3 Overlooked Truths About Vulnerability and Why You Need it in Your Blended Family
Ever try to "keep up appearances" — even in your own home?
As parents and step-parents we should have it together, right? We should know what to say in every conversation. We should know what to do in every situation.
I don’t know about you, but when I realize I don't always know what's right I start to feel like a phony. And I really don't want to be found out.
What's surprising is that being "found out" is exactly what you and I need in order to build authentic and lasting bonds in our stepfamily. We need to learn to be vulnerable.
Lessons from a Vulnerable Wise Guy
One leader from my previous career in Operations changed my life. Early in my career, Scott led our small team in a way that seemed fearless. He would rally us with confident speeches and inspire us with visions of the future. Scott was someone I looked up to, but I never believed I could attain his "greatness".
Then he began to spend some time with me one on one. Over months and years, he shared the truths under his big persona. He revealed his fears, his challenges and his struggles. He became a real guy.
He had the courage to be vulnerable. His vulnerability was a lesson in leadership at work and more importantly taught me three reasons I needed to be more vulnerable at home.
1 - Vulnerability Tears Down Walls
Vulnerability is contagious. The more Scott opened up to me, the more I was willing to be open with him.
This principle is true at home too.
When Annika (my step-daughter) hit her teen years, it seemed like connecting would be impossible. But each time I shared a little more of my story with her, the wall she seemed to be building between us started to come down.
As I was more open with her, she began to open up to me. This has been true with our other kids too. There have been stories that were difficult to tell, but every time I conquer that lump in my throat and get real — my kids get real too.
You can tear down walls too. Give it a try and take it slow. Just share one small, age appropriate story at a time. See what happens.
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2 - Vulnerability Builds Trust
After more than 20 years of hanging out with Scott, there's few people I trust more. His real-life vulnerability shows me he is willing to tell me the truth even when it's difficult for him. I know that he's more interested in my growth than saving himself from embarrassment.
Kids and step-kids need to know they'll get real-life answers to their challenging questions. Genuine vulnerability builds trusting bonds like nothing else. When they see you choke down some emotion and push through discomfort just to share something real, trust multiplies.
In a world that is continually sending kids conflicting messages, they need to know who to trust. Sharing your hurts, fears and hang-ups in a vulnerable way will bring some clarity to the confusing world they're facing.
By the way, I know that feeling of "they aren't really listening to me, so why should I open up?". Their blank stare and rigid body language doesn't change the power of your vulnerability. Annika is 22 now and I regularly get a little chuckle when she repeats the things Kim and I taught her in her teen years. Believe it or not — they're listening.
3 - Vulnerability Opens Possibilities
I never thought I could be anything like my mentor, Scott. He seemed larger than life and his level of leadership felt impossible to obtain. He could inspire a group or an individual to do just about anything. But, it was his vulnerability that showed me I didn't have to settle for inspiration — I could move toward aspiration.
The more I realized Scott had hurts and hang-ups just like I did, his level of wisdom and leadership was suddenly attainable. I began to discover that I could lead like him. I could inspire others. I could do what I thought was impossible.
Vulnerability opens up new possibilities for everyone around us. Getting real gives our kids and step-kids hope. They realize that the parents and step-parents who are leading the home, putting food on the table and making sure everyone's needs are met aren't actually all that different than them.
When we bear our ugly truths (appropriately), kids pay attention. They learn that someday they will be able to successfully lead a family too. They see that they can keep moving forward when they make a mistake. They realize if you can create success in your life (even though you're not perfect), they can do the same. Vulnerability makes the impossible, possible.
Face Your Fears
Vulnerability is difficult. It's embarrassing and emotionally draining. But the payoff of facing your fears is big.
In her book Rising Strong, author and researcher Brene' Brown says, "Vulnerability is not weakness, it's our greatest measure of courage."
Have the courage to get real with your kids and step-kids. Tear down walls and create connection. Build their trust in your wisdom and experience. Open up new thoughts and possibilities for their future. You'll be glad you did!
QUESTION: What ways are you going to be more vulnerable in your stepfamily? Leave a comment below…