'This is such a personal decision and I feel very exposed. In most other areas of my life, I feel very in control - if I have a difficult presentation to make to the partners at work, then I know I can stay up late and practice. I also am confident in my professional skills. But I have no idea what I would be like as a mother - I don't know how to 'get expert' at being a mother. If that's what I even decided to do of course! AND then, I feel I'm already exposing myself to judgement and criticism if I were to decide to be child-free. Most of my friends either have or are planning to have children and I'm feeling exposed as the 'outsider' in the group. I want to feel strong but I'm feeling very weak.'
One of the things I do with clients is to look at ways they can - in the coaching session and as homework experience vulnerability. (I find exploring the polarity of vulnerability vs strength very helpful in this - this previous blog post on freedom vs commitment explains a little bit more how I work with polarity in coaching). When we actually allow ourselves to 'go into' vulnerability we can find ourselves emerging, with more resilience and less fear. For my clients struggling with the baby decision, this can result in a shift in how they are able to look and be with the decision they have to make. The client who was fearful that motherhood might expose her to feelings of dreaded vulnerability can find that actually being vulnerable and not knowing is bearable - although she, like most of us, may still find it hard to embrace fully. The client who find herself stiffing when someone asks why she doesn't have children yet may find that she is better able to be with that initial feeling of exposure/vulnerability so that she feels more comfortable with telling people she has decided to be child-free.
The poet David Whyte also looks at and explores vulnerability. I find this an incredibly powerful quote.
'Vulnerability is not a weakness, a passing indisposition, or something we can arrange to do without, vulnerability is not a choice, vulnerability is the underlying, ever present and abiding undercurrent of our natural state. To run from vulnerability is to run from the essence of our nature, the attempt to be invulnerable is the vain attempt to become something we are not and most especially, to close off our understanding of the grief of others. More seriously, in refusing our vulnerability we refuse the help needed at every turn of our existence and immobilize the essential, tidal and conversational foundations of our identity.'
Vulnerability has many hidden gifts - it is a place of richness and exploration in coaching and in our lives.