I’m just home from another of our brilliant (exhausting) quarterly two-day learning/sharing events with our Fun Palaces Ambassadors, phenomenal people from fantastic organisations all over the UK sharing their local and regional work of supporting their communities.
The conversations at these events are wide-ranging and powerful. Last night, over dinner, I was talking with three of the women from this group. They have various roles with us as ambassadors and partners, they have other work of their own, they have interesting lives and careers, roles as carers of adults and of children – all four of us are women making our way successfully in the world over decades. I am the eldest at 56, the youngest in her 30s (I think).
And we talked about how hard it is for us to ask for help. To risk being seen as ‘needy’. There is a fear for many of us around vulnerability. For many reasons, some that I have referred to on this blog to do with cancer or infertility or growing up in a home where violence was common – and also simply from being a woman of my age and generation – it has been important for me to appear strong and capable.
Alongside this ‘capability’, I know the value of saying ‘I don’t know’. I use (and mean!) this phrase many times in my Fun Palaces and other work. I have experienced how not taking responsibility all on myself means I share it with others and benefit from their contribution. I understand (and enact) that not assuming I have the answers means that other people’s answers are available and welcome.
Even so, I still feel, from myself and from society, the pressure to be a ‘strong woman’.
And I am strong.
I am also tired, often. Fearful sometimes. Anxious regularly. Needing support, wanting kindness, gentleness. I am weighed down by my inner critic (and a few outer critics!) and the almost-inevitable imposter syndrome.
I believe there is strength in vulnerability. I have felt it in myself and in others.
I’m interested in practicing it more. And I acknowledge that for some – many – of us, this possibility is scary and goes against the training we have given ourselves and the training the world and our lives have has given us.
The reason I’m sharing this is that one of the women at the table was surprised and delighted when I talked about my own difficulty around expressing my vulnerability. She said that it was useful for her to know that I can be weak and frightened and worried and uncertain, that I’m as frail as anyone else.
And I love her for telling me it was useful to say so.
So I’m writing it here.
I can be strong AND need and want support.
We all can.