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To be the person who we long to be- we must again be vulnerable. We must take off the armor, put down the weapons, show up, and let ourselves be seen. Brene Brown

Shame… Vulnerability… Perfectionism… I don’t know about you, but these are not generally words I use when I want to start a conversation with my friend or colleague. I tend to run from these words in conversation, as do most people, or at least hide from them. Actually, that’s not totally true. I think it’s more accurate to say I used to run away and hide from those words. I definitely preferred to avoid anything that challenged my meticulously constructed super woman mask. I was a runner, that is, until I happened upon a Ted talk by a little know social worker whose research focused on the concept of shame. Dr. Brene Brown rocked my perfectly curated world and opened my eyes to the beauty of vulnerability, even vulnerability in veterinary medicine. And then life happened in a pretty dramatic way that allowed me comfort rather than discomfort with these ideas, but that is a story for another time.

As many of you know, we LOVE Brene Brown’s work at the VLI. Diving in to her research and all she has to offer us is beyond the scope of this blog. However, today’s quote offers us numerous options for reflection and consideration, especially if we want to thrive in a profession where vulnerability is usually seen as weakness, wearing masks is common and it is often terrifying to live in to who we truly are. When we begin to understand how we “armor up,” what kinds of weapons we use/why we use them and what keeps us from showing up in our true identity, we can then take more intentional steps toward living a meaningful life.

It may seem like these ideas are a bit overkill from an organization dedicated to leadership development in the veterinary profession, but nothing could be farther from the truth. If we are going to shift the needle toward positive in our jobs, we have to answer the hard questions and debunk the myths about what it takes to be successful as a veterinary professional. Here are some questions to consider. If you would like, you can use our worksheet to capture your answers.

  1. What types of “armor” do you wear? List 2 examples that illustrate how you use that armor to protect yourself and in what situations you pull it on. What do you feel like you need to be protected from? What would it look like if you stopped wearing your armor?
  2. What weapons do you use on a regular basis to protect yourself? Why do you use them? Where did you learn how to use them? What happens in your relationships when you pull out your weapons? What could you use instead of a weapon to resolve issues?
  3. What does “showing up” look like for you? In what situations, either personally or professionally, are you afraid to show up? In what situations are you not afraid to show up? What is the difference between these two things (i.e. why can you show up in some situations and not others)? What strategies might be helpful in allowing you to show up consistently, regardless of the situation?
  4. What does it mean to “be seen?” What emotions come up for you when you think about being seen personally? professionally?

As we, the VLI community, continue to work on the skill of reflection together, may 2020 be a year where we are brave and try difficult things. Instead of running or hiding from vulnerability, let us embrace it together for what it truly is… STRENGTH. Veterinary medicine will be the better for it.

Betsy Charles

Betsy loves being a veterinary radiologist and trying to make the world a better place. When not reading films, teaching veterinary students, or when she takes a break from trying to make a positive difference for the profession, she enjoys having meaningful and authentic conversation with all who cross her path, developing young entrepreneurs as they pursue their passions, riding her horse Lenny, reading, and hiking with her red heeler, Sadie.

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