The courage to be vulnerable is not about winning or losing, it’s about the courage to show up when you can’t predict or control the outcome.
Over the summer I helped a friend of mine who is Director of College Counseling at a private high school here in Los Angeles. Stephanie (names changed) hosted a college essay writing boot camp for incoming seniors. Applying for college is stressful for myriad reasons – one of them being that a student has to submit a personal essay that gives the colleges insight into their character.
I was moved by the students’ efforts and by their stories – stories that were raw and jumbled, in some cases inchoate, and all of them real and vulnerable.
Over lunch I shared these feelings with one of the teachers. Lara smiled and said, “They haven’t learned how to bullshit vulnerability!”
I hadn’t thought of it that way – and she was right. These high school seniors haven’t figured out how to pretend to be vulnerable because they haven’t learned how to lie to themselves – yet!
As the boot camp was winding down, I had a call from Walter, an attorney whose daughter was getting married that weekend. He needed help with his toast. The outline he shared with me sounded less like a toast and more like a roast. My first reaction was – ouch!
Walter didn’t want his toast to sound “sappy” which was a lighthearted way of saying that he didn’t want to be vulnerable.
Earlier this month, at one of my workshops on public speaking, a young woman asked me how a person goes about “getting” confidence.
Since my website is “the business of confidence,” I should have a canned answer – something pithy and clever that will make people smile.
But, I don’t!
How does a person go about “getting” confidence?
Is confidence something you get?
Is confidence something you do?
I’ve been thinking about the times I’ve been confident and the times I’ve not been confident.
In all those situations where I felt confident, I was able to imagine the ME who I wanted to be. I was able to imagine that ME because I was willing to be vulnerable. I know it sounds counter-intuitive as confidence is often associated with cockiness.
When I think about some of my 2022 clients who have gone about the “business of confidence,” I think about Darren who became a lawyer – even though he had gotten his college degree only after being a union truck driver for thirty years.
I think about Nathan who has become the “go to” guy for his clients even though in the early days of his career he’d had difficulty starting a conversation in a Starbucks setting.
I think about Ryan who wanted to stop being angry at his team and stop treating them with the harshness his father had treated him. And who has stopped.
What does it mean to “be confident” for each of these folks?
Being confident is all about making peace with where you’re not confident
Knowing that you no longer want to be uncomfortable for all the wrong reasons.
Growing in confidence where you are
Acting out in the manner that resembles who you are determined to be.
To be confident is to be willing to be uncomfortable – willing to be vulnerable.
“Flip your fear. Find out what intimidates you and instead of shying away from it, be so inspired that you race towards it.“
AND – you can only race toward your fear if you are vulnerable.
Confidence doesn’t guarantee success.
You could do something you had been afraid of and then discover you don’t have the skills to succeed.
What you finally do ultimately doesn’t give you what you thought you wanted.
Gives you a different kind of success.
Confidence demands that we be willing to grow from the consequences of the choices we make – from both the successes and the mistakes.
Confident people practice being vulnerable by running towards their fear.
Rummage around these questions:
· What is it you’re really afraid of?
· How valid is the fear?
· In what way YES and what way NO?
· What is your goal?
· Is it a goal or a wish?
· Are you willing to be vulnerable so as to make that goal come real?
· Where is your support to cheer on your vulnerability?
I don’t think confidence is something you “get.”
Confidence is a decision – choosing action over paralysis.
Those students I helped with their college essays did not “b.s.” their vulnerability as they only knew how to be vulnerable.
Father-of-the-bride Warren learned that the greatest gift he could give his daughter and new son-in-law was the gift of his raw emotions.
The “business of confidence” is really the business of becoming comfortable being uncomfortable. It’s only in that uncomfortableness that one lives confidently.
now THAT’s the business of confidence!