On Vulnerability

Several things have come at me lately and a common theme has emerged from them: being vulnerable.

I've been chatting with people about my fear of commitment -where it might come from, how can I overcome it - and I've simultaneously been trying to grow as a leader in my career(s) as well. (Yes, I now have two of them. Yes, I take on a lot of activities, don't psychoanalyze me. There'll be plenty of time for that as you keep reading...).

So I took a course recently that included receiving feedback from people who report to me at work. And that feedback, along with things I'm learning about how I date, all point to the fact that: I might have some walls up.

And I actually believe I'm one of the more open and authentic people you'll meet. I mean read any posts in this blog, for example, and you'll see I have no issues sharing my embarrassing moments and reflections on life. I cry whenever I feel like it -whether I'm at a friend's house or in a public Mexican restaurant after a breakup... (Sorry Sean, Rebecca, and anyone else who have had to sit there while I cry in a public Mexican restaurant after a breakup...) -and I do share things I'm going through. I mean, I'm an extrovert: we have to share all the feelings with everyone.

Buzzfeed

But I definitely have fought fear of commitment in relationships (which I never realized until I was chatting with a male friend about dating and I said something about "weakness" in a guy being a huge turn off for me, to which he surprisingly came back with "man are you afraid of commitment!" I just sat there blinking, not able to connect the two things in my Goldfish Poodle brain. But now, years later, I'm hearing that message again...) So I'm willing to go down the path of self-discovery. For a little while. Like a quarter mile. Like half the distance I'd walk for Starbucks. Because, hey, why not try a new paradigm?

When I was growing up, I somehow found myself playing "responsible" roles at times, being a strong little calming force and voice of reason in situations, even around adults. I liked it. It gave me a role to play and it made me feel strong and capable as I grew up. But apparently stuff like that can really tick off your "inner child" or something




...and then that kid rises up and acts out in various ways in your adulthood.

(which is probably why I end up doing things like This.


....Or This.
Yes those are fairy wings. No I don't want to explain.

But, is that really a "problem"? Heck, some people smoke cigarettes to deal with stress. I don day-glo makeup or bounce around in human-sized gerbil balls with other "adults." Live and let live!

And here's my other issue: I don't know that I want to be "fixed" of my lack of vulnerability/angry inner child-ness if it means changing who I am.

DC is a vacuum for Type A over-achievers. Many people here have walls up. This city would make Home Depot jealous with all the dry wall walking around, protecting us, holding in all our Crazy. No one wants to show vulnerability. When I first started working at the White House a guy literally told my coworker that it was "sink or swim around here!" (that guy went on to be a Navy SEAL so clearly he's very good at not sinking, but still. A little dramatic to hear fresh out of college...). Who wants to show weakness in a town where that's the environment? You'll sink.

So I and my walls fit right in here. I'm hesitant to "fix" them -- what if they are what drive me forward??

So many people achieve things because of some belief that they need to prove something -- maybe it's just to themselves, but still. That drive often comes from lacking something (perhaps the ability to be vulnerable). But so what if that is what gives you drive? At least you have drive, right? (I can see some of your horrified expressions now. She will never have meaningful relationships....)  But really, what if I go down a path of self-discovery, only to come out on the other side a neutered lamb content to stay indoors and never do things like this again?
DC Dana: Tough Mudder
That would be tragic!

What if this lack of vulnerability is what constantly sends me straight into some really fun adventures? Maybe it's why I loved disaster response work, or why I wanted to join the military and am not hesitant to enter conflict zones.

And don't we need people with that desire? Wouldn't we have countless open jobs for things like air evacuation EMTs, firefighters, and Special Forces if everyone was tapped into vulnerability? Maybe every person in those roles are driven by their really angry inner child. Is it opening Pandora's box to try to get everyone to be more vulnerable?

I'm taking a risk and hoping not. I've listened to Brene Brown praise vulnerability and I'm willing to see if she's on to something (See her awesome TED talk below). And now if you'll excuse me, there are some things I'd like to mark off my To Do list before I get too in touch with my inner child and potentially lose all of the ambitious drive I currently have for everything.... (Just kidding. Sort of.)