A lot of our fear happens subconsciously, without us realising it. There is a voice in the back of our heads that tell us irrational things such as “you are not qualified” or “they will reject me”. We often find ourselves worrying about how other people perceive us, and we assume that it is true, without any evidence! But the good news? That voice is lying to us!
What is courage & vulnerability?
Let us add courage and vulnerability into our emotional vocabulary and explore its meaning and reality check against the myths associated with it.
“Courage – Courage is a heart word. The root of the word courage is cor—the Latin word for “heart.” Courage originally meant “To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.”
Today that means:
• Talking about how we feel
• Asking for what we need
• Being ourselves
• Being kind to others who are trying to be themselves
• Learning how to be brave and afraid at the exact same time” – Brene Brown
“Vulnerability – the feeling we get during times of uncertainty, risk, or emotional exposure. This includes times when we’re showing our feelings and we’re not sure what people will think and times when we really care about something and people will know that we are sad or disappointed when it doesn’t work out.” – Brene Brown
Let us debunk some of the myths regarding vulnerability. The first being, that we are either brave OR afraid. However, the reality is that we can be afraid and brave at the same time! Secondly, not indulging in any activity that makes us uncomfortable is still us being brave, not vulnerable! Lastly, being brave does not mean that you cannot feel scared. It means feeling scared, accepting the feelings, and moving ahead anyway!
The importance of vulnerability
Courage and vulnerability are important part of being successful in a personal or organisational setting. According to Brene Brown, vulnerability builds trust and elevates performance. We all struggle with things in our daily lives, and sharing them is not a sign of weakness, it is an incredible way to build trust.
Vulnerability is critically important to performance. If you do not have the skill or do not put effort into a job, you will only perform to a certain level. However, it is the vulnerability that takes you higher than that certain level. Vulnerability will not give you high performance in itself. Although you are already doing the work and performing adequately, an absence of vulnerability will hinder your ability to get to the next level.
The courage to not know
“It’s not fear that gets in the way of daring leadership; it’s armour.”
It’s important to ask ourselves how we react when things get tough? Do we step away and protect ourselves, or do we lean in and get curious? The heaviest armour is to be a “knower” or believing in always being right. Being a “knower” is a huge driver of deception, fabrication, and misstatement.
It sounds easy to be a curious learner rather than a “knower”. However, many people who feel the need to “know it all” may be experiencing shame, or in some cases, trauma. Sometimes it becomes a defence mechanism, and it is easy to buy into the belief that being a “knower” is the only value they bring into relationships and work.
“Knowing” can also be a cultural problem where some people are older and experienced; thus, they are deemed valued. Thus, other people will not speak up because they are not “senior enough” or “it’s not their place”. For example, a new employee will hesitate to share his/her thoughts in a meeting than the colleagues who had twenty years plus experience.
Three strategies to transform always knowing to always learning
- Name the issue. It is a tough conversation, but clear is kind.
- Developing skills to be curious should be made a priority – some people are naturally curious while others may not be. Usually, we assume that if others are not inquisitive, they do not care. However, its mainly because they may not know how to be curious!
- Acknowledging and rewarding great questions. For example, saying, “I don’t know, but I would like to find out”. The big shift here is from wanting to “be right” to “get it right!”
“We define grounded confidence as curiosity + the willingness to rumble with vulnerability + practice. While armour is our greatest barrier to being brave, grounded confidence is the heart of daring leadership.” – Dare to Lead by Brene Brown
Is courage more important than confidence?
We tend to use these words interchangeably, but the distinction is important. For example, a student struggling to speak in front of the class, “I want to feel confident enough to be able to speak.” The next question is, what comes first, courage or confidence? According to a few sociologists, courage comes first! Courage helps people start new things, and it helps to succeed when people begin something (e.g., a new business, a new job etc.). A lot of courage is needed since there is a lot of uncertainty regarding the outcomes, consequences, environment, and support.
Confidence is an outcome. It results from constant practice and allows you to improve your skills. It is beneficial to become familiar with a new project or behaviour (i.e., public speaking). Confidence is what happens when you deal with the unexpected and get positive, successful results.
“Courage is the conquest of fear. You can’t lose it; you can’t gain it; you can only exercise it or choose not to exercise it.”