It’s a word I made up. Let’s explore its roots…
The first time I discovered “vulnerability” as a strategy, I was overjoyed. I had just given up my video production practice to become a Life Coach, and I was working hard at finding ways to appear vulnerable without actually risking anything. This was all subconscious, of course, but intentional nonetheless.
True vulnerability feels like the above definition.
“POSSIBILITY OF BEING ATTACKED OR HARMED”
That sounds awful, why would I do that?
I got into this whole “coaching thing” to protect myself from other people. After being in comedy and video production, enduring countless YouTube comments (and some real life comments) from people who thought they knew me, I was desperate to escape to a safer place. A place no one could harm me.
Coaching looked very appealing.
The coaches I knew were so self-assured. They had all the answers. Most of all, they seemed to know more about themselves than any of the people around them. They had a certain quiet grace about them. They didn’t need to prove anything.
I WANTED THAT. ALL OF IT. +10,000 tons of ice cream or I’m going to scream a la Veruca Salt.
I just didn’t realize that the path to that place was laden with landmines.
Landmines like embarrassment, imperfection, failure… looking bad.
All the things I had set up my perfectly manicured YouTube presence to avoid. It hadn’t worked, there were still negative comments to read every single day. So this time, THIS TIME! I would triumph.
I would “game” vulnerability. I could appear vulnerable without actually risking anything! Brilliant!
This is a practice I now lovingly refer to as:
Loosely defined, it is the practice of sharing personal details from a shallow and unaffected place.
And I say that without judgement. I really get why I did (and do) choose fauxnerability over the real thing. It’s a practice that has multiple uses:
- It makes me look really open and enlightened
- It makes other people want to be more like me
- It keeps people at a distance, without them realizing
When you’re being fauxnerable, people assume they know all there is to know about you. After all, you overwhelmed them with so much detail, there can’t possibly be anything you AREN’T telling them, right?
But here’s the thing…
I am not writing this because I want to inspire people to be “TRULY vulnerable” with others.
I’m writing this to support my fellow fauxnerable humans in recognizing that they are doing this, and that it is limiting THEM.
If you’re resonating with this, then know that your vulnerability isn’t FOR other people. It may well serve them, but it is for YOU first and foremost. We don’t need to be “let in” to your heart… but you do. Without the quotes.
When we practice fauxnerability, we are lying to ourselves. We are cutting ourselves off from the most tender, delicate and unique parts of our own humanity. We’re being overly generous with our own heartbreak, and bypassing the part where we actually experience it as such.
By all means, share your experiences with others, but before you do, just check in… have you fully experienced it YOURSELF?
If you find it really easy to share certain details, pull back and take a look at why it’s so easy.
Are you really connecting with what you’re saying? Or are you just saying words?
It’s not that it’s wrong to do so, it’s simply misguided. The result you’re looking for is likely not the one you’re actually creating over there with the other person, or in yourself.
Now, I have a litmus test for vulnerability, but I hesitate to give it to you because it could easily become the new strategy. But for the sake of rounding out this piece of writing, I am going to tell you anyway and trust that you’ll use it responsibly…
The litmus test for vulnerability: it makes you nervous to say/do/be
Going back to the definition of vulnerability… you’re exposed to the possibility of harm.
That’s nerve wracking! It should cause some feelings or bodily sensations in you.
Now, as I’m writing this I notice that I could probably go on about this topic for a long time. I could break down the different ways fauxnerability show up, I could give a ton more examples of faux vs true, I could suggest a powerful way forward for those of us who resonate with this… but I’m not going to get to it all today and that’s okay.
If you’re interested to hear more about this topic, leave a comment (give a clap if you’re reading this on Medium) and I’ll expand on it again soon/engage in discourse in the comments with you.
Perhaps I’ll even use the “series” feature on Medium to bring all of these together. #Thinkingoutloud
More to come :)