Being Without Skin

May 30th, 2024 by Kelly Kienzle

For the last few weeks, I have felt deeply vulnerable.  As Zoe Keating, a genre-defying cellist has described, I have been “being without skin.” I feel vulnerable because I put a draft of my writing out into the world.  Specifically, my coauthor and I have shared a draft of our upcoming book, Alchemy Workbook, with a small pool of close friends and advisors who are generously serving as beta testers for us.

Each of these testers have shown nothing but kindness and support to us throughout the time we have known them.  Yet I feel exposed and without skin for them to see this writing that, despite several drafts and buckets of pride for what we have created, still feels nascent and in need of more upgrades.

Chasing Perfection

Paradoxically and unreasonably, I want these testers to see only a polished and nearly-perfect final draft.  Why is that?  Why do I feel vulnerable to a group of people who not only pose no threat, but in fact are actively supporting me through donating their time and mental energy to me?

I suspect vulnerability, for me, comes from a feeling of wanting to support others.  I never want to be the cause of displeasure, fatigue, or impatience for others.  And so, as leaders, artists, parents, friends or teachers, we try to show up near-perfect each time for others.

Trust Needs Trust

In contrast, numerous studies show us how we are more trusted and relatable when we expose our vulnerabilities.  We can intellectually understand how this calculus works: When I show more vulnerability, that is a signal to you that I trust you.  When you see that I trust you, you become more inclined to trust me.  And the virtuous cycle continues.

Ah, but to take that first step of showing vulnerability can cause me to hit the chasm of the knowing-doing gap.  I know showing vulnerability will help me, yet I refrain from doing it.  I want to hide imperfections out of fear of not being accepted.

But on what grounds?  What evidence do I have that my friends (who all are wise) would drop me immediately, society would recede from me like water down a drain, and I would be alone except for the imagined echoes of admonishing snickers.

Quelling Vulnerability

Perhaps the only way to overcome feelings of vulnerability is through repeated, controlled exposure. So, sharing my writing with friendly Testers is Step 1 in the Quell Vulnerability Campaign.

How about for a Step 2, I share my drawings with my Open Circle Coaching friends here?  Yes, that stupefying work of highly interpretive art you saw above is from my own hand.  I drew this picture following a prompt from one of the Experiences in our Alchemy Workbook.

Sharing it with you now feels not only vulnerable but professionally risky.  The tyrannical gremlin in my head sneers, “Who hires a leadership coach who can’t draw?”  Hmmm, the gremlin’s logic might be flawed. Perhaps I’m safer than I think.

Your Turn

When was the last time you were vulnerable?  What was the outcome of that vulnerability?  What would happen if you were to be vulnerable and without skin, again?  Submit your answers below.  All drawings, glorious or otherwise, will be lovingly accepted.

One Response to “Being Without Skin”

  1. June 02, 2024 at 2:03 am, Kai Brown said:

    so very beautifully said and shared


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