I had a conversation recently that led me to contemplate the concept of vulnerability. It can be difficult to be vulnerable, especially with regards to your career. Despite being difficult, it can be a very valuable, helpful and cathartic experience.
Vulnerability in the Workplace
In many situations throughout our lives, we hide or change parts of our personality. We wear the masks that we think others want to see. Billy Joel said it well in his hit The Stranger:
“We all have a face that we hide away forever
And we take it out to show ourselves when everyone has gone”
Sometimes, it seems like we can only be authentic when we are alone, or with our closest friends and family members. It’s important to be authentic with all of the meaningful people in your life—and that includes your colleagues at work.
We all Wear Masks
Our personalities have many different aspects. It’s completely natural to feel like you’re “not yourself” from time to time. In fact, the word personality is derived from the Latin word “persona.” Persona referred either to a character being played, or the physical mask worn by a character. So, the idea that we put on masks as part of our “personality” isn’t new; it’s built right into the word.
To a certain extent, knowing how to conduct ourselves in different situations, and being able to control our emotions is a good thing. It’s necessary, and we all do it—some better than others. But it can be draining, and if we choose or are forced to keep it up constantly, it can be debilitating.
Our Authentic Selves
Allowing yourself to be authentic and vulnerable, to show the different facets of your personality and character, can be a very positive experience. Showing your true self, even if that means being a bit insecure, invites more authentic connections with people, and allows you to recharge.
Learning from the Queen
Now what does all this have to do with Queen Elizabeth? Good question. I was recently watching the (fantastic) film Mary Queen of Scots. The juxtaposition of these strong-willed and ambitious women, with the vulnerable side that we see, especially in Margot Robbie’s portrayal of Queen Elizabeth I was striking. I was enthralled by the many different facets of the character. How her strength and vulnerability came together to create such a successful and powerful woman was inspiring.
You can imagine that a ruling monarch would have strength and fortitude, leadership skills and determination—even in the face of discrimination or lack of confidence. Robbie portrayed this strength, and the perseverance of Queen Elizabeth quite well. I was particularly taken when she delivered a line about “acting like a man, and thinking like a man” in order to survive in her role.
Vulnerability as a Strength
But that wasn’t the entire character. The reason this was such a powerful film, and why Queen Elizabeth is such an engaging character, is because she has a vulnerable, human side as well. With her ability to reconcile these two sides, she was able to achieve much more than anyone at the time thought possible. By being able to connect with people, and forge trusting relationships, while still being determined and goal-oriented, Queen Elizabeth was able to become… well, Queen Elizabeth.
Being able to be vulnerable is not an indication of weakness. Quite the opposite, in fact. I’ve even titled my book From Vulnerable to Invincible, because I know that one follows from the other. The way people regard you, connect with you, and relate to you will begin to change in ways you didn’t realise possible, when you allow them to see the authentic you.
I’m glad that I watched Mary Queen of Scots. It really got me thinking about this topic of vulnerability as a strength, and just how far it can take you. As with many parts of our mindset, it takes practice and persistence to be able to open up in this way. I encourage you to practice letting your guard down, taking your mask off, and being your true self again. Get in touch today to start achieving your true potential!