On Sharing Vulnerability

One of the most wonderful things I've seen on the internet in recent years is our growing willingness to be vulnerable, together. I have to admit that this wasn't really a 'thing' for me until I'd read Daring Greatly by Brene Brown1, as well as Rising Strong2. As far as self help books go, I don't think I would actually categorise them as such.

Even LinkedIn these days is full of posts of people sharing their failures, admitting mistakes, dropping their egos, and being authentic with each other in favour of presenting a flawless persona. It's a beautiful thing, to allow yourself to be yourself, your very human self, without the pressure of having to appear flawless.

For me, this extends a bit further although I appreciate that it's something that has to be taken on balance, because there's a difference between making mistakes and doing the same thing deliberately or with purpose. For example, when I record a video for Youtube, I'll generally go for one take, without any editing beyond making sure the sound of my voice isn't too quiet, or doesn't blow your eardrums out. All of the vocal mistakes and mis-spoken words will remain, as will the pauses for thought.

As a software engineer, this happens a lot when writing code and architecting systems too. I suppose I'm a mix between a try-hard and a people-pleaser, so the bar I set for myself is miles higher than the expectations anyone else have, if they have any at all. In that situation, I've raised the stakes for myself so fucking high that even the slightest error can be heartbreaking. Thankfully I've brought that under control over the years, as I've grown older and wiser, but I still notice it in myself. It's funny though, because through my training as a coach, and through my experience of co-founding and coaching at Rails Girls London, I am a lot more effective at guiding others through similar challenges than I am with applying them to myself.

As you might have guessed, it's a lot easier to take care of others instead of taking care of yourself and, at least in the West, we've ended up with this bizarre, paradoxical mix of individualism and selflessness. You know, you own your success but others are responsible for your failures. It's pretty toxic, but I digress.

I'm not sure what point I'm trying to make, except that I appreciate the injection of humanity into our disembodied communications over the internet. Being vulnerable isn't just sharing your childhood trauma or doing a bit of emotional dumping, as valid as those are in some situations, but also drawing back the curtains in front of your heart and releasing some of that darkness into the light that others cast.

Ok, that's a weird metaphor I know, I'm not even sure I like it :D but you know, it was the first thing that came into my mind and my experiences over the past five or six years have led me to confront my own shadow face to face. Light and dark kind of fits, so long as you don't consider them good and bad. They are neither, just different.

To wrap this up, I recognise that a lot of people personally reach out to me and share their appreciation for me sharing my own vulnerability. For me, it's almost normal, although it's taken a while to figure out how to express it in a healthier way, while continuing to empower myself as opposed to retreating into those frankly shitty feelings and memories. At one time, I found it hard as well, but I had amazing support all the way along and I was never alone with it.

So, considering that we see ourselves becoming more distant as a result of the COVID situation, I encourage anyone who reads this to attempt a bold move into the uncomfortable and see how they might introduce their humanity into their internet persona. Share and share alike.