Vulnerability has been a “hot topic” at work since we did some training a couple of years ago. In this training we had to read Daring Greatly from Brene Brown and practice “taking off the armor” and “being vulnerable”. This on its own is uncomfortable, and to do it with a group of coworkers is even worse. You are under the watchful eye of your supervisor as well as setting an example for the people you supervise so they know it’s ok to “lean into vulnerability”.
The Backstory: During my first work experience I was a junior imports buyer for a paper mill in Colombia. I was 19 years old and convinced I could do anything I wanted if I really tried. After a couple of negotiations with suppliers that treated me as a kindergartener that didn’t know what she was I went in tears to my supervisor and told him I felt really hurt and invalidated. As a 50 year old businessman he replied: “you need to act tough and show them you are in control, no crying or being a “softy”. This is when I started putting my armor up. I started being more aggressive with my proposals, doing my research and leaving meetings when I felt I was being disrespected. For the longest time I felt that I needed to prove my worth at work no matter how much experience I had and how many years had passed. This feeling of not being enough just grew as I entered a new culture, language and way of doing business when I moved to the US.
Due to some grant money we received as Boulder County, we designed a program for Case Managers and Workforce Staff. This program involved coaching training, motivational interviewing, positive and emotional intelligence and of course vulnerability in the form of Daring Greatly. In this book Brene describes the armor as a shield we use to “protect” who we are and what we think we need to hide from the world so we don’t get hurt.
This training came at a time in our team when a position as a supervisor had just opened and my boss asked me to apply. I had been a supervisor before for over five years and I always seem to have everything under control so she had no doubt I could do the job. In one of our sessions, we were talking about having a hard conversation and leaning into the discomfort it brings. I was paired up with a coworker and found myself just taking the whole armor off. I confessed how I felt I wasn’t good enough to be a supervisor in the US, how my english and my communication skills were not good enough and how supervising certain people could be challenging because of that.
Taking this armor off felt AMAZING! I wasn’t looking for her to reassure me or say that I was fully bilingual, I was just going back to that 19 year old that felt inadequate. After some coaching sessions we were able to define what was really the underlying issue that kept me from applying from the position and I was able to redo my resume, apply for the position and bring my full honest self to the interview. I was able to relate my past work experience and felt super comfortable answering the questions. Being vulnerable definitely paid off and guess what! I got the job. Thank you for taking the time to read my story! Just putting this out to the world makes me relive that moment of feeling exposed 🙂