Peeling the Onion of Vulnerability: Bold Action for Women Leaders

Authenticity or Resilience

Vulnerability is the curtain that we all stand behind, deciding when and how to show our true selves. To be vulnerable means that you peel the onion, cry inside, but show up as yourself. Until we show our true selves no one can really connect to us. Strong women leaders are both vulnerable and resilient. We stand in our purpose and lead with intention. When I think of a leader, I first look to my late mother – then to myself. You cannot emulate what you do not see in yourself. I cannot make someone else my leader until I am willing to lead myself. Do you understand this?

What can women leaders do to be vulnerable and firm? Or should we even try?

For women, we are always masking who we are. Hiding what we feel. Feeling it but faking it. The inner turmoil has a narrative and it sounds like this: I’m tired of smiling when I want to cry. Tired of crying when I really want to yell at you. Tired of yelling when I really just want to quit. I’m tired of pretending that everything is okay when it’s all falling apart. I want to be vulnerable so I can just be me. I would rather not show you how I feel, at least not right now. I still need this job and if I show up as me, you might not like me anymore. Is this your inner narrative?

A bold argument can be made that we should not show our vulnerability, especially if you are a woman of color. I would argue that I am tired of showing up as someone else, so showing you who I am must happen right now.

The burden of not showing my vulnerability eats away at my soul – I’m sure it’s eating away at yours too.

So what do we do?

First, accept that you can be vulnerable and strong.

Second, resolve to show up calm and vulnerable. Remove the emotions from the vulnerability. That can be hard but it’s essential. You can balance vulnerability and emotions – (Note to self, I will have to write an article on that.) But for now, peel the onion – show people who you are. Let the curtain down even slightly.

Third, ask yourself bolder questions. What about this situation caused me to shift from openness to guard my emotions? What triggered the vulnerability? What am I learning about myself that I should share with others?

Sometimes, you just need to peel the onion, cry it out, decide that life is worthy of seeing all of you and today is the day you show up as your true self. Peel the onion, show them who you are.


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