Vulnerability – The Courage for Feedback

“Strong back, soft front, wild heart.” says Brené Brown.

I love her research and I love her relatable way of breaking the complexity of human emotions down for us in understandable ways that help us develop ourselves.

The quote means to be strong in ourselves and know what we stand for, and to allow our front to be soft and thereby be receptive to other’s points of view and impressions, and wild heart can stand for showing up fully and being in the arena. What happens a lot when we don’t quite feel so strong in our back is that we start guarding our front and putting up defences. Then we act in ways that don’t serve us and others. How do we shift that?

This week we speak about feedback, and one thing it takes to fully show up, to give and receive feedback is courage. 

Courage is a leadership skill – and leadership we need in any area of our life, independent of whether we are officially in an elected leader role or not. Leading can simply mean to know where we want to go and how we wish for things to develop. Sometimes we may feel that courage in a certain area of our life and sometimes we may not.

Now, when we are not, how do we get courageous? 

By rumbling with vulnerability, by being open to having the awkward conversations about how we feel around a certain topic, what our needs and wants are, and what our fears and worries are.

Usually it’s not fear that is in the way, it’s the armour we put up, the way how we respond to fear when we are afraid to rumble and expose our all too human vulnerability. 

Leadership is to be vulnerable. Let’s dig in together.

Maybe we can recall a situation where afterwards we felt that we didn’t like how we showed up there. Now it’s not about judging ourselves for that. It’s about getting curious and understanding why so we can hold ourselves accountable in a better way. What was really going on in that situation? What was I fearing so that I ended up putting up my armour and becoming either defensive, stand offish, or shut down?

Take a minute to ponder a recent situation where you didn’t show up the way you would want to and get curious about what was going on inside that triggered a reaction. A scene where you wish you would have responded differently. Doesn’t have to be a big thing, but it may be.

Were there feelings inside of you that wanted to be acknowledged but didn’t get to? Did you feel yourself go rigid at that point in the situation? Sometimes we feel the tightening around the chest or in the stomach. Just sit with it and observe it, let it pass through you, no resisting, just allow it to be there and watch. Maybe you have a little insight on what caused it. 

Now rewind that scene a couple of minutes to before where you tensed up. Image yourself having a strong back and soft front and being really connected to your heart. Let the dialogue unfold as it did while you stay connected to your heart. Express the thing that was left unsaid, whether it was an unspoken feeling, a worry, or a need – and listen inside what shifts. Are you able to stay in the space of strong back and soft front? Just stay here for a moment longer and stay connected with your heart.

Soak up that feeling of being connected to yourself, feel your strong back, your soft front, and your wild heart.

Who we are as people is how we lead, so we need to look inside and understand who we are. The more often we apply these reflective practices, the better we can show up for ourselves and for others in our lives.

If we are too comfortable, we are not learning. We have to be the leaders that we want to see. So, let’s be willing to rumble with our own vulnerability.

That means we must care for and be connected to the people we lead. I often remind myself that I’m not here to be right, but instead I’m here to get it right.

One of the beautiful things is that courage is contagious. The more we allow ourselves to step into this courage, have the tough conversations, be curious about what’s going on inside ourselves, and live from our whole heart, the more others are inspired by that.