Find the courage to live into your purpose, unapologetically.
I walked passed a momma duck also walking along a fence with her ducklings behind her. We walked down the same path: road — grass — sidewalk — fence.
I, on the sidewalk, blocked her and the little ones in.
I watched her hurriedly find a space for her babies to crawl under the wire fence gap. One by one, the 6 or so squeezed through and then walked along their momma — with the fence in between.
As I kept walking, though, she tried desperately to escape to their side, too. She darted her neck through the fence gaps about 4 or 5 times rapidly before I made the quick decision to turn my double wide stroller with my own babies onto the grass and then the road.
There, I stopped.
The momma duck stopped.
I watched the momma duck stop hurting herself, and watch me. I waited as she turned around and started walking back. The ducklings left the same hole they had fled through and reunited with their momma. They walked off calmly and safely together.
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This experience really sat with me the rest of the day. I wasn’t sure what to make of it, but I felt a certain melancholy over having caused, witnessed and resolved the duck’s panic.
It caused me to think about areas of my own life where I am experiencing pain, and reflect on these emotions. I spiraled into deep thoughts about how my actions could help others — through pain, panic or other feelings. I circled back to ways others have helped or hurt me.
Here’s a couple things that I’ve come to from this:
- Sometimes we’re willing to do something that is so damaging to ourselves because it feels safer. We panic, but we don’t allow ourselves to see another way through.
- Finding the courage to walk next to me carried a level of vulnerability that felt desperately uncomfortable to the momma.
Vulnerability can cause a lot of disconnect in our lives. It can influence us to stay stuck in a space we don’t want to be, and it can provide an excuse to avoid making certain decisions or accepting certain responsibilities.
When we’re able to recognize this and come to terms with the risk associated with entering a vulnerable space, we grant ourselves the confidence needed to thrive.
“To create is to make something that has never existed before. There’s nothing more vulnerable than that.”
– Author + Researcher Brene Brown
Vulnerability Looks Different to Everyone
Are you ready?
I holler up the dark stairwell to the room at the top, our bedroom, where I assume my husband is changing into jeans and pondering over which top to wear.
“We’re just going to the grocery store, you don’t have to dress to impress,” I funnel my voice up the stairs once more. Siting at the bottom of the steps, I am wearing bright pink socks, a color that pops through the holes of my white crocs to match my red fuzzy pajama pants dotted with pink and purple spots. There I am, just waiting.
I am ready to head into public, but my husband always takes the few extra minutes to change into something that won’t cause people to question whether he just got out of bed.
But, its just errands, and for me – there’s a low-level of importance to my look.
We’re different that way, and while I hassle him a bit about spending time getting beautiful for what I see as a silly, quick step into the world – pajama style just is not his brand of tea.
I know that if he doesn’t change out of his pajamas we will 1) not leave the house and 2) we will not get groceries. I accept it, and I wait. And then I hear his feet at the top step and the subsequent thumps as he hops down the rest, and we’re off.
Vulnerability is like this pair of pajamas. For my husband, if he doesn’t take them off – he’s frozen. Stuck at home. For me, vulnerability lives in other places. I have to confront and accept the fear it creates in order to take action on what really matters.
And this is what kept me frozen for years, despite knowing how badly I wanted to write again.
Before launching Presence&Company, I was a self-employed partner of a digital marketing agency. My business partner and I had started the company in 2013 after both being laid off from our full-time journalism jobs.
The initial vision, in my mind, was to help small businesses to tell their story online. Over time, though, the business evolved to mostly the tactical side of marketing: building websites, managing social media campaigns and creating e-mail newsletters. There wasn’t a lot of story writing.
Then, in July 2017 my business partner called me.
“I am wondering whether you still want to work for Clever Dog anymore.”
My stomach sank. It was a tough question to answer. Clever Dog Creative was my first entrepreneurial vision. My own dog was our logo. I spent hours and hours and hours working on the brand, the services, our systems … Unable to pay ourselves a lot the first couple years, I made a lot of financial sacrifices. And, now, my business partner was asking me to quit.
I mulled it over with my husband that night. I had known, since becoming a mom and my 3-year-old nephew’s diagnosis of Stage 4 Neuroblastoma (cancer) – that something just wasn’t right. In fact, I had taken on a few “freelance” jobs for nonprofits, writing grant proposals and fundraising content. I was already working in a day job while developing my second side hustle.
So, the answer truly was: Clever Dog is no longer for me. But, I can’t just quit. Remember those financial sacrifices? I still need a regular paycheck, and Clever Dog was now that for me.
From here, the conversations turned very dark with my business partner who had essentially made up her mind that she was going to run the show. Ultimately, while pretending to be out on sales calls for Clever Dog she spent the month of August 2017 building a competitive brand and taking some of our customers with her.
Admittedly, we took shortcuts in the beginning of our business and never finalized an operating agreement, which would have halted all of this. Sept. 1 she sent her resignation to my e-mail, and that’s when it finally became obvious that she had betrayed me. I felt sick to my stomach for the next month, while I worked with a lawyer and accountant to figure out my next steps while maintaining customers loyal to me and my brand.
And, then I saw the opportunity. I could write again.
I realized I had been hiding in my business partners shadows, feeling vulnerable to the inevitable confrontation about what my desire to write meant for our business relationship.
Now, without that pair of business-partner-vulnerability-pajamas, I am blessed to be here building a brand that I can really thrive in.
There are lots of pairs of vulnerability pajamas we are going to try on. It’s important, to find a certain comfort level in each pair so that we can move forward rather than being stuck.
I now leverage confidence in my story and my purpose as a key tool in accepting when I feel vulnerable. I encourage you to explore the various ways you can define your personal purpose and brand mission in order to overcome this vulnerability.
Dare to Dream. Take Action.
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