Mentoring and networking often evoke three emotions/attributes: anxiety; vulnerability; and courage. I believe emotions are a strength especially when they deepen our self-awareness.
Anxiety can take many forms: insecurity; worry; feeling pressured; or simply jitters while facing a stranger (or a room full of them). It's a natural response. The idea is not to suppress anxiety but understand why it's happening. We are not defined by what we are feeling but how we choose to act on those feelings. I am anxious about a lot of things but I do not let it determine if I do /do not participate.
(Recently, there has been a lot of articles on social media around anxiety as a mental disorder. This post is not about those of us who suffer from long-term or deep anxiety - this is about the normal flutters and worries everyone has.)
Vulnerability is a necessary state for growth. By opening ourselves to others, we invite trust. Yes, it can seem counter-intuitive to attempt remaining open within a professional context. Consider that we are always told to model the behaviours we wish to see around us in our teams and communities. As mentors, or those seeking to make connection, sometimes the best way to invite others is to be inviting. Sharing experiences and ideas is not a new concept ... nor will it ever be old.
Being vulnerable does not mean a lack of boundaries. It should never mean allowing abuse or disrespect. Vulnerability does include honesty, emotional responses and putting status aside to talk with someone as a peer and a valued contributor.
Choosing to act when anxious or remain open when uncomfortable takes courage. With a willingness to genuinely and authentically interact with others comes fears and previous experiences that cause us to hesitate. I sometimes liken my actions in building community to the ridiculous: climbing to the top of a building, yelling "Catch me!" as I leap off and sometimes am not caught by the folks below. So I scrape myself back together and eventually go back up the elevator. Occasionally, I pick a shorter building.
Why do it? Why take the risks? Why experience it? That's the key word: "experience." Experiences are our stories that make us who we are. Understanding, feeling and not avoiding our emotions help us process these experiences and allow us to connect more profoundly with the world around us.
We can't avoid anxiety or vulnerability; let's put these emotions to good use - call it being courageous and share with the folks around us.