Happy Sunday Educators and Happy Veterans Day! For those of you with the day off tomorrow…enjoy the extra day of weekend and please don’t use the entire day to catch up on work…smh. I know it’s tempting but…don’t.
So, I recently had an experience where I was presenting on the topic of Feeding Your Spirit to a group of district leaders and teams. I constantly think about elements of this topic and didn’t think it would be too far outside my scope. I also had the opportunity to facilitate the session twice so I knew that I would be tweaking after running through it the first time…and I did. What surprised me, however, was what had the most impact in my adjustment...how I chose to show up. As I went through the first session in my head, I knew that something was missing and it dawned on me that if I wanted to help participants become vulnerable and tap into what supports their spirit, I would have to enter a space worthy of their trust.
Let me elevate for some and maybe reiterate for others that I come from a Haitian home of 6 girls and we were raised as an extremely private family. Home life stayed at home and school was for school. There was no need to share and be open to the point of vulnerability with a bunch of strangers when I had a tribe waiting for me at home. I wasn’t interested in finding an additional tribe. I was good. I had so many sisters that I was bound to be in good standing with at least one of them even if crap was going down with a few other ones. That was my approach to my private and public life and it worked quite well for me, until it didn’t work so well.
See…I’m in the people business and much of what I do requires interaction and a sense of trust from and of me. It began to become obvious to me during my adult years that it was rather disingenuous of me to expect folks to fully show up, be authentic, and dig deep when I wasn’t willing to model and show up in the same way. In the book, The Courage Way by Shelly Francis, she quotes the theologian, Henri J.M. Nouwen:
“We cannot even change other people by our convictions, stories, advice and proposals, but we can offer a space and ourselves where people are encouraged to disarm themselves, lay aside their occupations and preoccupations, and listen with attention and care to the voices speaking in their own center.”
In my session, I was asking folks to think of and document the foundational beliefs driving their lives, the vision they have for themselves, and why this was important to them. I wanted them to connect with the essence of who they were during our time together and possibly discuss with a colleague on where they landed. All of this requires a level of vulnerability that I, in my first session, elected to opt out of. I chose to remain in my space of comfort while encouraging others to move further from theirs. Quite disappointing when I finally finished sorting it out in my head and heart space.
I have been finding myself wondering how often we shortchange progress for others because we rely too heavily on our advice, suggestions, and opinions of what is best for them instead of simply showing up as the human being they need us to be. Whether it’s the students we work with, the colleagues we engage with, the adults we coach or supervise, or the leaders we report to; the lack of trust limits the depth and impact we are able to have as we co-labor together.
In the relationships we find the most strenuous and challenging, I wonder if a bit of vulnerability and acknowledgement of our imperfect beingness may support openness. Grant it, self-disclosure of any kind must be appropriate but even a particular depth with our students and/or our children, goes a long way and allows them to extend a certain level of grace when we invite them to understand that perfection doesn’t come with age. They learn that even in our established careers, we are still learning and growing. Our willingness to show vulnerability may be the pass they need to sit with the discomfort of the challenges they engage in daily as we push rigor and demand grit and perseverance when they see that our journeys are not too dissimilar.
My second opportunity to facilitate the session came up and though I wasn’t giddy about being vulnerable, I knew it was needed. This time when I asked participants to document their beliefs, vision, and purpose, I first shared my own and offered them a glimpse of what motivates and scares me at the same time. The result…greater depth and fluidity in that session than the first. Don’t get me wrong, the first session held much value and the participants expressed appreciation and highlighted what they walked away with. You know, however, when something goes well versus when it lands particularly well right? That was the difference and the main adjustment was that I chose to show up as a co-learner who is also still striving.
There is a freedom that comes with vulnerability; a lightness that fills a space that becomes contagious. Who, in your life can benefit from catching a glimpse of your humanity and the truth that you too are still figuring it out? Which student, child, colleague, family member, etc.? Are you forfeiting a level of freedom by doing your level best to hold all of your life pieces together in the most perfect package? I invite you to go down the road less traveled of acknowledged imperfection. It’s a bit scary at first…I will admit, but so worth it.
By now, you know what I’ll ask as I close out…how does this resonate with you? Interested in pushing into a bit of vulnerability? Let me know. I’d love to hear how it goes! I’m sending you all sorts of positive energy and vibes😊.
In Solidarity and Love,