When vulnerability is your dance partner

image by Kinga Cichewicz at unsplash

image by Kinga Cichewicz at unsplash

I spend a lot of time helping people get really intimate with the ways that vulnerability operates in their lives. 

We're talking down and dirty, full-body mud-wrestling, rather than a limp, politely offered handshake.

Today, my friend and colleague Petra Velzeboer, pressed a button, and the conversation we recorded months and months ago, is live on the inter webs, as part of her 'Adversity to Advantage' podcast.

Crazy fool that I am, I chose to share my infertility story as my adversity. 

Just a little light press of a button with Petra's index finger (I say this for dramatic effect, I didn't actually check...) and a part of my story and sharing out there, for folks to hear, should they feel inspired to listen.

And not the tidy tale where I've got it all under control, either. 

It's so much easier to share the carefully crafted image of the identity we've created for ourselves, who we think we should be, with carefully edited thoughts and opinions.

It's much, much harder, to let people see the parts we wish they wouldn't see. 

Blimey, sometimes it's hard to admit them to ourselves.

The things we're really thinking.

What we're really feeling. 

Especially if they're 'unpopular' feelings. Envy, hostility, disgust, disappointment, shame.

The old me would rather have eaten my own head than let anyone know that I felt anything less than rainbows-and-unicorns most of the time.

The current me has learned though, that letting people see us, real and messy, in process, alive and (like all of us) finding our way through this crazy, beautiful world, is the only way to go if we want to create a deeper connection.

And trying to edit my truth is like trying to squeeze a normal sized foot into a teeny tiny Cinderella glass slipper.

Uncomfortable, impossible, unnecessary and painful.

I've learned that when I hide parts of myself in order to fit in, or look better to others, I'm betraying myself and I'm not helping the people in my life know who I am, really, either.  Hiding, if you like.

Healthy vulnerability is about my willingness to be seen, in the ways that I choose to share, and with the people I trust enough to tell my story. Or - in this case - in being willing to be known by whomever listens, just-as-I-am. 

(We do need a good support network, I've learned. The ability to call on people who will champion and cheer us on, tell us the truth, love us in our imperfectly perfectness.)

When I'm not feeling rainbows and unicorns, I'm able to use the feelings from what's difficult, edgy or not-what-I-want, as creative rocket fuel to write a new story for myself.

I am the person who stopped wishing wistfully for the life she thought she should be living, and started living and creating from the one she was actually in.

Turning round the unwanted, to face the wanted. 

Denying that stuff just keeps us stuck and small, with no room to expand, transcend, evolve.

So listen if you must. 



On Leaping

Picture by Jake Ingle at unsplash.com

Picture by Jake Ingle at unsplash.com

I once got told by a coach that I should 'pee, or get off the pot', when showing up to my coaching work, which led to me taking what felt like a giant leap and huge risk by taking voluntary redundancy with my at-the-time employer.

She didn't say 'pee' though.

I digress.

Almost immediately after leaping, a new job appeared and I've been busy with that for the past three years, on top of working with a small client caseload, and delivering a few workshops but I still really didn't get around to doing 'my own work in the world' in as wide a way as I'd like. Not like world domination or anything, just getting up in the morning and knowing that I'm bringing all I've got, in a way that I'm in charge of. You know?

There's this thing that's been building in me for a while. I have been feeling constrained by having a full-time job, as much as I love the people I work with, appreciate the culture of the company that I am employed by, and value so much of the work that we do.

The leader and freedom-seeker in me has been calling me for a while to make more room in my week for doing more of my own 1:1 coaching work, preparing for the next the Daring Way and Wholehearted Living workshops in September (would love to see you there, if that is your kind of thing!) and for saying yes to exciting projects that are coming my way.

Here's the thing I know about me and risk: we're not exactly old friends.

My old patterning has had me stay as stable and safe as possible, with very little boat-rocking, and certainly no jumping out of safe and secure jobs into the void of the unknown. 

Safe, but feeling stale and too small and unfulfilling for me.

In my own coaching yesterday my coach shared with me this Indiana Jones video where he has to take the first step before the path appears (the 'leap' is at minute 0:50 for those of you who like to get to the point quickly).  

I have known for some time that my next step is to go part-time, or freelance for my current employer, so I can do All The Other Things. In that moment where Coach challenged me to take the leap, here's what my inner defeatest told me:

Whoa. This Is Scary.

You're not going to have any money. Nobody will hire you or want to work with you and you will end up alone, living out of a trolley in the street. Fact.

WTF are you doing?


We're not doing that.

It's not that bad!

It's too huge a step.

Nopity Nope Nope. No.

Should we eat something? A biscuit, maybe?

Let's distract ourselves. Netflix! Facebook! Fridge-raiding! Organising the office!

Ok.  Let's analyse the options one more time.



My wisest self was saying:


Freedom. Expansion. Creativity.

Make Something Happen.

This is *so* exciting.

Yes! Do it!


In the next moment, I'm agreeing that I will speak with the manager in my company today and explore the options for a win/win.

They get to keep my enthusiasm and commitment for the work I do for them, and I get more freedom to create and play and work on other projects.

