The other day I shared something deep and personal I had written in a very public forum, and then found myself freaking out about it. Social media is a strange thing, and I’m not sure there are many of us who have completely mastered the art of using it. I felt that funny feeling in my stomach. You know the one, when you’ve been caught with your proverbial pants down. The embarrassment, the shame, like when the teacher called on you in the second grade and you didn’t have the answer and you looked like a fool in front of your entire class.
I’ve always been told by others that they admire my vulnerability. My rawness. My ability to put myself out there and let it all hang out, so to speak. And so, I often do, and therefore was quite taken aback by my emotional response to sharing a seemingly innocent article the other day.
Perhaps I’m not as comfortable with vulnerability as I thought I was?
Vulnerability is a funny thing. It’s a big buzzword at the moment, we’re all told we should do it. We should lead with it and practice vulnerable moments with co-workers. We should practice vulnerability daily in our personal lives. Brene brown says vulnerability is the key to living a wholehearted life, whatever that means. And I get it on many levels, it is an amazing way of creating connection with other people. Think about it, how can anyone ever really know you if they don’t know the real, unpolished, not-so-perfect you? It’s also important when it comes to letting go of perfectionism and practicing compassion for oneself. Overall, vulnerability can be a really great thing.
There are limits to vulnerability
But there are limits. And frankly, there should be limits to it. Which is the lesson that hit me like a ton of bricks the other day. You may have heard the phrase, “Don’t show your pearls with swine?” It’s a popular piece of advice, and is adapted from a phrase in the Gospel, “Cast not pearls before swine.”
Okay, I know where your thinking just went. So the point of this is to not call other people a pig, no matter how much you may believe someone deserves it. Or to start preaching at you. The point is to carefully distinguish amongst who it is appropriate to share your heart with and who it makes sense to keep it more closed. To make a conscious choice to share or not to share. And then share it only with people who will really appreciate your message.
I think every person and every culture struggles with this, but I do think having lived in many different countries, that we Americans often take the cake with this one. We share and share and share because we think we’re supposed to. We share things with our family for instance because they’re family and we think this is what family is supposed to look like, and then get hurt and surprised when they judge us. We share things with friends because we think that’s what friendship is, and then, wham, again we find ourselves feeling judged and abused. We feel hurt and exposed, shamed, and embarrassed and, wham, we are back in that second-grade class under the watchful eye of the evil math teacher. And then we clam up, because we learn that vulnerability hurts. That vulnerability stings. That vulnerability just isn’t for me. So we put the mask back up, and hide ourselves. And then wonder why our life is working and why we never feel joy. It’s hard to feel anything at all when you’re trying to be superman or superwoman.
Make a conscious choice who to be vulnerable with
We are precious. You are precious. Some things in life just are super precious, like a beautiful, perfect, luminous pearl. And these things are indeed meant to be shared, to have someone else bear witness to your journey. That is a huge part of what life is about. But these things are also meant for very select audiences of people who will understand your message, who can acknowledge and validate your story, your pain and your fears.
Good thing Facebook has an edit button. I’ve now created a list of people on social media who I think will really be receptive and embrace my deeper writing, and these are the folks I’ll be sharing it with moving forwards. And that’s okay. It doesn’t mean the relationships with the people I’m not sharing it with aren’t valuable. It doesn’t mean I don’t care about them or love them. Relationships come in all shapes and sizes. My dad isn’t included in this list, and initially I judged myself for not feeling comfortable enough to share these things with him. But on the flip side, my dad is the first person I would think to call if I had a dead body in the backyard and needed help covering it up. And who knows when that might come in handy???
Where in your life might it benefit you to be more selective with the folks who share in your inner circle? What might you need to change to practice vulnerability in a safe way?
Shelley Pernot is a leadership and career coach who is passionate about helping her clients discover their strengths and talents and find a career that utilizes them. Reach out to me here for a free consultation to learn more about the coaching process and how it may benefit you!