“…and that visibility which makes us most vulnerable is that which also is the source of our greatest strength.” ~ Audre Lorde
We want to make a good impression. We want to keep up appearances. We want to look like we have it all together. We put our best foot forward. We show off the new shoes, the new style, or at least the new polish. Sure, there is a time and place for that. A job interview. A first date. A wedding celebration.
In fact, truth be told, there are some moments when I do have it together. There are some moments when I am in the zone (or flow), that it seems everything is coming naturally to me. I have the answers. I’m walking the walk.
But those moments are fleeting.
Most of the time I am flailing away trying to learn, grow, and improve as a husband, father, educator, runner, writer or friend. Sometimes, it is downright embarrassing to admit my need for help. It is humbling to share that I don’t have my stuff together. I’m an adult. I’m a professional. I’m a leader. I feel like I should be better at many things by now.
And that feeling; that “I should be better”, is an important crossroads for our feet.
We can walk in the direction of trying to keep up appearances. We can work feverishly to keep up a reputation (that probably isn’t as bullet-proof as we assume). We can put our best foot forward and continue to flail away in private, filled with insecurity and self-imposed shame.
Or we can take a more direct approach. A brave approach. A step into authenticity, by putting our worst foot forward.
Instead of trying to maintain an appearance of greatness, we can dare greatly, and be vulnerable. Expose our weakness. Shine the light on them.
“I take pleasure in my weaknesses…for when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Cor 12:10
When I conceal my weaknesses, it feels like I’m living a double-life. It’s duplicitous. I’m acting one way to peers, students, friends, or family; while deep down hoping to not be found out. What if they uncover that I’m not a writing guru? What if they see I’m not the math whiz that many of them are capable of becoming? What if they discover I don’t always get the theme of a book, or I don’t like to read fantasy, or I don’t really understand how to effectively align my instructional practices with the Common Core?
Walking around with my best foot always forward is crippling. I’m limping. Everyone sees it, but I won’t admit it. It discredits me. It reveals a glaring hole in my role as lead learner when I am unwilling to admit my need to learn.
In her wonderful book “Daring Greatly”, Brene Brown suggests we embrace authenticity. That we dare greatly, through being vulnerable. In essence, that we put our worst foot forward.
Now granted, there is a time and place for this. I’m not saying everyone wants to see your nasty foot. Some people aren’t safe. Other people would love to see your weakness, because they don’t see you as a teammate, but a competitor. Yet even in that scenario, authenticity can be preferred.
So how can I live this out practically?
One way is to surround myself with authentic people. People who acknowledge having some feet in need of help like I do. Luckily, I have friends like that. I’m blessed to work in an environment at school where many of my peers embrace their role as lead learners, and openly discuss their desire for collegial input into their instructional practices. I have a principal who leads authentically. In my online PLN, I’m building relationships with colleagues around the globe who also are walking authentically, honest about their desire for help and input.
So when I stand in front of my students, I want to be genuine. When I meet with colleagues on my school team, I want to be vulnerable. When I tweet, or blog, I want to be real. I tell my students that learning is a safe endeavor. I implore them to be risk-takers. I encourage them to dare greatly, unafraid of making mistakes, because if we haven’t made a dozen mistakes before lunch we aren’t trying hard enough.
I believe that being vulnerable with my weaknesses, allows me to grow. I believe that acknowledging my need for others, makes me strong. I believe that if I put my worst foot forward, you’ll help me polish it.