I used to think I needed to do these things because people would listen to me if I had accomplished enough. That being a doer, a go-getter, and having mental toughness would be the superpowers that would take me straight to the top. It felt easy to imagine standing on my story of being the girl who graduated from West Point, flew helicopters, completed a half-ironman, rolled out of bed and ran a 50K race one day, etc, etc...
After all, don't we get hired because of all the fabulous things on our resumes & the achievements we have under our belts? Isn't THAT what impresses people & makes them love us?
What I've discovered in the last few years is that not one of those big, bad challenges was as scary as learning how to demonstrate another superpower. Vulnerability.
Years ago I would have rather run a marathon or ruck march up the side of a mountain than display what I considered to be weakness by sharing my fears. By sniveling about what I'd overcome in the past.
Whaaaa. Poor me. Why bother others with my sob stories? After all, I had learned to suck it up & drive on...wouldn't most people rather hear about my results than my breakdowns?!
In a word, no.
What I have discovered has been surprising & a bit of a relief. People actually love & appreciate me for my failures just as much, if not more, as they love me for my successes. My faults are not liabilities...they are my humanity. And my wins become boring if that is all I ever share. People tune out. No one on the planet bounces from success to success to success...and so it's hard to get inspiration from those who talk about nothing but all the things they've done right.
I remember one particular evening when a friend & I decided to play a little game we like to call "vulnerability chicken." We decided to share our deepest, darkest secrets in service of creating a closer connection. To share the things we never said out loud to other people because we were SURE saying them would lead to the certain death of the friendship. Our mistakes. Our regrets. The things that still haunt us in those silent moments when we get a little too inside our heads.
I remember telling him something I felt was so horrible and embarrassing. I could barely look him in the eyes when I said it.
And then I waited.
Much to my surprise, instead of judgement, I was met with compassion & acceptance. And then my friend opened up about some of his own personal battles...which made me love him even more. In fact, I couldn't believe he'd been holding in these things he called deep, dark secrets. To me they felt like the same kind of mistakes we all make navigating life.
I think that night was truly the first night I stopped holding my breath. Stopped wondering when my mistakes would catch up with me & my flaws would cost me a friendship. It was the night I learned sharing these parts of my journey are not only healing for me...but for others who may need reassurance as well. And that people don't love me in spite of my mistakes...they actually love me more because of them.
That kind of acceptance was the best feeling I had ever had. And I knew that if I could be that accepting of everyone I met (because don't many of us fear that "if people only knew ______, there's no way they would accept me?!"), I would be giving people the greatest gift I ever could.
So from the bottom of my heart, because my friend showed me so much compassion & understanding in my imperfections, I want you to know that you are amazing. Exactly. As. You. Are.
I see you. I appreciate you. And I thank you for being my friend.