Almost three years ago I turned my life upside down in pursuit of the holy grail – HAPPINESS. I left a 16-year career as an executive, relocated a family from Perth back to Melbourne, left and 18-year relationship and started my own purpose-driven company BKindred, all within six months. Crazy right?
Perhaps, but I quickly learnt amongst the chaos that vulnerability was an underrated powerhouse for creating meaningful change. It made me relatable and by example gave others permission to look at fear as a positive lever and challenge their own perspectives.
These risky life changes delivered happiness beyond expectation and provided the confidence to step quite visibly into vulnerability in my work, through concepts like the #nakedforchange movement.
When The Art Series Hotel Group asked me to No Robe recently and become an artistic muse for a night I decided it was time to expose myself once again and share my secret vulnerability of the past year in the hope it might encourage others to do the same.
I want to be brave with my life… when we make the choice to dare greatly, we sign up to get our asses kicked. We can choose courage or we can choose comfort, but we can’t have both. – Brene Brown
The thought of opening myself up to love again after an 18-year relationship scared the shit out of me. Creating barriers to prevent myself from being emotionally exposed was easy. I’m too busy, I’m not ready, I don’t want to make the same mistakes again…
But then someone amazing presented themselves and things got uncomfortable. Vulnerability in this space was unfamiliar territory so I not only used my barriers to block possibility but I managed to add more… He’s too young, he’s not my type, what if my friends don’t like him, what if it doesn’t work out…
After five months of subtle persistence on his part, I realised I was the only one blocking my chances at true happiness. I had to walk my talk the way I did in my professional life, take the risk and step into excruciating vulnerability. The outcome has been surprising in a magical way. I’m more spontaneous, balanced and happy. Equally, my perspective on what a relationship should look like has shifted.
But how did I No Robe and get comfortable with discomfort in order to find greater happiness?
I acknowledged that the societal definition of what a happy relationship should look like did not serve me or my needs. I was a single mother, running my own business, traveling with limited time. I didn’t need a father for my child, or a financial supporter, I wasn’t looking for a husband or more children. I needed a companion who understood my life, wasn’t too demanding, could provide stimulating conversation and knew how to have fun.
So I challenged myself to let go of traditional relationship expectations. What I have doesn’t have to work for anyone other than us, if it feels good and is respectful, I’m in.
I’ve always been a control freak, a serial planner. My new companion showed me that by letting go of control and the need to plan every minute, I could allow more spontaneity and creativity into my life. The more I let go, sat in the moment, the more fun I started to have and the more open I became to getting comfortable with love again.
Being vulnerable means putting our feelings on the table for others to see and judge. This was by far the biggest test. I’ve learnt that small acts of bravery can provide the courage and confidence to step into bigger acts of bravery. So over time, I started to share little pieces of how I was feeling even though it felt awkward and scary. Gradually this process became easier and it started to feel right.
David and I have now been together for just on a year. We’re not conventional, I’m nine years his senior and have lived a stage of life that he is yet to live, but it works. There are no guarantees on the future or how it will play out but this risk has been a conscious choice and absolutely worth it.
My No Robe experience provided a platform to reflect and share the power of getting comfortable with discomfort in order to create greater happiness. Perhaps exposing ourselves to vulnerability be it through artistic muse or other means is a great way to reignite relationships with a new lens. Maybe now is your time to let go of your inhibitions and bare all for No Robe!
Last week I started full time for eight weeks in the first Australian Antler Cohort in Sydney. Antler is an incubator program that focuses on creating the next wave of tech companies. They had over 1000 applicants but accepted only 71 amazing humans of which I was fortunate enough to be one. Some may consider this a success but at the end of week one, I found myself questioning if this is success, why do I feel so uncomfortable?