There are many important messages to share in honor of International Women’s Day. I’m privileged and humbled to have a platform and position to share one that is very near and dear to me - the power of vulnerability.
Yes; being vulnerable is a power move, particularly for women.
It seems counterintuitive, but the more vulnerable you are, the more powerful you are. When you’re vulnerable, you aren’t looking for others to validate your choices or feelings. More importantly, you aren’t acting and making decisions out of fear.
When you aren’t afraid of what others think, you’re more willing to be all-in. And being all-in makes the impossible, possible.
When you're vulnerable, you're free of judgment, shame, and fear. These are all things that prohibit innovation, creativity, and most importantly, change.
Everyone feels shame.
But women can be very good at carrying it around. It’s a feeling we learn very early in life. Most of us have at least one childhood memory that still makes our eyes fill with tears because the feelings of shame are still so raw; we relive the pain just thinking about it.
I lived most of my life feeling ashamed of my story. I’m an immigrant from Eastern Europe, who grew up without a father, in a volatile environment, where sometimes I didn’t even have basic necessities like electricity and running water. I was poor and emotionally scarred.
I thought people would question my potential if they knew my background. That it would blind them to what I really was.
I wanted people to see the successful parts of my life, the socially acceptable parts. I didn’t want anyone feeling uncomfortable or sorry for me. And I didn’t want to be judged.
Being vulnerable has helped me realize my story is the story of so many post-soviet union men and women of my generation, especially those who emigrated to Israel.
Looking back, I have so much respect and pride for the girl I was once so ashamed of. Today, I’m amazed by that girl. That strong, ambitious, determined girl who was wise beyond her years, took control of her destiny, and is now all-in, building a beautiful life.
It has taken me time to realize that hiding the challenges and struggles I overcame was my weakness. In fact, being vulnerable and sharing how my father’s death impacted me, what it was like immigrating alone to Israel as a teenager, the devastation of losing a young family member - helped me make connections, create bonds, and foster empathy.
We need strong networks of empathetic people working together to make our world a better place.
You may think I’m being “emotional” or still wonder how being vulnerable is powerful.
Well, if Covid-19 has taught us anything, it’s that life is precious and fragile.
Whatever walls we were using to shield ourselves from our emotions and being vulnerable, Covid-19 smashed through them. Overnight we became exposed in front of our families and strangers alike. Fear and anxiety suddenly became constant companions.
Work-From-Home and constant Zoom meetings meant our colleagues got a closer glimpse into our personal lives, and what they saw wasn’t always pretty - messy homes, tantruming children, irritated partners, inappropriate roommates, or oblivious parents.
They saw us in our pajamas, unshowered, exhausted, and overwhelmed from being locked in our homes for weeks at a time, unable to control our own destinies and uncertain of how to protect the people we love most. The scary, complicated, and very real parts of our lives that we learned how to hide and ignore, were now on display.
We all found ourselves exposed and vulnerable.
But being so openly vulnerable made us resilient. There hasn’t been time to hide flaws. They’re glaring and they’re everywhere. So we’ve had to face them, improve them, and make them work.
Some days were utter failures and other days were amazing successes. But the score between success and failure isn’t what’s important. What matters is what we’ve done with the failures. Did we let them define us? Or, did we acknowledge them and learn from them?
Here’s what I’ve learned.
Being vulnerable makes us face our weaknesses, which is the best way to grow.
Being vulnerable encourages diversity; it helps us partner with people who are different than us.
Being vulnerable creates room for understanding.
Being vulnerable removes fear; and, once fear is gone, the possibilities are endless.
Most of all, vulnerability takes courage. I can’t think of anything more empowering than embracing our whole self, seeing our flaws, and working every day to be the best version of ourselves. That’s the version of ourselves the world needs. So I challenge you: be vulnerable. Create the change you want to see in the world.
Lisa Zaythik is the Chief People Officer at AppsFlyer