…Improving overall well-being: When you are authentic and vulnerable, you release the burden of trying to maintain a perfect image or hide your true self. This can lead to a sense of relief and freedom that can improve your overall well-being, both personally and professionally.
Being vulnerable and authentic are some of today’s popular buzzwords. It may seem counterintuitive to be vulnerable, as many of us have been taught to project an air of confidence, be a boss, and act like we know everything. In Brene Brown’s words, “vulnerability takes courage.” So is vulnerability a strength or a weakness? Can someone be authentic without being vulnerable? How can being authentic and vulnerable help someone grow both personally and professionally? In this interview series, we are talking to business leaders, mental health professionals and business and life coaches who can share stories and examples of “How Authenticity and Vulnerability Pay Off and Help You Win Personally and Professionally.” As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Barbara H. Smith.
Barbara H. Smith, known as the “Celebrity Speaker Trainer,” is an Amazon bestselling author, award-winning international speaker, executive coach, and trainer. She is an actor, corporate business strategist, and tv show host. Her winning edge originated at the intersection of pursuing Undergraduate and master’s degrees in computer information technology and her life experience as a black female in a white-male-dominated industry. With THIS as her foundation, she founded BHS & Associates, LLC in 2016 and offered customized corporate training programs and workforce development along with personal executive coaching.
A media darling, Barbara has made appearances on a variety of tv, and radio shows both nationally and internationally, including The Doctors, Authority Magazine and more. Additionally, Barbara is the host of The Empowering You Show, airing live each week on Amazon Fire and Roku.
She has received numerous national and international service awards including but not limited to: Astell Collins, Global Inspiration Award, and an appointment as a World Civility Ambassador from the iChange Nations signed by His Royal Highness Sir Clyde Rivers and presented by Special Envoy, Dr. Ruben West.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
Sure. Here’s the fascinating story of Barbara H. Smith. At the age of three, she was an engineer. By age eight, she was an instructor, and at the age of 16, she was a race car driver. These are all true events, but they have intriguing backstory twists that make them even more captivating. Using these same techniques, strategies, and storytelling experiences, she has honed the ability to tell compelling stories and help others share their authentic and vulnerable stories in convincing ways. Barbara H. Smith is a bestselling award-winning author, speaker, entrepreneur, corporate trainer, and business strategist. Her winning edge originated at the intersection of her education in computer information technology and her life experience as a black female in a white-male-dominated industry. She is the host of The Empowering You Show and has made appearances on a variety of tv, and radio shows nationally and internationally. She serves the women and children of Natasha House, a transitional home for homeless women and their children. The loves of her life are her husband, her mother, her four siblings, three sons, and nine grandbabies.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I coined the phrase, “If you see someone without a smile, give them one of yours.” It’s a reminder that our world is often filled with cruelty and hostility, particularly in the aftermath of the pandemic, where violence seems to be rampant. Many people are struggling and may not have much to smile about. However, I firmly believe that smiling is infectious, and that’s why I make it a point to share mine with others. Whether they smile back or not, I hope that my simple act of kindness might brighten someone’s day, even if only for a moment.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Gabriele Muccino directed the movie, “The Pursuit of Happyness,” which starred Will Smith, and I was deeply moved by its story. It chronicled the journey of a man who chased his dream with unwavering determination, despite encountering numerous setbacks. He faced homelessness with his son, lost everything he had, yet persisted until someone finally gave him a shot to prove himself. Against all odds, he exhibited a fierce drive to become a stockbroker, and his perseverance paid off as his life transformed completely. This powerful narrative resonated with me, as it exemplified the notion that with hard work, determination, and an unrelenting spirit, one can achieve greatness. Like Smith, I am also working towards having my skills recognized, which would provide me with more opportunities to engage, inspire, and empower others from the stage.
Also, the film “The Pursuit of Happyness” deeply resonated with me because my life hasn’t been easy. Even though many of my struggles resulted from my own poor decisions, I never gave up on my dream of performing on stage. While I had hoped to achieve this dream through acting or film roles, I ultimately found my calling as a speaker, which has led me to many different stages. It’s a great reminder to be mindful of what we ask for, as we may end up getting exactly what we wished for. Nevertheless, I aspire to inspire and motivate larger audiences. Nothing brings me more joy than empowering others to act on their heart’s desires and achieve their full potential.
Similarly, the book “The Compound Effect” by Darren Hardy had a profound impact on me, as it highlighted the importance of making good decisions and repeating them consistently which “compounds” the effect of achieving a desired outcome. In my case, repeatedly pursuing acting and speaking opportunities helped me realize my dream of becoming a professional speaker.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Let’s begin with a definition of terms so that each of us and our readers are on the same page. What exactly does being authentic mean?
To be authentic is to live in accordance with your true self by expressing your genuine thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. It involves being truthful to yourself and others, without conforming to external pressures that do not align with your core values and beliefs.
Furthermore, authenticity requires vulnerability and transparency. It requires a willingness to share your imperfections and weaknesses, and an eagerness to confront and work through your own insecurities and fears. This deep level of self-awareness is crucial for authenticity to be genuine.
In essence, being authentic means living in a way that aligns with your innermost values and beliefs. It’s being true to who you are, rather than trying to please others or fit into society’s expectations that do not align with your true self.
What does being vulnerable mean? Can you explain?
Vulnerability is the act of opening yourself up to emotional or physical harm by revealing your weaknesses or insecurities to others. It requires honesty and transparency about your thoughts, feelings, and experiences, even if it means facing the possibility of rejection, judgment, or criticism.
