Why you should embrace your vulnerability
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In life, I have always set high standards for myself. During school, I worked hard to be the best performing student in academics as well as in sports. During college, I strived to be an all-round athlete and a macho male. In career as well, I strived to be a high performing employee for whom no target was unachievable. As a leader, I endeavoured to be like my hero, my father who always displayed poise, precision, sureness, and conviction. Naturally, I thought that to be a great leader, I must have answers for everything. I must have certainty even in the most unknown events. I must always exude confidence because only a confident leader can design a powerful and clear vision for the company and its employees. My confidence, which was extremely instrumental in my journey, helped me to influence my environment to motivate and inspire others while also helping me to inspire myself to have conviction in my actions. Never for a second, did I spare a thought about my weaknesses, fears or vulnerabilities. In this ultra-confident world, they had no place.
Leaders need to be confident, so that they can assess the situations clearly and accurately. However, nowadays I see young leaders projecting confidence but being blind to the realities of their shortcomings. Confidence is a strength but extreme confidence edging on arrogance becomes a weakness as it masks an equally human and valuable character i.e. vulnerability. Unlike our other qualities like honesty, trustworthiness, time management, which we are proud to highlight, vulnerability is something which we are often afraid to show as we believe that it amounts to us admitting our weaknesses.
Though each one of us has some vulnerabilities, we prefer to hide them as we tend to substantiate ourselves to our families, friends, colleagues and of course to ourselves. Such individuals and more so leaders tend to have a lack of empathy as they tend to ignore vulnerabilities in everyone around them. The issue is more prevalent today, as many of us weren’t taught how to express our emotions freely. Too often we have been raised to live as either winners or losers, achievers or failures, arrogant or plain. Our society tells us that only the strongest are capable and hence we must always project an image of strength, toughness and rigidity. To show our sensitive side amounts us being less competent, low performers, or less capable. These pent-up emotions about insecurities and vulnerabilities add to stress. Men seem to be more prone to this & this perhaps makes us more susceptible to cardiovascular diseases.
What is Vulnerability?
The depiction of vulnerability as a weakness has its origins in our childhood, relationships, gender, media and society. Since ages we have been conditioned to keep our feelings inside, to harden and immune ourselves from emotions. However, the more we suppress our weaknesses the more they come out in the form of shame, guilt, anger, frustration and depression. The more we keep vulnerability at the arm’s length, we tend to express ourselves in different ways such as being the loudest in the room, by fixing things, by being irritated and angry on smallest of mistakes. Over time, we tend to correlate our success, achievements, fame, money and professional position as armour against our vulnerabilities.
Hence, a lot of people, who throughout their lives have masked or buried their emotions do not really get what the vulnerability means. Many have taken vulnerability for its literal meaning as ‘a physical or emotional exposure through which others can attack or harm us.’ We fear to expose our limitations as we tend to think it as a chink in our armour which others can use to leverage or belittle us. Be that as it may, accepting your vulnerability does not amount to being exposed for it isn’t a sign of weakness or lack of worth. In contrast, it is a conscious choice to not hide our emotions or desires from others. It’s about owning our weaknesses alongside our strengths.
Accepting Weaknesses is a Strength:
Of course, it is far easier to teach and preach than to walk the talk. But remember ‘nothing in the world worth having comes easy’. Some may say that finding good in bad is the best way to turn your weaknesses into strength, but by simply renaming it we are limiting ourselves and continuing the same mistake in the form of avoidance. The best way out is not to avoid vulnerability, but to acknowledge it as a part of yourself. Acknowledging vulnerability is about accepting your flaws and being ok with it while preparing for higher achievements and greater successes by working on your strengths.
Acknowledging and accepting your vulnerabilities doesn’t happen overnight, but is an arduous process. I say arduous because we are creatures of our habits, which have been a part of our lives for decades. These habits have also been influenced by any weakness or limitation we have developed since the star. But if you put in the work – by recognising your vulnerabilities; figuring out the sources of your limitations; discussing about it with your colleagues and seeking their support when you require it without clouding your thoughts with ego – you will come out as a person on whom people would want to trust, look up to and accept as one of them. Always know, no human being is without vulnerabilities & I see it when I discuss my vulnerabilities with my colleagues and they open-up and share theirs. This process of sharing is in fact a very therapeutic.
Think of yourself as a bamboo tree, which doesn’t break, because as it is tall and strong it is also flexible and can bend and sway in the wind, absorbing the storm’s energy but not giving in to it. It doesn’t matter if its stems are cut because bamboo regenerates, heals, and grows again, even stronger and more unstoppable than before. Not even Large & supposedly strong trees can boast of such wonders. Similarly let us remember that our vulnerabilities make us more flexible towards other people and help in accepting difficult situations, only building us up to be stronger. I hope each one of us accepts our vulnerabilities, learns to make a room for them and thrives on their strengths to become successful.
About the author
Tapan Singhel is the MD & CEO of Bajaj Allianz General Insurance Company Limited. This blog has been initiated by him so that he can directly interact with all the valuable customers and employees of this company.