The most healthy and successful people I know are vulnerable, sometimes deliberately so. Rather than putting up walls to keep people out, they use their vulnerability to make people feel at ease. The fact is, you are vulnerable whether you choose to make yourself so or not – the question is whether you choose to use it or to protect yourself. Putting up walls, making a show of strength, and hiding your vulnerability does not make it go away. You are vulnerable. There are things that you can’t do and need people for. There are things you need to work on, or work through. There are things you’re not sure of, or feel insecure about, and really need to deal with.
The more you try to make people believe you’re not vulnerable, the more you will have to build your walls. Any crack that appears, you have to cover up. But it’s not weak to have a weakness, it’s just life. Everyone does. We see straight through people who want to seem like they have no flaws. It’s a great strength to admit it and still win on your strengths.
Have you ever been in an interview for a job and been asked the ‘weakness’ question? You know, where they get you to tell them your biggest weakness? For a while, the advice from gung-ho ‘specialists’ was to say something like ‘My greatest weakness is that I work too hard.’ It’s like you’re saying, ‘I don’t really have any weaknesses’. So you admit nothing, and they think you’re awesome and give you the job, right?
Nope. This question is all about self-awareness. Answering it like this tells them you either have no idea about yourself, you aren’t confident enough in your strengths, or you have some terrible weakness you’re afraid they will find out.
Either way, you’re not fooling them. What they want is for you to admit a weakness and show how it hasn’t stopped you from achieving things. They know that nobody can be strong in every single area of their life. Admitting it shows you understand yourself, that you have emotional awareness, and that you know how to work around shortcomings rather than pretending they’re not there.
People generally find vulnerability endearing, as you’re basically saying, ‘this is me, with no pretending’. It’s easier for people to relate to you if they don’t think you’re some kind of superhero. When you can be real with someone, they see you as you are (which is scary, and that’s why we don’t do it more often). And they’re more likely to be able to be real with you.
Sadly, we have to be careful about who we are vulnerable with, and how real to be. Being open to just anyone is risky, and your unedited thoughts are hard to understand for anyone who doesn’t have some context about you in the first place. But if you’re giving a speech, and nobody has much context for you at all yet, you will get better results if you invite people in a little instead of trying to impress them.
We’re all vulnerable. The question is – how are you going to make that work for you instead of always feeling like it works against you?