As vulnerability involves stepping outside of your comfort zone, it is often accompanied by fear and discomfort. It means being seen in a raw and exposed state. However, vulnerability is a powerful tool for building genuine connections and strengthening relationships, because it promotes trust, empathy, and understanding.
Being vulnerable can manifest in various ways, such as confiding in a trusted friend or family member about your deepest fears and insecurities, or acknowledging your mistakes or limitations in a professional setting. It forces the use of immense courage, self-awareness, and a willingness to confront the uncomfortable and unfamiliar.
What are the positive aspects of being authentic and vulnerable? Can you give a story or example to explain what you mean?
In essence, vulnerability involves being open and honest about oneself, even in situations that may be uncomfortable or frightening, to create more meaningful relationships with others. In my latest book “Empowering You: Let Go of the Past & Step Into Your Greatness,” I share a personal story about neglecting my children in pursuit of my career ambitions, causing damage that wasn’t apparent until years later when my father passed away during the pandemic. My sister’s visit with our mother led me to confront my grief and realize my role in my children’s unbalanced lives. While it was scary to share this story (authentic), my hope is that my vulnerability will inspire others to avoid the same mistakes and prioritize emotional connections with loved ones.
Are there negative aspects to authenticity and vulnerability? Can you give a story or example to explain what you mean?
Absolutely. Sharing the story of my neglect towards my children can be challenging for my self-esteem, as I may worry about how others will perceive me as an imperfect mother or flawed person. However, as I’ve matured, I’ve come to value myself and realize that I cannot control what others think of me. I am now focused on a different mission, which is to help others improve their lives. My mantra is to uplift others as I continue to grow myself, and this requires courage and confidence, even if it means being vulnerable and transparent. Though it may be uncomfortable at times, I believe that the benefits of sharing my authenticity and vulnerability outweigh the potential risks.
From your experience or perspective, what are some of the common barriers that hold someone back from being authentic and vulnerable?
When coaching authors to write their stories, I often encounter two common obstacles that hinder their ability to be authentic and vulnerable: a lack of self-confidence and a fear of criticism from others. Many people feel that their stories are not important or powerful enough, and this belief can prevent them from sharing their experiences. However, I remind them that the power of a story is subjective and in the eye of the beholder. Every story has the potential to impact someone else’s life, and someone out there may be waiting to read your truth with authenticity and vulnerability, to know that they are not alone. By sharing your insights, struggles, strengths, and triumphs, you give others permission to see themselves emerging triumphantly from their own struggles. So, don’t let self-doubt or fear hold you back from sharing your story. Your words have the power to inspire and empower others, and that is truly invaluable.
Here is the central question of our discussion. What are five ways that being authentic and vulnerable pay off, and help you win, both personally and professionally?
Being authentic and vulnerable can pay off in several ways, both personally and professionally. Here are the five ways I believe authenticity and vulnerability help you win:
- Building stronger relationships: Being authentic and vulnerable allows you to connect with others on a deeper level. When you share your true self, others can relate to you and feel more comfortable sharing their own vulnerabilities. This can help build stronger and more meaningful relationships both personally and professionally.
- Increasing trust and credibility: When you are authentic and vulnerable, you demonstrate that you are trustworthy and credible. People are more likely to trust and respect someone who is honest and open about their thoughts, feelings, and experiences.
- Fostering innovation and creativity: When you are authentic and vulnerable, you create a safe environment for others to express their own ideas and opinions. This can lead to more innovative and creative solutions to problems, both in personal and professional settings.
- Boosting resilience and adaptability: Being authentic and vulnerable can help you develop resilience and adaptability in the face of challenges. By acknowledging your own vulnerabilities and struggles, you can develop a growth mindset that allows you to bounce back from setbacks and find new solutions to problems.
- Improving overall well-being: When you are authentic and vulnerable, you release the burden of trying to maintain a perfect image or hide your true self. This can lead to a sense of relief and freedom that can improve your overall well-being, both personally and professionally.
In summary, being authentic and vulnerable can benefit people in their personal and professional lives. It fosters deeper connections with others, which can lead to stronger and more meaningful relationships. Authentic people are more likely to attract others who share similar values and beliefs, which can result in long-lasting relationships built on trust and respect.
Additionally, vulnerability can be a powerful tool for personal growth and development. By acknowledging and addressing one’s weaknesses and limitations, greater self-awareness and a deeper understanding of one’s own values, beliefs, and goals can lead to improved decision-making.
In a professional setting, authenticity and vulnerability can be quite advantageous. For example, in leadership roles, leaders who are authentic and vulnerable are often more relatable and approachable, which helps build stronger teams and foster greater collaboration. Furthermore, being open and honest about one’s limitations and weaknesses encourages others to do the same, which leads to a more supportive and inclusive work environment.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
If given the chance to inspire a movement, I would create a program that brings together mental health and housing providers to support the homeless population. The experience of someone close to me dealing with both mental health issues, such as PTSD, and homelessness deeply affects me. Unfortunately, there are not enough innovative programs out there to assist those in need. Instead, it seems that the solution is often to lock them up and forget about them. A system or program that provides mental health counseling, affordable housing, and workforce development would stem the tide of homelessness across the country.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
I would highly value the opportunity to meet Oprah Winfrey in person. Many people have commented that our interviewing styles are alike, and it would be a great pleasure to have a conversation with her over lunch and confirm if that’s the case. Alternatively, having her as a guest on my show, The Empowering You Show, would be a remarkable experience and an honor to say that I interviewed Oprah.
How can our readers follow you online?
Your readers can follow me on the web, and social platforms here: http://linktr.ee/bhsmith
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent on this. We wish you only continued success.