, only to find it (or something like it) in a place where they never were. And, of course, they make a spiritual connection between losing it and finding it. I spoke up. Which was unusual for me, because I usually just nod and smile at those stories. But this time I spoke up and said that I hated to be a buzzkill, but maybe it was just a coincidence. That kicked off a conversation that lasted for several hours. I unloaded my feelings about church on them, and their feedback was more positive than I had anticipated. I explained to them why I don’t go to church anymore; how I felt that in the depth of my struggles, there was nobody who stepped up and said, “me too” when I needed it. And I questioned the authenticity of people who refuse to allow their struggles to see the light of day. I told them that I would be more comfortable in a room of people who were struggling and would struggle alongside me, being able to share their gains and losses, happiness and sadness. And I think, in some ways, they understood me. It was nice.
It felt good to be authentic. I felt like I was being honest with myself and honest with others when so often I find myself feeling disingenuous by hiding behind a facade of “everything is okay”.
At work, time will tell whether or not my authenticity is welcomed by the organization. Some organizations demand that people always toe the corporate line and keep the smile on their face. If that’s the case, I don’t want to be here very much longer. But, if they welcome my authenticity and I can flex my leadership muscles a bit more by speaking for those who are too afraid to speak up, then I may be able to do some good here.
And with my family, the next step will be telling them about Christina. I’d like to bring her to a family function soon. They may not agree with my choice to date while I’m still only separated, but if they care about me they will understand that I need that connection in my life.