3 career-changing lessons that show vulnerability is a strength, not a liability
Embracing change, authenticity, resilience and vulnerability at any age, is crucial to new opportunities and deeper relationships in media.
Turning 40 has unfolded as an unexpected journey into vulnerability, in ways I didn’t see coming.
Three years since hitting the big four-oh, I would go so far as to say I am still, in fact, well and truly winging it.
Comfortingly, as I voice this reality, I find more peers in their 40s timidly stepping out of the shadows, sharing their own experiences and realising they, in turn, are also not alone in their journey of making it up as they go along and so we are united in this life-stage.
It’s all very sweet and Walton Family-esque.
However, years before I pulled out the proverbial guitar and started singing Kumbaya with others, I admit, I was concealing a part of myself like the plague — pushing it away with the constant wining and dining of key media agencies, hoping that eventually, this unwanted trait would, by default, vanish into the puff of smoke I was constantly exhaling.
I would dazzle with the smile that easily buried a complex and insecure version of myself who would sit on the sidelines mumbling something negative about the way I was conducting myself.
I would go far as to say, I was slightly ashamed of this vulnerable side, hiding and blocking it to create a facade of unwavering confidence, yet in doing so, I was denying the authentic richness of my whole self.
This modus operandi served me well… to a point… but eventually, cracks started to appear and then rumble and then full on exploded as I hit a very hard surgical menopause at 37.
I suddenly landed back on earth with a hefty bump and nowhere to hide. I readjusted my eyes to the new landscape and quickly realised I was faced a new reality where hiding was no longer an option.
Suddenly the advertising campaigns changed from yelling at me to ‘PUSH IT, PUMP IT, SWEAT IT’ to ‘be careful over there, you want to do everything you can to prevent from dying’….
There were no words, and after navigating my way through picture perfect social media, I was left with no choice but to drop the mask and started listening to that part of myself that had historically been shunned.
Suddenly a magical thing happened and the tide started to turn. Where once I had felt like a stranger in my own body, through consistently showing up for myself and doing ‘all the things’, I started feeling — dare I say it — comfortable in my own skin.
What follows are my favourite lessons from this key time and a demonstration that personal growth and professional success are not mutually exclusive but, in fact deeply interconnected.
Authenticity over perfection
In the media industry, where the pursuit of perfection is often glorified, I’ve learned the true value of authenticity.
Embracing your true self, with all its flaws and strengths, resonates more deeply than a polished yet superficial image.
Above all, this lesson has taught me that genuine connections are formed not by the flawless portrayals we paint to others, but by the genuine, unvarnished realities we share and can wear with pride!
Resilience is more valuable than rigidity
The media world is fast-paced and constantly evolving. My journey taught me that resilience — and an ability to adapt and bounce back — is a far more valuable asset than sticking rigidly to a plan.
As I navigated the menopause transition amidst career demands, I discovered that being flexible and open to change, rather than resisting it, led to unexpected opportunities and personal growth.
Vulnerability can be a strength
Showing weakness used to be seen as a liability but I’ve learnt that vulnerability can be a powerful strength.
Opening up about struggles and uncertainties — especially as I navigate a new world as female business owner — has not only humanised me, but encouraged others to share their stories too.
Rather than being a negative, it seems to have fostered a more supportive and understanding work environment, where empathy and shared experiences drive collective success.
And so I continue to ‘drop the act’ and instead, lead authentically by example in the hope that, in turn, others are inspired to do the same.
As I quietly reflect in front of my screen, drawing this conclusion to a close, I’ve come to realise that our deepest connections are often those that acknowledge every part of who we are, warts and all, our successes and our failures, the remarkable and the mundane!
Maybe, when all is said and done, the most generous thing we can do, is to let others see past the mask, down to the raw, unedited truth of our human journey.
Stefanie Daniels is the founder of Life Begins at Menopause and and worked in media sales for two decades, including for Wireless Group (News UK), Bauer Media Group, and GCap Media (now Global).
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