Vulnerability, bravery and being worthy

Sarah-Colgate

written by Sarah Colgate

Self Awareness | Business Tips for 2024

February 23, 2021

I have avoided vulnerability like no one else I know.  Everytime I’d go to a party or function, I would take a friend so I didn’t have to stand there alone and wait for someone to talk to me. If I didn’t have a friend to go with I would line up other people to be there and meet up.  If no one was able to go I wouldn’t go, it didn’t matter how much I wanted to. 

In business meetings, I am the person who has every note printed, highlighted and memorised, I am prepared and on top of things, always. I will never ask a question in case it sounds stupid or  incase I misheard what was said. I have stayed in my lane  as much as possible so I didn’t draw attention to myself.  I would do anything I could to prevent any exposure, additional attention or uncomfortableness. I avoided feeling embarrassed or vulnerable at all cost.

One of the key reasons I have hid myself away as much as I can, is because I am ashamed of myself. I am ashamed that  I am not skinny enough, I am ashamed that my hair doesnt look great, my skin has a billion freckles, I am ashamed that I am not as successful as I would like to be. There is a big long list of things in my head that I am ashamed of. That list of things is stuck in my head and goes around and around. Therefore, over the years I have pulled away from doing anything that would make me feel exposed or uncomfortable in a big way. 

When I look at my list of things I am ashamed of, it leads to my  feelings of being unworthy. I feel unworthy of where I am, what I have achieved, how I am tracking each day and yet I am so ambitious to get going and achieve things. I am constantly at odds with who I am, who I want to be and who my head thinks I am.  There seems to be a gaping hole between what I feel, think and do.  

In addition to the chaos in my head, I compare myself to everyone else in the room and I always come last. It doesn’t matter where I am, or what I have achieved,  I never stack up.  I am highly critical of myself for the things I have done and the things I haven’t done. It’s so exhausting and creates a lot of questioning and wondering.  My brain is exhausted and when things are really bad a few glasses of wine and an early night to bed are the only option to get my mind to stop.

Sarah Colgate

This has been a problem for as long as I can remember. Even when I was in primary school I struggled with feelings of not being good enough and comparing myself with others. Over the years I have managed to push forward and achieve whatever I could, with this permanent obstacle in my brain. I don’t even know what you would call it. Fear, shame, guilt, and unworthiness? As a result, I am exhausted a lot, drained of energy and super duper emotional.  I push good things away, I have sabotaged many great jobs, great opportunities and relationships because of these feelings. 

In my thirties, I started to realise that this unworthiness was eating away at me. I felt down and I would say on the verge of depression. I shared these feelings with my husband often and one day he said to me “ you really need to see someone to get some help”.  I went to see a counsellor, Anne. Over many years together, Anne and I  managed to sort through all the deep dark stuff inside me, all my family stuff I was carrying around and started chipping away at the unworthiness, shame and fear.  

Anne gave me a lot of tools to use to manage the chatter in my head, the criticism I laid on myself daily and my feelings, while still feeling and enjoying my life. Over the years since I last saw Anne, life has been good. We have had the occasional phone call when  life went off the rails but I feel it’s been good and I have coped well.  

Because life has chugged along nicely, some of the tools Anne gave me I still practice and many have fallen by the wayside. 

Then 2020 happened. 

Aquaduck is a business that has been on the Gold Coast for close to 25 years. It’s very visual and a lot of people know it. So when the travellers, visitors and tourists were prevented from coming to the Gold Coast the media started to contact me. They were highlighting the impact COVID restrictions were having on tourism businesses and in particular small businesses. Aquaduck was a good choice for them. 

However, I was extremely uncomfortable. Doing any kind of media was stepping way outside of my comfort zone. I said yes originally because I wanted to highlight the pain being felt across the industry. The pain I was experiencing and my friends were experiencing. But personally, this was agony for me. All the shame, unworthiness and fear came flooding back to me like a tsunami that was crushing me.

I was being eaten up with fear. I booked in to see Veronica.  She went through all the reasons why I need to stand up for my business, the tourism industry and family owned businesses on the Gold Coast. She made so much sense. Veronica encouraged me to  lean in, be a leader, embrace it, be the voice I wanted to hear standing up for businesses. 

That evening I went home and watched a Brene Brown TED talk I had seen many times before. This time Brene was talking to me. Everything made sense.

My learnings around this are, in order to be a leader, in order to speak up and highlight the pain of the tourism industry I needed a few things. 

  1. I needed courage to say yes to the media and to do the interview. 
  2. I needed to be vulnerable. I needed to put myself out there by speaking up.
  3. Then I needed to be brave enough to take whatever comes my way. 

Brene told me that night, that without vulnerability there is no courage. So no matter how scary it was and how much fear I had pumping through my body nothing would change until we started to speak up.  There and then I started to say yes to the media and speak on behalf of our industry, our destination, my family and my friends. 

The first couple of news reports I did were posted on Facebook, friends tagged me (I un-tagged me) and as much as my husband warned me not to read the comments, I just had too. I wanted to see what people were saying. And the comments were brutal. People were passionate about being kept safe and borders being closed. They were giving it to “rich tourism operators” who are only worried about how much money they make and how many “chinese tourists they are missing out on”. It was harsh and after I got over my anger toward these unknown people I realised when you put yourself out there people will respond. 

Being vulnerable, brave and putting yourself out there will result in you being judged, criticised, failing and people are going to respond based on their own feelings, knowledge and in particular fears.  A couple of great quote to remember:

“ We are built to care about what people think. Just choose who you care about what they think.”
-Brene Brown

“Care about what other people think and you will always be their prisoner.”
-Lao Tzu

Today, my right underarm still sweats like mad every time I have to get in front of a camera and I feel totally exposed to the world.  But I also feel like I am more courageous and braver for doing so.  My shame has dissipated a little as well. 

My next realisation from this whole experience is about showing up when you can’t control the outcome. Showing up for yourself, your family, your friends and what you believe in. I put myself out there to highlight the plight of tourism businesses on the Gold Coast and across the state of Queensland. I haven’t changed anything at all by doing what I was doing, but I showed tourism operators that they are not alone. Hopefully I encouraged Gold Coasters that we need to support each other. It’s tough at the moment, everyone is hurting and we are all in it together.

Vulnerability, bravery and being worthy

We need to keep trying, keep pushing, keep speaking up and eventually something will change.

I have also realised that I am imperfect in so many ways, and it’s ok to be exactly that. Everyone is imperfect. I have started saying to my kids we are all “perfectly imperfect” . We can’t wait to be perfect before we put ourselves out, or before we speak up for what we believe in, because it will never happen. We are never going to be the right weight, wear the perfect outfit, have enough media training and have amazing hair. So embrace your imperfections, embrace your bravery and put yourself out there. Stand up for what you believe in, take action and be vulnerable because when you do great things can happen.

Key takeaways for being vulnerable;

  • Without vulnerability your life will lack the passion, the love and the adventure that makes life worthwhile
  • Vulnerability is showing up, being seen, stepping out into view.
  • Believe in yourself.
  • Daring greatly allows you to fly.
  • Be you, accept all of you and never give up on you. 

Brene Brown’s Book Daring Greatly 

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