The Courage to be Vulnerable

my art on displayHaving the courage to be vulnerable helped me in teaching medical students in the genetics lab.  Everyone taught these students as if they were brilliant (they were, but they were learning new things), as if they already had all the answers.  Teachers were defensive, as if they needed to “one-up” the students and stump them**, less they look incompetent themselves.  Having the courage to be vulnerable helps me with my own learning too, because I can ask a seemingly dumb question, and express myself more honestly in collaboration.  It’s also iterative in that my confidence grows as an indirect result of my exposed vulnerability.  As educators, we have to create safe learning environments where it doesn’t take courage in order for students to expose their vulnerabilities.  In our learning environments, learners should not feel vulnerable in the first place.Having the courage to be vulnerable allows you to let down your guard and ask that “dumb” question that everyone else wants to ask, but is afraid to for fear of looking like an idiot.

Vallerand defines passion as something with which we Self-identify.  Saying, “I AM a Tennis Player”, or, “I AM an Artist” takes courage.  You make yourself vulnerable to the judgements of others who might think your skills unsatisfactory.  Who are you to put yourself in the arena with the likes of professional tennis players, Cezanne, or Albrecht Durer?  I ask, Who are you not too?  Vulnerability is merely a function of social criticism and unsafe learning environments.  Brown says vulnerability is fear based; we are afraid of not being loved.

(**When my son Elijah was in public school, he would come home in second grade stressed out because the teacher would invariably say, “Now here’s a problem I bet Elijah can’t even get right!”.  He felt he had to perform, not just for the teacher, but for the kids too.  This made him vulnerable in his learning environment, because it was now NOT OK to fail, one of the reasons we pulled him out.  Today he is “homeschooled” in college instead of high school.)

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