It’s ok to be vulnerable.

Yet today we’re told that to be great is to be bold, to be happy is be sociable. Vulnerability is associated with weakness, and framed under a statement “you’re not good enough”. Same as how our lives are shaped as profoundly by personality as by gender or race.

Vulnerability is not winning or losing. It dares to show up when you can’t control the outcome.

They’re just people

Public speaking and presentation are vulnerable moments when you place your beliefs on the table for judgment.

Those moments, when I push myself out of my comfortable zone(many times, involved C-levels) to express my ideas, beliefs and knowledge. It’s terrifying… I feel vulnerable more than ever.

  • What if they don’t like my ideas?
  • What if they think there is nothing new and I’m wasting their time?
  • It feels like I’m mumbling to myself, and no one knows what is going on.
  • Maybe I should put some “fancy” jargons to sound smarter.
  • Shit shit….I’m messing up.

Yet a person told me.

No matter the feedback coming from a CEO, or whoever at C-level, they are just a type of users. In fact, if you believe in it, prove it by data and A/B test.

And he’s right. At some points, they’re just people, or “a type of users” in our startup language. Like you and me, like our friends, like our supervisors who only want to help by giving feedback or asking difficult questions for a better outcome. Most of the time, they come to the table with good intention.

And what can go wrong?

  • I may sound stupid, people going to look down at me and get fired at the end, who knows!

No, it’s wrong! Your level meets their expectation; that’s why you get hired in the first place. Of course, it’s even better if you do beyond expectation. However, no one going to fire you because of a bad presentation. Many factors defined an excellent presentation: attitude, tone of voice, and what you try to convey. To me, even you aren’t a great public speaker, the content and attitude are still the two most important factors. Experienced people can detect what you say meaningful or just rubbishes covered under fancy words. Good leaders will value people who are open-minded to listen and learn rather than armoured individuals.

Thus, all you need to do is putting your armour down, rumbling with your vulnerability. Learning how to fail helps us to be brave. Remember they’re just people.

Rumbling with vulnerability

In Asian culture, we tend to shield ourselves from vulnerable feelings by building a shield and protect ourselves from the imperfect world. But to live and lead with courage, we must let ourselves be vulnerable. This means letting down your wall and recognizing defensive mechanism.

If we picture ourselves by what everyone thinks, it’s hard to be brave. If we stop caring about what everyone thinks, we’re armoured for authentic connections. During struggling moments, whether at work or in personal lives, finding your “North Star’ by listing down.

  • What is most important in our lives?
  • What are your fundamental values?
  • Who am I want to become?
  • If happy is your ultimate goal, then what makes you happy?

It’s not necessary to be stereotyped like what people usually expect. Ask your deep inner self. And it’s ok too if you haven’t known yet. Full of people out there are still discovering it.

Be a vulnerable leader.

Ugly truth hurts sometimes. But I believe being clear is kind, and that it’s unkind to be untransparent. Indeed, entering into communication with a spirit of honesty and clarity is a crucial step to build a healthy and trust workplace. Like a romantic relationship, a hurtful breakup is still better than untold and winding.

We may tell ourselves that we feed people haft-truths to make them feel good, but often we’re avoiding honest and confrontational conversations because they make us uncomfortable. Clear communication would be far kinder and more productive in the long run. (-Brene Brown, Dare to Lead)

In my career path, I was lucky to meet some great leaders, who are considered as a second family when they build the relationship through transparent works, they create Trust through vulnerable moments, they’re courageous leaders. And Trust, is an essential and multifaceted factor of our working relationship.

In short

When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, we open our mind to courage, daring and creativity. When we see “people” as people, we find the bravery to put ourselves out there to learn and fail, to have difficult but thoughtful conversations. Daring leaders, most of the time, are the ones in a vulnerable position to deal with harsh decisions.

Playing with your feeling instead of packing them.

In the past, jobs were about muscles, now they’re about brains, but in the future they’ll be about the heart.

(-Minouche shafik, director, London School of Economics)



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Anh Pham (AP)

Anh Pham (AP)

Product Designer. I believe joy exists in simple forms, so does design. I’m studying joys for a living.