When I was a classroom teacher, every new year brought with it a brand new set of students. I would always spend the first few days getting to know the kids in my class and, equally important, giving them the opportunity to get to know me. The real me.
I had them complete a writing assignment called “Who Am I?” which was essentially a chance for them to unpack themselves, their experiences, and their perspective (how they view the world). I always gave them the choice of responding in narrative or poetic form, whatever their preference. They’d bring them back in and spend several minutes reading theirs aloud for the group. It was the most amazing way to build rapport and connection between us and to help the students understand more about each other before any of the academic stuff started.
Their second assignment was to create an Identity Road Map that I first modeled for them on the whiteboard. I’d create a life starting point [BIRTH] and then a sort of ‘Wizard of Oz - Dorothy’s-yellow-brick-road-style’ steps through the major events of my life up to the present day [CURRENT DATE].
And I walked them through MY life. My stuff. The wholeness of me -- the sports and unhealthy competitive spirit, the college scholarship, the first job out of college that didn’t align with my giftings, the first cancer battle and treatment/quarantine, becoming a teacher, meeting my husband and dating, marriage, becoming a mom, starting a business ... I would park us at each of the stops for a bit and talk to them about how these experiences helped to define me, my perspective, the seasons of life that changed me or caused me to stretch and grow.
The entire course of the school year was set on a completely different trajectory because the students experienced an adult being open and honest about mistakes, challenges, failures, successes over time and they were able to learn about all of those things in the safety and privacy of our classroom.
It was also an indirect, safe way for me to “tell” them (not with words but by my past actions, feelings and current expectations of them not only that I am willing to share personal information with them but that I care to know about them personally and the stops they’ve taken on their own road that have shaped the people they are.
When we ourselves are vulnerable, it creates a culture of openness and honesty inside our families and we want that type of culture established in our relationships with our daughters and the girls we mentor. It makes the mentor-mentee relationship a space safe to share -- where feelings and fears belong and can be worked through together.
All of the research shows that vulnerability is necessary for cultivating solid, long-term relationships: not just for romantic partnerships or family dynamics, but for any meaningful interaction there needs to be laid a foundation of real trust and a framework for authentic connection.
ACTION STEPS: Take inventory of your life right now. Think about the significant events of your life [BIRTH] to [CURRENT DATE]. What are the “stops” along the way that have shaped the person you are?
What were the important moments, seasons in your life that contribute to the whole of you -- your perspective, what you know about life, faith, family, friends, the world. Were there times in the course of your life’s journey when you experienced:
Got some ideas? Great. Write them down.
Remember, the idea here is that you are going to encourage your girl to view being vulnerable as a necessary and vital component for establishing and maintaining healthy relationships.
You’re going to show her how to do that by modeling it for her.
The goal is to support her to consider vulnerability, not as a quality that she either possesses or not, but rather as a skill that she will continually work to improve over time.
You might be asking -- What is the point? Maybe that’s coming from your own struggle with letting people into your business or sharing your own insecurities, fears, and challenges with others. Believe me, I get it. I grew up under the impression that sharing your feelings meant you were weak.
Teaching her the skill of vulnerability is important -- as women, our ability to communicate with openness and honesty is essential to increasing things like comfort and confidence.
But the single most important reason your girl needs to get good at being vulnerable is this.
Vulnerability inspires credibility.
Credibility -- ‘the quality or state of being trusted’
Her willingness to be open and honest with the people she meets, interacts with, and leads will dictate how credible she is to others. How much people trust in and believe in her.
READY FOR A CHALLENGE? Take the list you created of significant life events and share them with your girl this week. You can do one or a few at a time. During each ‘stop’, talk to your daughter about the significance of that particular event.
-- What did you experience?
-- In what ways was it challenging?
-- What did you learn from it?
-- How did it shape you as a person?
This will give you a chance to show her what vulnerability in action looks like. Celebrate together the fact that you are modeling openness and honesty so that she can follow the example you are setting for her!
BONUS: Use the questions below as a guide to foster meaningful discussion with your girl around the topic of vulnerability.
1. Is it hard for you to share some of these details of your personal life with another person? Why or why not?
2. What role did friends and family play in supporting you during these significant life events?
3. What did that teach you about letting people in?
4. How do you tend to respond to failure?
5. What are some ways you can encourage each other/hold each other accountable to communicate with openness and honesty?
Have an awesome day!
If you want to strengthen your daughter’s identity and faith, be sure to check out my book series, The Adventures of Rooney Cruz. It offers a simple, five-step approach to character development that will help you teach through the topics of beauty, identity, and purpose. You can get them here.