Yesterday, I watched a video from a former coach of mine, Rich Litvin. He has a question that he loves to ask his clients. It is also a question that his accountability group will always ask each other whenever they meet up:
"What is the one thing you do NOT want me to know about you?"
It is a hard question, don’t you think? It gets us deep inside – in that place where we want to keep our secrets, insecurities and fears safe. We worry that if you know that thing about me – that you would reject me, laugh at me or think less of me. We therefore push it down, hide it and keep it in the dark.
I remember observing one thirty-year old woman in a group coaching session. She wanted to share what she called a deep dark secret but she felt so consumed by fear and anxiety that she struggled to speak it out. She skirted around the topic for about an hour. I wondered to myself what it was that she was hiding…what awful crime had she committed or had done to her – that she felt such shame and guilt? Eventually after what seemed like an eternity – she spoke up and dared to share this awful burden that she had been carrying. She was a closet smoker! When we keep things to ourselves they can grow to epic proportions and often just bringing them into the light can start to take the power out of them.
I love the works of Brene Brown (if you haven’t yet – her TED talk is a must watch and very relevant to being a naked hedgehog). Just after Robin Williams died she wrote a blog post on courage. Here is a short excerpt:
"When confronted with news of a stranger’s unimaginable pain – a suicide, an overdose, a protest for justice and basic dignity – we have two choices: We can choose to respond from fear or we can choose courage.
We can choose to believe that we are somehow insulated from the realities of these traumas and that our willpower or our strength of character makes us better than these displays of desperation and woundedness. When we seek shelter in the better than – safer than – different than thinking, we are actually choosing fear and that requires us to self-protect and arm ourselves with judgment and self-righteousness.
Our only other option is to choose courage. Rather than deny our vulnerability, we lean into both the beauty and agony of our shared humanity. Choosing courage does not mean that we’re unafraid, it means that we are brave enough to love despite the fear and uncertainty."
I love the way she points to how our perceived strength and protection is actually about choosing fear. Our real strength comes when we can embrace weakness (ours and others) and show up without our protective armour.
We won’t want to do that with everybody. But is there one person in your life…a safe person…that you could de-prickle with this week? When you courageously share something you don’t want the other person to know – you take a risk. But you also model something – you open the way for them to be vulnerable too. You start to be really known by each other and that is how deeper connections and authentic relationships are formed.