Wednesday, April 09, 2014

soul food: on vulnerability

Two years ago I had a mentoring session with wonderful woman Samantha Gowing and yes we talked vision and strategy but it was the clanger that Sam dropped in my lap, that I wasn't expecting that rang in my ears and in my being for days...and still does.

Going into the session I knew if I was to get the most out of it, I had to be brutally honest and share what I was scared to share and face up to what I had to do differently to get the results I wanted. In short, I had to render myself vulnerable which is not something I do easily (does anyone?) I have at times in my life been a slave to perfectionism and to being overly independent: "I must do it all perfectly and do it all by myself" which ironically is something that my dear mum modelled to me and really I should have been able to see very clearly that it made her life harder.

In my mind, to ask for help means I have failed, means I am not good enough; in being perfect I prove my worthiness. When in reality I know I am perfectly imperfect but that is the trickery of the mind isn't it?!

I'm sharing this with you today for two reasons: the first one is a selfish reason I am working on changing my ways and what better place to practice than on the internet! And on a less selfish note I'm fairly sure I'm not alone on this one and figure sharing my experience and thoughts on this might be helpful to someone else.

So on we go. Even though my style is boho and my plate runneth over with lentils: I am in truth intensely ambitious. I want to be my best, I want to do more, achieve more, deliver more. I question this sometimes. Is it that I am trying to prove something, and who to? Or is it that I just want to live my life to its fullest capacity and not let a moment glide by?

In my session with Sam I took a deep breath and told her the number one thing I wanted to change: my tendency to play small. In essence my tendency, to hide. And then in bright flashing lights Sam beamed back to me, "You are modelling this to your children." OMG! moment. I had never for a second considered that.

I read once that we need a reason bigger than ourselves to change. My children are my reason.

What do I mean by playing small? I mean holding back, not revealing my truth because that would render me vulnerable and that is not something I want to be. This habit started young for me, growing up in a single parent family as the oldest child I took on the role of making life easy for others, even if it meant putting my dreams and desires on hold or to the side. It's not my intention to sound like a martyr or sound woe is me, I am just sharing where I noticed the pattern began. Without awareness there can be no change. This habit continued for me into my adult life and career.

Here I am a few months off turning 40 and it is time to come out of hiding, stop playing small and to live more truthfully by rendering myself vulnerable to rejection and criticism yes, but the flip-side of that is rendering myself more open to joy and success.

So, how to make the change? Well I have grappled with this over the last two years because playing small had become such an ingrained habit that I haven't really known how to change it.

But now I do. The answer my friends is to be honest, in every moment. To be quiet and listen and trust the voice within you that whispers quietly until you hear it loudly guiding you in every moment, it wants to be heard and more than that it wants to be revealed. Voicing your needs, dreams and desires and having them met does not mean that someone else misses out and suffers. We do no one any favours hiding our authentic selves, least our children.

Thank you Sam for shining a light on this for me x

If you relate to what I have written here take a look at Brene Brown's TED talks The Power of Vulnerability and Listening to Shame.

Can you relate to this? I'd love you to share your stories in the comments.


  1. What a beautiful post Nikki. I am definitely aware of modelling behaviour to my girls, but most of the time I am so concerned with making sure they know they are worth more than their looks that I forget about things like vulnerability and being scared.

    I'm the eldest of five and whilst I was not from a broken home, I have definitely taken on the older child thing of always being a carer. This is great for nurturing the girls and others but not so great for believing that I am more than what I can offer other people.

    I made a decision this year to blog more and put more of myself out there into the world... I want to create a record of my family's life from my perspective and share what I can with anyone who wishes to read. I find it so difficult though and constantly question whether anyone even cares what I have to say, am I just rehashing what a dozen other bloggers wrote about three months ago... am I interesting enough. I had an epiphany the other day... I need to just write for my daughters. One day when I am gone, this record of their early life will live on and I want them to know me as I am now seeing as this part of my life is such an important one.

    I love what you're doing with your blog. I really enjoy seeing more of your family as you seem to embody similar values as mine does. Please keep opening up online and sharing yourself and your vision.

    Namaste Nikki, Luna. x

    1. Luna I so appreciate you taking the time to write in such a thoughtful and honest way. Perhaps it is a universal trait of eldest children to be the nurturer! Your blog is beautiful and honest and can only be written by you because as obvious as it is to say there is only one you! Yes Yes you are enough :) I am so glad you had the epiphany you did it is perfect and true. You too keep opening up and sharing your story. Thank you again for what you have shared xx

  2. I can absolutely relate to this post for all sorts of reasons, Nikki. Two things shine out at me: one is that you are a very complex, talented and interesting person and two is that if you are anything like me, you play small because you can control small. I am working on being comfortable when I lack control and it's such a hard thing to do! Building up the confidence to be vulnerable is such a hard thing to do! But we are nothing if we are not a work in progress. I have taken great comfort lately in Martin Luther King's words: "Believe in youself and believe that you're somebody. Nobody else can do it for you." x

    1. Bron thank you so much for your words here (actually brought tears to my eyes!!) another big aha moment in your words - play small because we can control small - yes!! Never thought of it that way before, because all that goes with playing big the mere thought makes my breathing shallow. Wow all so interesting. Thanks again, your words have really resonated with me and given me great comfort and strength in going forward with this to know I am not the only one! xx


Thanks for your comments. I read every one!

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