In December, I saw a post on choosing your #oneword2020. It asked you to think about what word you will strive to live by in 2020? What word will define your daily work, your daily thoughts, your daily habits? I did not have to think long in choosing a word, because the first word that came to mind was VULNERABILITY. This word or theme has been getting a lot of buzz with Brene Brown's work and daring to to be great and showing your mistakes and vulnerability. Unknowingly, this is probably why I chose the word at first, but then, as I was setting goals for the new year for everything from my career to my health and finances, I came back to the word again. What does it actually mean to be vulnerable? What does it mean to live with vulnerability day in and day out? Is it truly possible to show vulnerability every day?
The first thoughts that came to mind were having the strength to put yourself out there and try new things even if you are nervous or scared (like starting this blog and even writing this post) or to admit your faults and weaknesses (too many to name). But, the more I thought about it, it went further than that. To be vulnerable is not only to put yourself out there, but also to live with authenticity and be the true you no matter the circumstances.
So, naturally, this made me think, "Who is the true me? What are my beliefs? What do I stand for? What is my intent?" The true me is that I am a good listener, I sometimes need time before I share my thoughts, I love to think outside the box, I LOVE to learn and try new things, I believe that I can only control me and not others, and so on and so forth. But, in asking these questions, I came to realize that the goal is not to just come up with answers, but instead, it would serve me better to ask myself these questions before I go into a conversation or use them as a way to reflect on a situation I am unsure about.. Just writing them down, I knew I would forget them quickly, but getting in the habit of asking myself these questions on a daily basis would begin to force me to really think: Am I living with authenticity and vulnerability?
This week, there was a particular situation that occurred at school that I knew I would have to have a follow-up conversation on. I knew it couldn't be avoided not just because my colleague would approach me on it, but if I really wanted to stay true to my beliefs and be vulnerable, I needed to have the conversation as well. One thing I also know about myself is that confrontation and difficult conversations are hard for me,. They do not come easily. I've read numerous articles on the topic from how how to restate what you're hearing to asking clarifying questions. To be honest, the thought of having to have a hard conversation feels daunting; something that I need to prepare for in order to have.
But this time, I decided to approach things a little differently. Instead, of trying to "prepare" and think about what I might say, I asked myself what is my intent by having this conversation? What am I hoping to accomplish as a result of having this conversation? How could I have this conversation while remaining true to myself and my beliefs?
I decided that my intent was that I wanted to share there were positives to the work we were doing, that no one is trying to change anyone, that I am not an expert nor am I always right. The truth is that I am in this role as an instructional coach, because I care about helping teachers, I care about students and their learning, and I care about helping people improve. I realized in that moment that I didn't need more strategies for having a hard conversation or to read another article, I just needed to stick to what I knew to be true about my intentions. And, at the end of the day, I can't control what others feel or say, but I can control what my intent is and what I say and do. And, even more importantly, I am not perfect and am going to make mistake after mistake. But, also, being my true self means learning from my mistakes and knowing that I have the intent to constantly improve and get better.
So, my challenge to you is to think about a conversation or situation you may be avoiding or think about something new that you've been wanting to try, and ask yourself, "What's holding me back? What am I afraid of?" I can tell you that the conversation I had last week was nowhere perfect, but I still felt great afterwards, because I didn't let my fears or my thoughts hold me back. And, that is what vulnerability is starting to mean to me.