In order to develop deep, meaningful relationships, we need to expose our real selves, to let people in so that they see our authentic personas. This is what vulnerability is all about. But, let’s face it, how comfortable are we with vulnerability, when many of us perceive it as a weakness? How can we be vulnerable when we don’t trust others will honor our unmasked selves? How can vulnerability coexist with the fear of being judged, disliked, criticized or shamed?
Brene Brown became famous for her research on shame and vulnerability. In a recent article she explained, “Vulnerability is about showing up and being seen. It’s tough to do that when we’re terrified about what people might see or think… When we’ve attached our self-worth to what we produce or earn, being real gets dicey.” Her words so resonated with me. In my career as an image consultant, I became so fixated with my brand image, that I began to downplay the naturally authentic traits that revealed the “real” me. Unnoticed by me, I was increasingly becoming a façade of my true self. I assumed if I perfected the part of image consultant, it would seal my success. But I was so wrong. What I could not understand then was that I was distancing myself more and more from true connections with my family, friends, and clients. With all these walls against intimacy up, how could those whose favor I wanted truly relate to me?
In my attempt to win approval, I perfected the art of people pleasing. I hitched my self-worth onto my performance because that is what I was taught—get good grades, a good job, practice good behavior and I would earn the right to be liked. The very thing I sought is the very thing I hijacked by my “good girl” image. People may admire the good girl, they may even respect her, but they sure won’t get close to her. Likeability has everything to do with one’s capacity for vulnerability.
What I’ve come to understand is that my flaws, my humanness, my struggles make me a real woman living in today’s very complex, intricately connected world. Striving to be the perfect anything is a recipe for failure, because perfectionism reeks of fakeness, illusion, and inauthenticity—all things that keep us arm’s length away from others. The fear of making mistakes, being criticized, failing, or rejection are the uncertainties we tackle as individuals on a quest to fulfill our life’s work. Facing this vulnerability head on is the only way to move forward. Being vulnerable then helps us to succeed as it allows us to connect with others in a real, meaningful way and to honor ourselves as we truly are, all armor aside.
Supported in this knowledge, these 5 steps continue to help me recover from my tendency to hide the real me:
- SHOW up. It takes a LOT of energy to hide. It is far easier to show up, to be in the game and to be present to the glory and the potential risk of disapproval. To be a player in love, work and life.
- Be SEEN. Make your presence known, felt and understood. Be visible and stand in your truth. Take the necessary step: write that book, design that masterpiece, launch that innovation. Fuel your passion and creativity. Dream. And dream Big. Just go for it.
- SHARE. Your story. Your opinion. Your perspective. Your values. Be generous in opening up about who you really are and what you are about. Sharing also means listening. Be an active listener. It is this give and take that allows real bonds to form.
- SHINE. As Marianne Williamson famously said: “It’s our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?” Dare to be brilliant!
- SURRENDER…to the outcome. Know that no one can do you better than you. You are the best version of yourself. Be authentic and surrender the rest to God. Be amazingly you, but don’t be attached to the result.
There will always be folks who “lie in wait for the vulnerable and pounce as a way to feel powerful” as author Donald Miller put it in his book Scary Close. Yes, there will always be naysayers and detractors. But we should not let their judgement and criticism crowd out the majority who really are rooting for us, because they recognize that we are all ultimately on a similar journey to realize our excellence in our life’s purpose.
Natalie Jobity is an inspirational author, freelance writer and editor, and marketing consultant. She consults with would be authors and writers on honing their “voice” so their words have the desired impact. She is the author of the Amazon Best-selling style guide: Frumpy to Fabulous: Flaunting It. Your Ultimate Guide to Effortless Style.
Visit her blog at: http://nataliejobity.com/be-simply-inspired/