Vulnerability is that feeling we get when we’re experiencing unpredictability and risk.
It’s that feeling we get when we show up and allow ourselves to be seen without any control over the outcome.
It’s that feeling we get when we’re
Asking a colleague for help
Telling a physician they’re making a mistake
Disagreeing with a manager’s opinion
Sharing a new idea with our boss
Asking for a raise
Talking about our fears and feelings in a team meeting
Confronting a coworker’s abusive behaviour
Holding people accountable for their actions
Admitting a mistake
Reporting a colleague
Mediating a conflict
Crying with someone
Delivering a speech
Practicing a new skill
Speaking up for what we need
If you’re like me, you can probably look at this list of behaviours and see things that you (or your colleagues) struggle with, or avoid altogether because it’s just too uncomfortable.
The thing about these behaviours is that they aren’t unique to nursing: they are human behaviours that require wading through vulnerability.
Part of the reason we fail to do the right thing as nurses is because we talk a lot about what’s important and what we’re expected to do in our work without talking about the discomfort, fear, shame and other feelings that get in our way.
When we don’t talk about the obstacles that show up, the best we can expect is status quo, conflict and burnout. When we’re too afraid to do what’s right, we avoid doing the vulnerable work we are called to do and spend an enormous amount of time doing damage-control.
Eventually, what gets in the way becomes the way.
Without working through vulnerability, it’s impossible to effectively lead, collaborate, innovate, advocate and maintain boundaries. It’s impossible to do any of the things we’re supposed to do as nurses.
As Brené would say, without rumbling with vulnerability, it’s impossible to do the work we need to do and do it well.
Vulnerability is rarely comfortable, it’s not always avoidable, but it is never weakness. It’s the only way.