I was having a recurring dream: I would be involved in a business meeting or speaking engagement, and look down and realize, oh my gosh, I’m naked! I was surprised and embarrassed, and woke up each night wondering what that crazy dream was all about.
During the same time period I was beginning to write my first book, and found it was difficult getting started. Each night my husband would come home from work and ask me how the book was coming. Each night I would tell him I would be starting soon. I had clients to call, speeches to write, invoices to send. I knew I needed to start writing, but I couldn’t quite bring myself to begin. Something was blocking my attempt to write my book, but I wasn’t sure what or why.
During this time I came upon an article discussing the dreams (think “nightmares”) of executive women, and I found that my naked dream was a frequent recurring dream theme. The author said that often women leaders, once promoted, feared that others would see their incompetence—their vulnerability—and would be “found out.”
While I found this interesting, my first thought was that it didn’t apply to me. After all, I was the owner of my speaking business and wasn’t newly promoted. Then it dawned on me: the writing of my book was like being promoted, in that I was documenting for the world my level of incompetence on this subject! I would be showing everyone just how little I knew about my topic! Weren’t there others who were more competent, knowledgeable, and had the expertise to write the book I was contemplating?
This was a huge turning point for me, in that I was able to finally articulate the cause of my writer’s block and get on with the business of writing my book. Yes, there were others who theoretically could write my book, but they weren’t. I had a unique perspective, a unique voice, and I realized that I needed to write my book. It was up to me to share with my readers my expertise on this issue.
Once I had this “aha” moment, I never had the dream again, and I realize now that this fear of vulnerability was so great that it almost kept me from what ultimately enhanced my success as a speaker and consultant. Five books later, it seems difficult to imagine why I was so afraid.
I’ve since learned that while it is risky to be vulnerable, whether you are writing or telling a personal and revealing story, it also helps connect with audiences and readers in a way that nothing else can. I’ve learned that while being vulnerable is as frightening as visiting a nudist colony, it can also be rewarding!