A Coaching Power Tool Created by Doneen Barone
(Lifestyle & Career Transition Coach, United States)
Being vulnerable is the only way to allow your heart to feel true pleasure.– Bob Marley
Brene’ Brown explains why expressing our vulnerability – rather than being a weakness – may be among the most courageous, daring acts we can make: When we spend our lives waiting until we’re perfect or bulletproof before we walk into the arena, we ultimately sacrifice relationships and opportunities that may not be recoverable, we squander our precious time, and we turn our backs on our gifts, those unique contributions that only we can make. Perfect and bulletproof are seductive, but they don’t exist in the human experience. She goes on to define vulnerability as uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure. With this definition in mind I invite you to consider the act of love. Waking up every day and loving someone who may or may not love us back, whose safety we can’t ensure, who may stay in our lives or may leave without a moments notice, who may be loyal to the day they die or betray us tomorrow – that’s vulnerability.
Brene’ Brown’s book, Daring Greatly, was inspired by a speech give a century ago by US President Teddy Roosevelt, in which he said: It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belong to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.
We judge people in areas where we are vulnerable to shame, especially picking out people who are doing worse that we are doing. If I feel good about my career path, I have no interest in judging other people’s choices. If I feel good about my body, I don’t go around making fun of other people’s weight or appearance. We are hard on each other because we are using each other as a launching pad out of our own perceived deficiency.
It’s okay to be vulnerable sometimes. They’re too many people who miss too many chances and beautiful things because they have closed their hearts. Can you name all the opportunities that you may have missed because the alternative was to open up to your vulnerability? It takes courage to step out of our comfort zone and into the discomfort of being vulnerable. Think about becoming a coach, going back to school to elevate your career, meeting that person you have been secretly crushing on, talking to your children about uncomfortable subjects, starting your own business, marketing yourself, making your first video, marrying the one you love, writing, painting, dancing, transforming yourself. Do you notice a theme here? If you allowed your ego to stand in the way of any or all of your dreams you would no doubt be one miserable, unhappy, numb, unfilled person living in fear of your own brilliant potential.
As coaches I believe we can serve our clients more deeply when we inspire them to have the courage to be vulnerable, stepping back and acknowledging their experience with disappointment and conflict, supporting them to assert them selves and have the opportunity to fail forward to their own success. Our role as a coach is to perhaps witness their inner/outer critics without offering platitudes or fixes but rather providing a safe space where they can be vulnerable and learn that they have the answers and ability to thrive on their own.
Once everything falls into place, I’ll feel peace. Spirit says, Find your peace, and then everything will fall into place.- Marianne Williams
Ego – three letters that hold you back from the vulnerability to hear the things your heart is dying to say – I love you – I miss you – I am sorry….
Ego is the part of you that defines itself as a personality, separates itself from the outside world, and considers itself (you) a separate entity from the rest of nature and the cosmos. Perhaps necessary for survival in some evolutionary bygone time, in modern times it leads only to or can be disguised as mistrustful beliefs and delusion. Ego is responsible for hate, fear, and delusion.
We as a culture have been groomed to think that once we satisfy our goals whether it be a certain, income, title, relationship, weight, etc. that we will be happy through the approval of others (society). We as human beings have natural and learned instincts to follow patterns that lead to a final result of happiness. It should be that we enjoy the path to the goal, fully experiencing the happiness there within the journey to the final result.
Despite Ego’s agenda and voice the truth is we are no better or worse than any other being. No matter what someone else thinks of me, or what I think of anyone else. There are no good or bad people, only faulty thought processes or perceptions. We are all connected and made of the same material. When we separate ourselves from ego we realize that true joy and happiness come from following our unique purpose & path rather than the dictates of society. It is often challenging not to listen to your ego, as ego has been a strong influence in our lives for a very long time. Psychologically ego is essential to one’s development as a human being. Ego helps build self-esteem, and helps us stay alive. From a mental/ emotional perspective, however, the ego is a mechanism by which we distort reality. Just like everything in life, there is a time and place for ego that allowed us to grow up. It is a matter of striking a balance.
‘Me, ‘my’, and ‘mine’ are labels by which we mentally and emotionally separate ourselves from the rest of existence. It is entirely a product of ignorance, which we can correct by taking to heart the wisdom of being vulnerable. Think of a person pinching himself very hard and then wondering why there is pain. To relieve the pain, all that person has to do is stop pinching himself, to release the grip. The ego is a similar kind of grip. It is based in grasping or clinging. Therefore, we have to be vulnerable to our true-nature – the self connected to all – more highly than any limited manifestation of it.
In our quest for happiness, freedom & enlightenment, it is helpful to understand that the ordinary ego is simply an ingrained habit. To break free of any habit we must engage in the practice of mindfulness, to observe ourselves moment to moment and consciously release all tension at the level of the body and the mind. To notice and then let to of the ego habit and embrace our true nature through vulnerability is an ongoing practice like other quality we want to attain or skill we wish to master.
Growing up we learned ways to protect ourselves from being vulnerable, from being hurt, diminished, and disappointed. Many of us most likely protected ourselves with ego armor; we used our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors as weapons; and we learned how to make ourselves scarce, even to disappear. Now as adults many of us have come to realize that to live with courage, purpose, and connection- to be the person we long to be – our true, authentic self – we must once again be vulnerable and set our ego armor down, show up and be seen.
We may find ourselves engaged with a client who is hidden or shielded by ego mask & armor. Remember, Vulnerability is the last thing I want you to see in me, but the first thing I look for in you.
Living without connection- without knowing love and belonging- is not a rewarding life. Fear and scarcity fuel the Ego armor approach and part of inviting vulnerability means examining shame triggers; what is fueling the win-or-lose fear?
How can you cultivate trust and connection in relationships as a prerequisite for trying on a less hardened way of engaging in the world?
We want to create the space to empower the client to see that:
- I am enough (worthiness vs. shame)
- I’ve had enough (boundaries vs. comparison)
- Showing up, taking risks, and letting myself be seen is enough (engagement vs. disengagement)
Everyone struggles with vulnerability. When it comes uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure, it can be a challenge to come out from behind the false protection of our ego.
Approach the invitation to flirt with vulnerability as a daily practice rather than a checklist.
- Work through the accompanying shame and secrecy.
- Examine if client is operating from a learned belief system, or is it a value they hold, or armor as a result of trauma?
- How are you defining success?
- What experiences have left you feeling the most vulnerable?
- What would happen if you actually allowed yourself to feel your feelings?
- What numbing behaviors do you engage in to reduce anxiety? (Are my choices comforting and nourishing my spirit, or are they temporary reprieves from vulnerability and difficult emotions?
- Are my choices leading to my highest self, or do they leave me feeling empty and searching?
- What would happen if I were to lean into the discomfort of hard emotions?
- What does your being vulnerability represent to you?
- What is your relationship with ego?
- If being vulnerable will set you free, what will ego do?
- How can you support your own clients in getting in touch with their vulnerability in a safe way?
- What behaviors can you put in place as a coach to ensure that you don’t bring your ego to the coaching relationship?
- What do you do if your client doesn’t really want to let go of ego armor and step into their vulnerability?