This is the final part in our three-part Creative Vulnerability Series.
We’ve discussed vulnerability with ourselves. We’ve discussed vulnerability with the people most important to us. Finally, we are going to discuss how we help others be vulnerable themselves. Because we believe that in addition to changing the self-talk that inhibits our ability to be vulnerable, how we encourage others – the grace we extend, the judgment we withhold for others – has a direct impact on our ability to embrace ourselves.
We are going to revisit what we’ve already discussed in the previous posts with additional discussion before talking about encouraging vulnerability in others. Why? Because we need to maintain sight of how critical it is to resolve our own vulnerability issues before extending it to others.
A Vulnerability Refresh
Like a freshman college student taking Intro to Psychology, our recency bias has been on full alert the last couple weeks: because we’ve been thinking about vulnerability so much, we see it manifest in so many conversations! (see Part One and Part Two for a full discussion)
This morning Tiffany and I were driving into downtown Denver for a meeting and the topic came up again in a new way. We were discussing barriers and how we use objections as license to keep from doing certain activities. Driving downtown sucks. It is stressful. It is a pain in the ass. We feel that. But we also see so many people do it. And we think: “Well they do it, we should be able to do it as well. Screw my feelings! I just need to force myself to do what other people do.” We emphasize the word “should” because we discussed how we use these words to dictate external standards.
But we need to acknowledge that it is OK to feel stressed. It’s OK to not like driving downtown. Some people may be less averse to it. Some people may even actually enjoy it. It does not mean we have to force ourselves into enjoying it. It does not mean we need to force ourselves to do things the way they do them!
We too often fail to check ourselves on living according to the way we observe other people living! And unfortunately, we then use that standard as a way to keep us from doing, from living. What do we mean by this?
When we say we need to “just get comfortable with driving downtown,” we unravel that and start looking at the precursors to those imposed external standards. “If I drive downtown, I need to…”
“Be comfortable with parallel parking.”
“Be comfortable with dealing with one-way streets.”
“Get used to dealing with highway traffic.”
And we go on and on. So when we get invited to meet with friends, conduct business, or experience something new and exciting downtown, we have built up all the things we should be able to do. And we allow these to turn into objections that keep us from embracing the possibilities downtown!
So I think this metaphor is on the verge of being stretched too far. So let’s summarize this before it loses the insight we want to convey.
We let the ways people accomplish things, and how other people conduct their life to become shoulds in our own lives. Instead of identifying what we want to accomplish, being honest and vulnerable about our feelings toward what it will take to accomplish, and then developing alternative ways to get to our accomplishments – not simply adopting somebody else’s formula – we miss out on accomplishing more! We need to acknowledge that it is OK – and healthy! – to be different. To feel differently. To love differently. To behave differently. And that we can also pursue different paths to the same ends!
We too often operate under the auspices that because our way worked to get to some destination, it is the only way, or the best way to get there. That is a lie. It is a lie we tell ourselves and it is a lie others sometimes tell. We do not have to believe these lies.
There are multiple ways to get from A to B. If we feel overwhelmed by driving downtown and having to parallel park, why do we convince ourselves that we need to drive downtown just because many other people successfully drive downtown? What is keeping us from finding a free parking lot within two miles of our destination and using Uber to get to our final destination. If it gets us downtown, and it decreases our anxious feelings, why is that not a reasonable solution?
There will be plenty of people that come up with objections to alternative solutions:
“What a waste of time and effort!”
“Just get over it already!”
“Suck it up. It’s not that bad.”
We’ve all heard these before on any number of topics. These comments – and any permutation of them – is evidence of judgment. And we get to choose whether we believe them or not. Stop believing them. They are keeping you from finding other alternatives. They are being used as ammunition for you to judge yourself. They are keeping you from loving yourself. They are keeping you from being vulnerable. They are keeping us from encouraging vulnerability in others, which is why we need to resolve these issues first.
We could write an entire post that would appear to contradict this one because there is value in listening to other people’s solutions, to following recipes, and to challenging ourselves to go beyond our comfort zone. But let’s leave that for a wine or beer conversation and take this away as a summary: we need to fight for our own healthy view of our self-worth, self-image, and self-talk, and become more active in deciding what internal and external voices we will believe.
Encouraging Vulnerability in Others
This is going to be short and to the point. The reason we started with learning to love ourselves and striking vulnerability with those closest to us is because without that, we will struggle to instruct others to be vulnerable. Because the principles we have discussed for embracing our own emotions, withholding judgment, extending grace, and holding on to truth are necessary for encouraging others as well.
I started taking acting classes two months ago in order to hone my skills on coaching authentic expression and connection with emotion. But something greater has struck me about the classes and it stems from the philosophy and values of our acting coach: and these insights have little to do with the content and craftsmanship, the knowledge presented in the class.
Here are the key takeaways:
We all must bring “something into the room” to drive emotional connection. We need to acknowledge our pain, our grief, our joy, our emotion. We need to resist the urge to resolve and escape: acknowledgment alone is a good start.
Safe, judgement-free zones should be championed and protected. In order for us to fully “let-down” and connect, we need to be convinced that there is not judgment. But judgment is not the same as critique, though we often confuse the two (they sometimes feels the same).
We express differently. How I would act a scene is different than how a colleague might act it. How I deal with grief is different than how others deal with grief. That is OK. That is beautiful.
When we start to actually believe and accept these three items, we create an atmosphere for others to be vulnerable.
Acknowledge our emotions.
Create safe zones for being vulnerable.
These are some guiding principles we employ in our own studio. We look forward to being vulnerable with you.