Sometimes I feel naked! Sometimes I actually am.
byJaimee Hall
October 23, 2021
Imperfect Human

Have you ever had a dream that you are naked in a social situation that brings on instant feelings of embarrassment and anxiety? When I was younger, I used to have a recurring dream that I would be in the middle of my school or church or, society in general, wearing just dance tights. Call it my intense devotion to my dance training at the time but wearing just tights is close enough to being naked in public. Those uncomfortable feelings are birthed out of being placed in a vulnerable position without having asked for it. But doesn’t that same heart-pounding fear arise even when we plan for vulnerability? Why is this?

Vulnerability is something that didn’t always come naturally for me as a younger person and professional. Because I’m an “out loud” processor, I have always appreciated the ability to talk through things that I’m feeling with those closest to me but talking through situations and truly being transparent about my situation or feelings are two different concepts. My first introduction to this idea of building trust through transparency came when I read Stephen M.R. Covey’s Speed of Trust for the first time and installed this program in an organization. It was a new concept to me to apply the squishy idea of trust in a business setting, but I have now seen over time how truly critical trust is to the bottom line of our companies and our lives. I often cite ROI in terms of dollars and joy as being equally important. If you can get a return on your investment with dollars but you lose all joy, something is wrong. If you get all joy professionally, but not a financial return then there is also an imbalance here. I have learned that to get a return in dollars and joy in our lives requires transparency, vulnerability, and dare I say…a little bit of nakedness. 😉

I think I have stood out as a leader through the years because I started to naturally embrace this idea of transparency and being vulnerable with others and not many other leaders were or are doing this. It started to become natural to me to sit down with a peer or team member and share about my own failures, disappointments, and open conversation about their role to play in issues so we can problem-solve together. After now reading Brene Brown’s Dare to Lead, I’m being introduced to how I have grown to somewhat pervert this idea of vulnerability under the goal of self-preservation. She introduces the idea that you can approach situations through stealth intention and stealth expectation which is a self-protection method. I can approach a conversation with being too transparent and seeking sympathy so I can walk away still being liked, rather than truly being honest and open while also creating an environment of accountability built on trust. Boundaries are still critical in vulnerable situations.

Upon reflection, I see the instances when I thought I was being “naked” in a way that would build trust and create a stronger team or relationship, but I wasn’t really being vulnerable. “Vulnerability for vulnerabilities sakes is not effective, useful, or smart.” You can give the impression that you are being open and transparent, but still be exercising out of an ulterior motive. As a leader, the sometimes-naked truth is that you must hold people accountable and that is often uncomfortable. My leaders often must hold me accountable and that can also be uncomfortable. You can be transparent to build trust through vulnerable conversations about how a personal life is affecting a professional one and vice versa. It’s through admitting when you are out of your own set of capabilities; it’s when you are capable but don’t have capacity; it’s when you have made a bad decision, and everyone is facing the consequences; it’s when you royally screwed up and just have to own your responsibility in the mistake(s).

In these situations, it’s easier to accept responsibility and skirt through the conversation to just get it over with. I have been challenging myself recently on whether I’m truly being “naked” or just pretending to be. Am I engaging in a vulnerable conversation in an authentic way or just trying to get to a result?

My closest friends will tell you that most of them have seen me naked. It’s true. I’m not a formal nudist, but I’m comfortable with my body and think our society has over-sexualized the human body to the point where the Christians shriek at a teen girl in a bikini; chastising the girl for being a “tempter”. Popular clothing brands and others have made men and women alike feel like they need to look a certain way or aren’t worthy to be human. WTF?!?! I recently participated in the World Naked Bike Ride in St. Louis and it was AWESOME! I mean, I saw way more penises than I probably ever thought I would in my life, but it was very cool seeing people free. If you struggle with emotional and practical vulnerability, I highly suggest you start walking around your house naked and just embrace your body for what it is. It might seem non-conventional or even heathen for some, but trust me you will find over time that nakedness becomes more normal the more you live this way. I think when it comes to vulnerability, it’s the same. Practice makes perfect and both proverbial and actual nakedness requires a confident humility.

To the little girl having the terrifying dreams of wearing only tights in the middle of my middle school, rock it girl!! To truly be vulnerable with your friends, family and co-workers is the first step towards true freedom. You are now released to care, but not care too much. You are free to be you, the true you. You are open to truly feel. You can now save sooooo much time by cutting through life’s bullshit. You got this!!! Live naked! Live free!!

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