#VulneRevolution (Interview Series) – ep. 02 – Simon Bourne
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1. What is your interpretation of vulnerability?
Vulnerability can be seen as a strength and a weakness.
I remember when I decided to publish an article on LinkedIn about my struggles with depression and anxiety (or my mental blocks as I refer to them) as an entrepreneur. I titled my article “The Suicidal Entrepreneur”. It doesn’t really get any more vulnerable than that!
The response to the article was amazingly overwhelming. That is when I realised that people like to see vulnerability. People relate to it; people have empathy for you because they or someone close to them may well have similar struggles. I don’t shy away from being vulnerable in particular my mental blocks (depression and anxiety).
However, I have noticed that being too open and vulnerable can risk empathy turning into sympathy, which isn’t such a positive thing in my opinion). So, my interpretation is quite simple:
“I see my vulnerabilities as a gift!”
Anxiety is something I was born with. Had I not been this lucky, I perhaps would not be where I am today, nor would I have the determination to get to where I want to be.
2. Can you tell us about a time when you were vulnerable in the workplace?
I remember a time when I was feeling particularly low. It’s not always obvious that I’m low; like most people with anxiety, we hide it. So, this occasion I was going through the usual symptoms. I was very tense. The smallest of challenges were problems. I remember swearing at my shoes irrationally because I dropped the loop as I was trying to tie them. When I got to work, I walked in with my best fake smile. I pitched up at my desk and began my duties. The phone rang, and inside I’m dying, but I answer with my best fake hello… and the day continued in this manner.
3. What happened?
Later that afternoon, I was offered an opinion regarding the layout of the shop floor. It was the type of opinion that even when not suffering, I would be annoyed at inside because I didn’t see the value in the opinion, but because I was suffering, I exploded.
“I was out of line, but the truth behind the outburst was this inner block that was driving my emotions.”
I told the person – who was my employer’s mother – to stuff the job in no uncertain terms, and I proceeded to walk out the building to get into the car. The lady in question herself became quite emotional, shaken up me by the outburst, which then turned my anger into guilt. I went back in to apologize, not because I wanted to retain my job but just for upsetting her. I began uncontrollably crying, shaking, returning to my desk pumped with anger, guilt and immeasurable stress.
4. Do you regret it?
I still live with the regret of making a lady upset, yes. I left the business in 2015, around a year after this incident. My relationship with the business owner and of course the lady in question was never quite the same again I don’t think – or perhaps that’s just me overthinking it; I don’t know.
I send the lady a Christmas card every year. She’s the only person I send a Christmas card to other than my wife… and I do this mainly because of this moment. I’ anxious that even now, nearly 4 years on, she will think of that incident whenever she thinks about me. So, I send the card to remind her of the side of me I’d like to be remembered for; a gentlemanly, kind side.
So yes, I very much regret it. I was not nice to her at all and I couldn’t control my frustration.
5. Nowadays, do you consider that being true to yourself and others is a sign of weakness/ vulnerability or strength? And why?
It’s a strength. You must be careful because vulnerability can be a weakness if you expose too much of it. For example, I have anxiety and I can’t deal with stressful situations very well, but if this becomes what I’m known for, I lose credibility. Someone who talks about it openly all the time becomes a victim, and people don’t really buy victims, they’re damaged in the eyes of an employer, a business partner or a customer.
So, in business and in your personal life, a dose of vulnerability is a good thing, it will help you because people relate to it and appreciate the authenticity, but don’t become known for it, be known for what you are good at.
6. How did your experience with vulnerability influence your current state of mind? Would you recommend others to talk about it?
I know my mental blocks are here to stay. I don’t believe personally there’s a cure. I’m not medically qualified so please don’t believe me, but I am not one for medicating my issues – partly because I’m useless at remembering to take them so I’ve formed this opinion to justify my lack of actions. Instead, I choose to live every day knowing it’s there, it’s around the corner and it will come. It will hurt, and it will cause me to stutter. It may even cause me to act out of character like it did that day, but what it won’t do is define me. I know I’m here to achieve some goals.
“I know I have anxiety and, despite it, I’m going to do some brilliant things in my life”
Just like Michelangelo, Winston Churchill, Ronnie O’ Sullivan have already done. You don’t think of these people and think ‘mental health’ – you think legacy, and that’s what I’m on a mission to achieve.
And yes, I would recommend talking about it. Talk to those close to you about it the most. Talk to associates a little bit, and to your consumers the least. The important thing is to talk about it to someone because if you don’t, it will spiral and that’s when people, I believe end up in dangerous places with their mental health. Find people who understand bits and pieces, but don’t go looking for someone who understands wholly.
I don’t think a true understanding of your inner thoughts exists because that’s why we have them in the first place; we will always feel slightly misunderstood and/or alone in our own minds.
7. If you can sum up in 1 word how you feel about your experience with vulnerability what would it be?
(Published by Louise Mccauley here)
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