What happens when young children fall? Do you remember when you were a child, what message you heard from your parents after you tumbled down the slide or fell off the swing?
In my role of Mother, I spend quite some time with little people these days, mainly between one and five years of age. Falling is a sheer constant. Some children fall and get up; some cry extensively until Mama comes and cocoons them in a hug; some cry, stop and look around for the parent and get up; some cry, stop and look around for the parent and burst into more tears as they cross their parents’ gaze.
There is pain and there is the perceived suffering of the pain which is essentially linked to the learned behaviour: what is expected of me when I am hurt.
Over the last three years, I have refined my approach to falling and what I say to my children, I also say to my inner child.
Here is the question: how do you want to feel when you fall and feel the hurt?
The answer to this question is very independent to the fall itself. It’s an inner decision.
As adults, we rarely fall down the swing but we experience every day the hurt of falling: when our projects fall apart; when our relationships meet a spiky hurdle; when our request gets rejected; when we apply to a job and no response comes; when we don’t know the answer… The list is endless isn’t it?
Human beings are programmable. This means that whatever our experience and learned behaviour towards failure, we can decide the moment we take the leadership of our self to shift our pattern.
I used to be a warrior; the type who falls and gets up without even feeling the hurt. I could be bleeding and I would overlook the pain. This worked wonders for me for many years. Until I reached that stage in my life where I realised that this approach to life was making me more of a robot than a human being. When my children came into the picture, I really wanted to drop my spear and shields to embrace vulnerability. I soon came to realise that vulnerability is an attribute of life I couldn’t do without at home or at work, with my loved ones or with strangers.
Luckily, at the same time, Brene Brown’s research on wholehearted living, shame and vulnerability became very popular. If you haven’t seen her TED Talk, please do so. It’s worth every minute.
She explains brilliantly how vulnerability is a key ingredient of what we yearn for: love, connection, creativity, belonging…
What closes vulnerability down is the shame we carry within us. We believe that if we are vulnerable, we will be mocked; we will be rejected; we will be dismissed.
Actually, it is so quite the opposite. Please conduct an examination right now for yourself: how do you want to live? What leader do you want to be? What parent do you want to be?
When my children fall, I want to let them cry their tears without feeling judged because I trust that then can process the pain. I want to tell them:
Yes it hurts; falling sucks. you so wish you would fly on that swing without ever falling. Where does it hurt you? How do you feel. You know, in life, we fall, we get hurt and we hurt others. It’s ok. I love you, no matter how many times you fall and I trust that you have all it takes to get up. If the hurt is really too big, I am here for you. There is no fall that you cannot go through. Get up now.
When I am working with my team, I want to be the leader who doesn’t have the answers but guide in the dark; I want to explore into the unknown trusting the solution will come no matter how often I fall; I want my team to trust they will get up and will be fine.
This is how I want to wire my children and this is how I am rewiring myself to embrace vulnerability and trust.
I am an entrepreneur at heart and a leader and I love this quote from Brene Brown’s book: Daring Greatly.
“When you shut down vulnerability, you shut down opportunity.”
I invite the leader and entrepreneur of life within you to embrace your vulnerability and let go of these old ghosts and voices within you that scream you are less than enough and you should worry about what others think and it’s not good to show your weaknesses. Bury them in the past and flush their memories.
The world needs creative, open-hearted people who are saying yes to life without safety net.
Under the fear of this leap there is a whole new world awaiting where leaders show who they really are, imperfect human beings striving for excellence, connection and belonging.
Let’s rip ourselves open and dive into this world. The more we are, the less grip fear will have on us!