This past weekend I was reminded of how vulnerability can reflect strength.
This may seem counter-intuitive. After all, aren’t we taught to be tough? That revealing your fears and weaknesses makes you, well, weak? Certainly, I relied on the tough ass persona heavily during my time in academia. If I had to cry, I would never, ever do it in front of my male colleagues at Harvard and MIT. That was what the bathroom was for (and given the gender split, the odds were very good that I’d have it to myself).
But that tough ass mentality can hold you back.
On Sunday, I returned from Mighty Summit, an intimate event where women come together to relax, get to know one another, then ultimately explore personal and professional development collectively. The core exercise involved identifying five life list items you wanted to tackle in the coming year, including one for which you openly asked the group for help in achieving.
Clearly, it’s hard to be vulnerable. It’s hard to ask for help. As I reviewed my life list in anticipation of this exercise, I realized that there were some very live, tangible things not on my list. I realized that I was afraid to put them out there because I was afraid of openly positioning myself for failure. Of being vulnerable. Of opening my heart and trusting that people wouldn’t laugh at my dreams.
(To my credit, I’ve been laughed at for seemingly mundane things like my Korean middle name. By my first grade teacher. Clearly, I haven’t let go of that yet.)
And then I thought, no. I didn’t fly 3,000 miles and rearrange my life and endure challenging scheduling conversations with Jon to not immerse myself fully in the experience. This was a safe space so if not here, then where? So I got pumped. I geared myself up to share. As I talked to some of my fellow summit attendees — who were poring over their lists with furrowed brows — it was clear that they shared my initially cautious feelings. To which I said emphatically DO IT! Make the ask. This is important. You deserve this.
And as we went around the circle sharing dreams and goals of all scales of magnitude — the redwoods towering over us in an appropriately protective fashion — one by one, deep breaths were taken, souls were bared, vulnerabilities shared, help asked for. And 30 women became stronger by way of dipping their toes (sometimes their whole body) into a pool of vulnerability.
A lot of ass kicking is going to happen this coming year by a group of women for whom I now would totally throw myself in front of a bus. Thank you Mighty Summit and thank you to the amazing women who took the plunge with me. And for those of you who were not there, I hope you soon have the opportunity to open your heart in a safe space. To allow your vulnerability and strength to merge into awesomeness.