Can Vulnerability Increase Confidence?

by | Oct 24, 2017 | General

Holly Moore, Marketing Intern

Studies show that women struggle more with confidence in the workplace than their male counterparts. We all know the fears of putting yourself out there: fear of rejection, mockery, even retaliation. Many of us internalize these responses until they become part of our identity. We take the fear too far.

Women can be their own worst confidence killer. 

According to one recent article, there are several ways that women undercut their own confidence:

1. Modest women are afraid to speak about their accomplishments and will not be seen or recognized for their work; they secretly hope that their hard work speaks for them .

2. Women are very reluctant to ask for promotions, raises, and award nominations.

3. Women miss out on stand-out opportunities because they put so much effort into blending in.

4. When the fear leads to silence, the really brilliant ideas are suppressed as well.

The article continued on to say that “[they’ve] found in [their] work that career momentum for women is not about adding job skills but about changing everyday thinking and behaviors.”

Is it possible that a key ingredient to building confidence in women could be embracing vulnerability? 

Brene Brown, a researcher and storyteller, claims that “vulnerability is the courage to show up and be seen.” In a Forbes article, David Williams, a serial entrepreneur, wrote about how the best leaders are vulnerable, based on a recent talk by Brene Brown. He outlines the four main ideas of vulnerability.

1. Vulnerability is a strength because, as Brown calls it,: “the most accurate measure of courage.” When has courage ever been seen as a weakness?

Brown writes on her website that “vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.”

2. Vulnerability cannot be ignored or avoided. By Brown’s definition is it the essence of uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure.

3. While many cringe at the idea, vulnerability is not being overly personal and sharing the messy parts of life with co-workers. Brown gives examples for workplace vulnerability as taking responsibility for mistakes, being willing to ask for help, reaching out to a colleague during a loss, and many others. It brings a “human connection back to the workplace” writes Emma Seppala, a Science Director at Stanford University, in her article about the benefits of vulnerability by bosses.

4. Going it alone is not an option. Guidance is necessary and beneficial to almost any process. Brown also writes that “vulnerability is the absolute heartbeat of innovation and creativity. There can be zero innovation without vulnerability.”

If vulnerability leads to trust then the benefits to raise confidence are endless.

Trust in the workplace allows for risks to be taken because there is freedom to own mistakes and potential for forgiveness. There is also room for input, collaboration, and the sharing of ideas because a bad idea does not equate to a poor performance. Trust often changes the game in a workplace. Employees often feel the freedom to be themselves in an atmosphere of trust.

While vulnerability allows for much growth in countless areas of life, it is important for us to think about where in our lives are we confident being vulnerable. As we consider the positive aspects of vulnerability, let’s ask ourselves one of Brene Brown’s questions: “What would you be glad you did–even if you failed?”

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