Don’t use shame, guilt, or judgment to keep you impenetrable, not open, or unmoving.
My work as a conflict resolution consultant and self-reflection enthusiast leads me to think and write about vulnerability quite often. The power of vulnerability threads through everything, and helps me with defining conflict resolution methods and the conflict resolution process.
My personal story gives me plenty of material for this much sought-after subject matter helping me define for me “what being vulnerable” means and just how to become vulnerable.
My recent experiences in life have allowed me to put another piece of the puzzle together and that is that there is a connection between vulnerability, shame, and judgment.
Shame and judgment are the tools by which many of us have successfully resisted vulnerability over extended seasons in our lives. We relentlessly shame and judge to make ourselves, and others, seem unworthy of true vulnerability.
In a recent coaching session, a client confided in me that they had given up on pursuing a career in their dream field. They had smashed their career vision against a wall of disappointments and broken career promises.
“I am not willing to be vulnerable again, I can’t get my hopes up again," they said.
This client, around 40 years of age, experienced the disappointment of a couple of promised career moves that never materialized. They put incredible hope into the promised opportunities only to see them materialize for someone else. With these disappointments came the onset of fear, shame, and judgment.
Fear of experiencing the emotions that accompany vulnerability coupled with shame and judgment turns into a weapon that we can then use on ourselves!
Instead of looking at the situation from a solution-oriented focus, many only see the disappointments through a “something is wrong with me” lens. My client went on to list all the things wrong with them: poor interviewer, terrible at self-marketing, too many different jobs, not enough experience, only a graduate-level degree, not enough education, etc. etc. etc..
Shame and self- judgment distorted their face as they self-analyzed.
I softly and openly listened.
The more tightly they held onto their decision not to be vulnerable, the more aggressively they had to place shame and judgment squarely in this equation onto themselves.
Where there is a lack of shame, guilt, and judgment, that is where true authentic vulnerability finds a haven.
Some of us have learned to shame and judge others rendering them unworthy of our vulnerability, being open, and so much more. Others consume a steady diet of internalized and externalized shame and judgment. We judge ourselves and then we judge others thinking that no one is worthy of vulnerability, especially not us.
After listening for a while, I suggested to my client that they should take the focus off of the job problem and start to reconnect with their vision of their dream career.
From that place, my client was better able to weigh the various options. We spent a few minutes looking at the disappointments from a coaching perspective.
- What did they learn from the experiences?
- What might they do differently with the next opportunity?
- How can they hope again and stay realistic about promises made by people who may not have the authority to make them?
- What concrete actions will they take to improve their self-marketing skills?
As they spoke about the truth of the disappointing job scenarios, I could see that look of what could be returning the sparkle in the eyes. This allowed the opening to plan their next move around their dream career vision and not use shame and judgment against their own ability to be vulnerable.
- Notice when you are shaming and judging yourself or someone else:
- Take a few minutes to grapple with the fear and self-doubt you are experiencing?
- What is your focus at that moment? Your limits and problems or your goals and dreams around that focus?
- What are your goals and dreams? How will you get there on a path of shame and judgment?
- What life dreams have you given up on because you reject vulnerability? Hope?
Don’t use shame and judgment to keep you impenetrable, not open, or unmoving. If you can allow yourself to hope again, you can get clear about the vision you have for your life. Be wise and acknowledge the truth about the circumstances that have shaped your perspective.
Learn from your challenges and disappointments and allow yourself to be vulnerable again.
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