My Huge Lesson in Vulnerability


VulnerabilityI’m a tremendous advocate for continued growth and learning. I THRIVE on it! This means that I’ll always be taking courses and workshops, reading books and who knows what else. And I’ll keep sharing the nuggets of what I learn here.

As you may have heard me say already, I’m participating in a 10-month leadership program through a coaching company called CTI that is rocking my world. And we’re only halfway through.

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying that you get out of a course (or relationship or business) what you put into it. That’s so empowering because it means that whenever we want more out of something, we just need to put IN more.

Doesn’t that sound easy? It’s not. REALLY not.

I’m committed to getting as much as I can out of this program. As a serial program attender, there are many things I’ve signed up for and not fully followed through on. More than I’d like to admit.

For one thing, time gets to be an issue for me as for everyone else. For another, there’s my attention span. Once my initial passion for something wanes, I tend to move on to the next shiny thing.

Plus, putting “more” in can be really uncomfortable. It means breaking through some very tough and often very subtle boundaries that keep us in our protected comfort zone.

Comfort Zone Keepers

Comfort zone keepers hold us back from fully leaning into any type of relationship. This includes not only your relationship with a program and the people in it, but also with your loved ones, your clients, your business, your marketing, yourself, everything.

In order to break through the “fences” that keep us in our comfort zone, we first have to recognize them.


There are a lot of fears that hold us back. Here are a few common ones, and I’ll bet you can add more.

Fear of:

  • Being seen
  • Not being good enough
  • Not being strong enough
  • Making mistakes
  • Being laughed at
  • Being alone

Patterns of Thinking and Behaving

We also have deeply ingrained patterns that have us holding back and only partway leaning in. Often these have us saving something back. They’re things like:

  • Believing we’re better than others
  • Believing we’re worse than others
  • Trying to look good
  • Trying to look strong

Cloudy Perspective

Sometimes, we legitimately think that we’re leaning in fully with someone. We’re convinced we’re giving our all, when we’re really holding back. Often, someone else has to point out to us the ways we’re not completely engaged. Or we look back later and see how we were holding back.

When we do this, it’s usually because we’re stuck in one of the fears or patterns of thinking or behaving listed above.

We Don’t Mean To

The thing about holding back is that we almost always do it unconsciously. We’re just going about our life, taking care of stuff for the most part and not having any idea how much sleepwalking we’re doing. We believe that we’re giving 100% and would be shocked to realize it’s 75% — or less!

But can’t you tell the difference when you meet someone who’s giving 100%? They’re alive and energized. They’re engaged, aware and there.

If you ask them how they got that way, they can almost always point to something specific – a program, a practice or a life-changing experience – that woke them up.

What they may not tell you about is the personal commitment that it took.

The commitment it takes to be fully IN and awake is huge. It has to be bigger than the fears, bigger than the patterns, bigger than the addiction to being comfortable. And it WILL be uncomfortable.

To fully show up, you have to let yourself be fully seen, and that’s a super vulnerable and uncomfortable thing to do. You can’t fully show up AND hold back that parts of you that feel messy, unlikable or like they won’t fit in.

SA_Twitter_IconTweet: To fully show up, you have to let yourself be fully seen.

The Leadership program is challenging me hugely to get vulnerable and uncomfortable. This has included a big UGLY cry in front of the group, the discomfort of telling someone an assumption I’d made about her (and seeing how it was my stuff not hers!), feeling awkward at times and asking for something that meant a lot to me from someone I didn’t know very well.

The results of this have been:

  • a greater feeling of strength and confidence
  • clarity around where I’m NOT fully engaging (and tools to change that)
  • getting something I’ve really wanted
  • an incredibly deep sense of connection and trust with a group of people I’ve known a short time
  • feeling more connected with the people I love

Scary? Yes. Worth it? Absolutely! Which I remind myself when the next vulnerable thing comes up.

What’s something you’ve done that felt really vulnerable at the time and turned about better than you ever thought it would? Please share in the comments below and help to inspire others!

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