A recent heart-to-heart with an old friend has led Fiona Blayney to an interesting discovery. By embracing her own vulnerability and feeling the fear she found a surprising source of strength and energy.
I had a ‘pop in’ yesterday; a dear friend of mine was in town and she called in to see my family and me. We sat around my kitchen table; we did the normal nattering, as women do over a cup of tea, about everything and nothing. We talked about our lives, the moments of elation, the tear-jerking times and the ones that have tested every morsel of our being. It had been a long time between cuppas as my friend lives abroad, and with distance, time and life getting in the way we had a lot to discuss.
After an hour or so, already deep in conversation, we asked each other ‘how are you?’ My friend looked me in the eye and with her question came that look of intensity and connection that meant the surface level response of ‘good’ just wouldn’t cut it. We lived together for a while and shared the rollercoaster of life for years; now she wanted to know how I really was.
The question was asked with such care, my emotional response went something like this. ‘You know what, I am actually fantastic. I have never been in a better place in my whole life. The last 12 months have been the most intense period of my life, it’s been full on, but now I’m on the other side and I’m in such an amazing place. I am truly happy. I have a wonderful husband, two awesome kids, our families are all okay, the business is doing well, I’ve got great people working with me, and I am surrounded by so much support. I don’t know what could be added to make it better.’
As I responded, I could actually feel the happiness fill my body. I felt great being able to say this and proud of where I have arrived. Perhaps these feelings were elevated as a result of having experienced not-so-great moments in the past. I know life is peppered with potholes, so I am not so deluded as to think there won’t be some tough times to come, but right at that moment I was basking in the glow.
My friend shared how she is and, amongst other things, we discussed the work she had been doing with her clients (she is a speaker too), in the area of fear and vulnerability. We talked about the impact she is having in the CEO market abroad and the benefits in allowing oneself to feel fear and vulnerability. With her comments fresh in my mind, I have thought a lot about my statement overnight.
Driving to work this morning, I contemplated our conversation and my statement. What had changed to bring me to this place? The answer was pretty clear: embracing fear and vulnerability. Signpost moment!
Over the past five years I’ve worked hard at being vulnerable. Technically, to be vulnerable is to expose yourself to being attacked or harmed, physically or emotionally. In business, I believe this is embracing your flaws, your weaknesses, your fears. Perhaps it’s simply being the real authentic you. There are things I am great at, things I am good at and things I really have no interest in being at all. I’ve owned this and built a team around me who are better than me at my weaknesses, and vice versa; we complement each other. We have a strength that wouldn’t have been possible without exposing my weaknesses.
We all have fear; it’s a natural response to a threat. The challenge is identifying the real fears from the fake ones. Most recently I identified many of my fake fears were limiters to my goals, personal, family and professional. We all have that damn inner voice that loves to chat at all the wrong times. Just when you need it to shut up, it speaks up. Over the past 18 months, I have heard the voice more often than not but, with some help from my mentors, I decided to hear it rather than listen to it. I’m embracing the energy fear brings, identifying the obstacles that fear shines its torch on and devising ways to overcome them. Fear and I are not friends, but it’s more than an acquaintance.
Perhaps next time you’re having a cuppa with a friend you’ll look into their eyes and ask, ‘how are you?’ I wonder how you’d answer the same question. When you see your colleague being vulnerable or sharing their fears, I hope you’ll do as I am teaching my four-year-old: you’ll be kind. Maybe this is your signpost moment to have a mirror meeting and ask yourself ‘how are you?’ What would it take to change the answer?
And if you’re in Neutral Bay, I’ll put the kettle on.