I didn't fret over the choice, I didn't even really plan what I was going to say. I've been living with the request for months, only I've been ignoring it so far as Taking Action goes.

I just needed to decide. Asking for what I need wasn't so scary. The decision to ask for what I needed, was the scariest part.

Like when you jump out of a plane - the anticipation - the bit before you jump - is far worse than the actual falling. That feels like Freedom, and Excitement, and Flying!

Today I had the conversation, and very soon, I'm going to not be full-time employed any more.

I thought I'd feel amazing, and brave, and WOW.

I actually just feel, calmly like 'This is cool. The next natural step'.

A wise coaching buddy of mine said yesterday 'the funny thing about faith, is that you only need it when things are uncertain - you don't look for it when everything is going well'.

I'm stepping into the unknown, because for the first time that I have chosen it, I won't know what my income will be.

And it doesn't feel brave, or scary any more. It just feels wise, and normal. And there's a tiny hint of aliveness and excitement, which I make up will build in the coming days as I realise what I've made room for.

And I'm excited. Cos instead of controlling everything that happens in my week, I'm following my inner guidance and letting something new emerge. I'm 'walking my talk'.

And I realise this is how it feels to trust that things are going to work out just fine as I carve my own path.


How about you? Do you have something calling you to leap that feels scary, but isn't going away? I'd love to know about it. 

Feel free to share in the comments below, or get in touch if you are interested in learning more about workshops based on topics like these - I'd love you to take a look at the Daring Way pages for details!

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Shame Starts Young

I'm at my weekly aerobics class and in the line in front of me is a young boy, about seven or eight, he's come with his mum and aunty and it's his first class.

Halfway through the first song, after throwing himself into the moves, and getting them mostly wrong - it's the first time he's ever done them remember - he rushes out of the front row, sits on the steps at the front of the hall, makes his tear-stained eyes and flushed cheeks invisible to us by putting his head in his hands, and he refuses to look at, or speak to his mum, aunty, or anyone else trying to offer him encouragement.

Disconnected. Shut down. Moved away.

How many of you remember moments from childhood when time stood still because you were told off, or got something wrong, or didn't do something perfectly, or were bullied, or felt like you stood out in the most excrutiatingly painful way? I know I do.

And how many of you are still living those patterns today?

I was struck by how I could be witnessing a shame storm right there, in that young boy. I make up that he tried, he couldn't do it perfectly first time, he quit.

That young boy is a potential leader, potential surgeon, potential politician, potential husband and father, and it's possible that that moment in the class could have frozen him into a pattern of being seen that will show up again and again in his adult life.

He moved with his mum and aunty to the back row, and later in the class I saw him laughing and joining in, safe out of the limelight and able to give being awkward and just learning the steps another.

Ordinary courage is getting up again when you fall.

How are you with getting up again when you fall? I'd love to hear what you think in the comments below.


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I teach around topics like this. If this post resonated for you, please consider taking a look at scheduled workshops.


what to do when you fail at empathy

Image credit: Dayne Topkin at unsplash.com

Image credit: Dayne Topkin at unsplash.com

You know those people who never seem to mind or notice what others think of them?

Well, that's never been me.

Once upon a time, I was someone who thought the worst thing you could do was to be disapproved of or to upset someone.

So you can imagine my angst as I read these words, in response to a reply I had written to a fellow student on my course:

'Jacqui, I felt uncomfortable when I read your words, and I don't appreciate this kind of comment'.

Uh-ho. Shame-shit-storm alert. Heart pounding. Time slows down. I'm holding my breath.

Here we were, learning about empathy, connection, and trust. And here's me, having failed at that.

I'm such an idiot.

I got it wrong-got-it-wrong-got-it-wrong-got-it-wrong GOT IT WRONG.

What's a girl to do, mid shame-storm?

Ok. Type reply. Make sure he knows he interpreted my message incorrectly. Put him right. Defend myself. TAKE HIM DOWN.

Typed it. Felt bad. Deleted it.

Stomped around the house, huffing and puffing. Said 'nothing!' in a bright, breezy voice when hubby asked what was wrong. Felt like my insides were coming off. Totally disengaged my brain.

Pause. Wait a moment. Pay Attention.

I'm having a shame attack. Name it. Shame shame shame.

Reach out. Tell my story to someone who has earned the right to hear it. A colleague I trust.

Her reply was like a cooling balm on my burning shame-iness.

"Bravo for reaching out. You're in the arena. I'm here. What do you need?".

Shame can't survive in the warm embrace of empathy, of being seen, and knowing we're not alone.

Ok. Deep breath. Circle back. Put this right.

New reply typed, from a wholehearted, open, honest place. Connection made with original poster. We see each other. This is the work.


Over to you.

What's your experience? What happens for you when you fail?  What works for you when someone is trying to understand how you feel?  I would love to hear what you have to say.


Share this post.

If you've enjoyed this post, please share it on Facebook and Linked In to the friends and colleagues you feel would enjoy it too by clicking the 'Share' icon below.

I run workshops around topics like this. If this post resonated for you, please look at scheduled workshops.