To share real-life experiences or obscure the details?
This is a question I have to face each time I choose to draft an article. Even so, I do my best to keep “I’s” to the minimum for the very touchy subjects. Other times, I may choose to mask the details by creating a third persona.
It’s a balancing act between allowing some vulnerability and not straying from the image I think others have of me.
And when I presume a blog idea may go against how I think others perceive me, I rarely go through with it.
To Be Vulnerable or Not To Be?
Brené Brown defines vulnerability as taking a risk, embracing uncertainty—by loosening control—and emotionally exposing ourselves. That is, allowing ourselves to show up in our experiences and be seen for who we are.
However, the human tendency is to react to situations that call for vulnerability self-protectively. As we often associate it with weakness. So, rather than embracing the moment, we choose to keep our guard up.
This reaction generally emanates from our fear of rejection and sensitivity to negative evaluation.
Having graduated and looking forward to securing my first job, I was once asked in an interview to describe myself in terms of personality—introvert or extrovert?
Well, my personality changes depending on the environment and current mood. There will be times I enjoy the company of others, and other times, the thought of it makes me uneasy.
And I responded as such—not the exact words. But the interviewer insisted that I had to pick one of the two.
Outright, I gave a response I thought he was looking for. That’s one of the critical pieces of advice given on interviews—show the company that you are what they are looking for in an ideal candidate.
The remainder of the interview remains a blur; my mind kept drifting back to the moment with, “What if…?”
Still on vulnerability: Research shows that, through a process called resonance, human beings can deduce the authenticity of other people’s actions. That is, we download vast information about others by looking at them.
A study by Paula Niedenthal on Judgments of Smile Authenticity demonstrates that this process happens automatically and rapidly.
Our judgment of the authenticity of the people we interact with also influences how we react to them. In a study on Expressive Suppression—a strategy to regulate one’s emotions—James Gross demonstrates how we register insincerity in our bodies.
When a person tries to hide their feelings, psychologically, other people in the interaction respond with a rise in blood pressure. That’s why we feel uncomfortable when someone is faking and can see through their ‘inauthenticity.’
Just as we can tell when someone isn’t okay, even when they insist that they are doing fine.
The study also concludes that this act of suppression inhibits the formation of a relationship between participants. Thereby, we trap ourselves in our emotional defense by building walls around us. In that, we can’t give or receive love or energy.
And this may lead to feeling isolated.
What does it take to allow ourselves to be Vulnerable?
Courage. It’s the ability to face circumstances that make us less comfortable or those that feel precarious.
Embracing vulnerability allows us to acknowledge the part of us that we are afraid of expressing and to:
- Connect with others
In the presence of authentic people, we automatically develop an intrinsic sense of comfort. This is the root of deep social connections—as we are drawn to people who are their true selves.
- Embrace Imperfection
We all have moments of self-doubt, insecurity, and weakness. It is part of who we are: no matter how others perceive us.
In acknowledging our flaws and imperfections, we begin our journey of Self-love and acceptance.
Also, we need to realize that our past doesn’t determine our present or future.
- Find value in who we are
Often, we make decisions out of fear of what people will think of us—by defining ourselves based on the opinions of others.
Combine that with a self-created checklist that we may try to live by, and we stand in the way of our potential.
Many of us believe that when we become vulnerable: we open ourselves to hurt; we expose ourselves to rejection and feeling fragile; or are acting submissive or weak.
However, being vulnerable teaches us to love ourselves for who we are. Thus, allowing us to get comfortable with our authentic selves. And we no longer shy away from taking risks because we feel we aren’t good enough.
In embracing vulnerability, we also permit others to be vulnerable too; as they become more comfortable around us.
This post is my first step in letting my walls down, an article at a time.