If you’ve worked with me, you know how I tend to invite exploration into words we use and the meanings we assign to them. It’s a bit like unraveling fabric to see the threads of origin. Sometimes I refer to writings that spark this kind of imaginative exploration. Sometimes, these idea sources seem far from the realms of psychology and emotional wellness. 

Recently, the source was an article in the business magazine, Inc. While I may quibble on how the headline oversimplifies some complexities (since I spent decades being a copywriter, I forgive a lot of media foibles – I remember how hard it was to be creative in rigid environments…), the idea presented here is valuable.

Besides, the author also quotes Brene Brown (not just billionaire Richard Branson.)

My curiosity is usually piqued when I encounter comparisons of things that might seem unrelated on the surface and that are also foundationally connected – as with the ideas of Vulnerability and Integrity.

The article is brief, so read over it if you’re also intrigued.

The first two points made in the piece: Yes, fair enough. Not really new, right?

It’s the third point that had my mind wandering in a labyrinth. Here’s how it went:

The author uses Branson’s way of being to describe the importance of vulnerability in leadership, then moves on to the real expert in vulnerability (Brene Brown) to deconstruct this idea further, helping us readers out with a simplified How-to on increasing our own practice of vulnerability. 

How-to Point Number 3 is “Commit to your promises” – a hallmark of Integrity.

Again, I move quickly over a speed bump sentence (“It’s usually a reflection of character” is an overly harsh and final judgment in my world of mind…), but am drawn into the notion that there’s a missing piece here, an unwritten requirement. It’s like a bread recipe that left out the leavening.

If a person seeks to commit to their promises, they must (as the article does spell out finally) not take their own word lightly. 

Think about all of the emotional wellness pieces that go together for this puzzle to be whole. If I do not take my word lightly, I must feel both safe enough to offer my authentic opinion or stance, while also feeling a sense that things will be okay when I put it out there. And I must feel like I will inherently be okay even if I say ‘No’… Otherwise, if I am stopped cold by my fears of what could happen if I say ‘No’ – chances are good that, at least some times and possibly often, I will say ‘Yes’ even when I don’t mean it.

In short, in order to maintain my integrity, I must consider my “Yes” and “No” carefully in all kinds of communications. To do that well, I must have a sense of safety about my word, about my self – even in precarious situations. To say “Yes” with authenticity, I must be able to say “No.”

Are you fully free to say “No” in your various relationships? If not – why not? Developing and nurturing a strong sense of self can enable us to say yes and no with authenticity – and live lives of integrity – almost regardless of the external factors (such as how others think or behave.)