Acceptance of Vulnerability = Authentic Strength

By Haven Lindsey  in  blog  on  09.14.2014

Authentic strength. I made that up. I like inventing words. I often invent words and then forget they aren’t mainstream, that they only live in my mind not everyone else’s. Sometimes I’ll catch myself using one and laugh at the response I receive (although sadly, many folks never notice the non-word word). Romantical…a romantic setting. Digimentation…all the knobs and levers on an automobile or airplane dashboard. Holidial…a scene evoking any holiday, usually accompanied by lights or other hanging decorations. There are numerous Haven-created words. Authentic strength however, is a bit different from my silliness with words. Authentic strength is something we all have waiting to be unleashed.

                          “I understand now that the vulnerability I’ve always felt is the greatest strength a person can have.  You can’t experience life without feeling life.                
                                                              Elisabeth Shue

Our culture is very strength-oriented. We are taught that our country is the strongest; in order to succeed we must be strong, in order to not be hurt we must not acknowledge the pain. We’re taught that feeling our feelings and emotions are indicative of weakness and that closeting them is a sign of strength.

Our media hypes strength and its importance yet few of us really, truly understand what strength really is.

Being strong has nothing to do with being ruthless. Or insensitive. Being strong doesn’t mean you close yourself off to others or you close yourself off to your feelings. Strength doesn’t equate to being bigger, better or more equipped with bombs, resources, military, etc. It doesn’t even equate to education or money.

                                                   Strength comes only from weakness.

In nature, the strongest tree is the one that has been exposed to harsh winds or weather. It digs in, it holds on and it adapts to survival. It may not be the biggest or the prettiest, but it is without a doubt, the strongest.

In our work environment, the strongest person is the one who has been exposed to harsh situations. In humans this will result in humility and having compassion for others. The strongest person has empathy for someone else’s position, thoughts and agenda. The strongest person in your boardroom is not necessarily the loudest and may or may not be the one with the credentials or initials behind his or her name (that has little to do with strength). The strongest person on your team stands by his or her convictions and won’t be the person who unwaveringly agrees with the status quo.

Does that mean he or she isn’t a team player? Far from it. What it means, is the person is bringing authentic strength to your team. A person strong enough to present challenges, to ask questions and not accept everything on face value is a strong team player with an asset that cannot be taught.

Because strength…authentic strength…the real stuff (not the fake bravado strength) but the down-to-earth, unwavering strength will only surface when one’s weaknesses are allowed to emerge first. Weakness…vulnerability…and the acceptance of those are the secrets to Authentic strength.

Consider this: Who do you want working for you, with you, on your team, on your side as a companion and friend? The person who accepts his or her vulnerabilities and admits them without judgment or the person who erects barriers and behaviors to prevent his or her vulnerabilities from showing? Do you want to be and be around the person who embodies Bravado strength or Authentic strength?

“The hardest thing about being a leader is demonstrating or showing vulnerability…when the leader demonstrates vulnerability and sensibility it brings people together and the team wins.”
Howard Schultz

I know what our culture preaches, I see it, I hear it, I read it. I recognize what we are taught and I now know that does not make it right. Bullies aren’t strong, they’re scared to death. They live a fear-based existence. They are a pure example of those who cover up their vulnerabilities. Strength in anything and anyone has nothing to do with covering up vulnerabilities. Strength means recognizing and accepting vulnerabilities – we all have them. The strongest tree exposed to a harsh climate on the side of a mountain isn’t going to pretend it isn’t vulnerable to the elements. It’s going to accept the fact that it will never grow to be 40 feet tall. It will dig in, adapt and survive. Humans are the same way. When we are able to recognize our vulnerabilities and adapt, nothing can stop us. We too will dig in, adapt and survive.

Despite the current wordemic (a Haven-created word implying an overuse of a word) of the word “perfect” in our society, we aren’t perfect. There is no such thing as perfect – it does not exist in the human realm – only the opportunity to show to others just how unaware we are by using this word (refer to my July 11th blog). When we acknowledge we aren’t perfect and we have flaws that aren’t necessary to hide from, those flaws become smaller and our Authentic strength shines through – far outweighing the vulnerabilities.

When we accept our vulnerabilities, we accept ourselves. And the laughter you hear as a result? That’s Authentic strength laughing at just how silly it was to hide out in the first place.

Thanks for reading,
~ Haven

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