How Deconstructive Vulnerability Undermines Your Self-Expression

Source: Eneida Nieves, via Pexels (Pexels License)

It’s no secret that people are now being more open about their personal struggles through confessional-style writings and speeches. And for the most part, it’s a welcome change in the way we express our feelings and thoughts. It’s refreshing, genuine, raw, and highly relatable. Vulnerability has the power to set off a chain reaction for people who once were too ashamed of themselves and suffered deterioration of mental health as a result of hiding everything and faking that everything is all fine, dandy, and picture-perfect. With the rise of blogs and social media, we are now revolutionizing the way we communicate. Instead of talking about the weather, the traffic, what we studied, and what we do for a living, we are now being more open about our fears, insecurities, and worst memories, as well as our idealistic hopes and dreams for the future, which encourages us to connect with others on a deeper level.

When it’s used to empower others who struggle with the same issues, vulnerability can be therapeutic and absolutely freeing. Reading something raw and personal can make us feel like we’ve found a new friend, or even better, another kindred spirit. This is the original intent of using vulnerability to communicate feelings, thoughts, and ideas that resonate with people who are seeking something beyond themselves and want to find someone who understands what they’re going through. No wonder it’s so popular and highly encouraged.

When Is Vulnerability Too Much Of A Good Thing?

Because of how much power there is in expressing yourself honestly, vulnerability is often confused with saying anything you want without considering what effects your words may have on others and what kind of long-term consequences may arise from saying certain things like too many personal details, controversial ideas, and opinions that are expressed in a rash and abrasive manner. It’s so easy to cross that line between empowering vulnerability and deconstructive vulnerability, and it can have disastrous effects if you aren’t aware of it.

Some Ways You Can Tell If You’re Communicating With Deconstructive Vulnerability

  1. You’re using it to trigger an emotional response from a certain type of person you have in mind (a bully, oppressor, or anyone that made you angry).
  2. When you’re expressing yourself that way, it doesn’t feel cathartic at all. Rather, you feel angry and full of self-pity.
  3. You’re so fixated on sharing your personal failures, worst memories, and darkest emotions that you fail to address anything redeeming about you.
  4. You don’t feel remorse for airing your dirty laundry in public and you have quite the reputation for being a “hot mess” and someone who’s ungrateful, whiny, and attention-seeking.
  5. It’s causing you to remain stagnant and resisting of change. Deconstructive vulnerability keeps you in victim mode and thus, you’re only talking about your problems and the intricacies of them, without doing much to overcome them.
  6. You don’t understand what it means to have healthy boundaries or form healthy relationships with people. You trick yourself into thinking that you can form connections based on your pain, but in reality, you’re just seeking validation from them and want them to make you feel “less alone,” since you have a deep, underlying fear of never being good enough and never being accepted as you are.
  7. You have a difficult time finding healthy outlets to release the angst you feel from repressing your feelings because you’re too worried about unresolved issues from the past and you’re paralyzed by thinking about it and not doing anything to confront it.
  8. It enslaves you more than it frees you. You become so addicted to your problems and worries that you find any outlet to ruminate over them.
  9. You capitalize on what you do wrong and belittle everything you’re doing well. You undermine your own efforts in becoming a better person because you somehow think you have to share the worst parts of you to be relatable.

What Deconstructive Vulnerability Does To Self-Expression

Honest self-expression is very valuable because presenting yourself as this super polished and accomplished person with absolutely no problems or flaws can be boring, disingenuous, and unmemorable. People want to be inspired by someone who had to go through a lot to get to where they are now, not someone who’s perfect (e.g. robotic and flat) right from the start, so in many instances, vulnerability is essential when it comes to forming genuine connections.

Deconstructive vulnerability undermines your credibility. It’s like cutting yourself open and allowing yourself to bleed for the whole world to see, while lying on the ground doing absolutely nothing to get back up because you want someone out there to see you in all your gory glory. It only elicits pity and disapproval. Therefore, it only opens up the worst in you and that’s not a good foundation for personal excellence.

This isn’t to say that you must repress every negative and toxic feeling within you. It’s okay to vent and let it all out in private. Talk to a close friend. Write in your journal. Cry yourself to sleep. Sit in the dark and reflect on it. But for the sake of everyone’s sanity, don’t shout it out to the world or fall into the trap of thinking that it’s going to build you up. Stewing in it will only make you stuck where you’re at — a place of fear, self-loathing, and helplessness. It’s taking radical honesty to the most counterproductive and toxic extreme.

You can be relatable without revealing your lacerations and blackest bruises to the world. You can be empowering without overemphasizing your rock bottom failures. You can be truthful without hurting others or manipulating them into feeling sorry for you.

Final Thoughts

Vulnerability is essential for effective and resonant communication. It’s far better to let your guard down and show the world that you are human, you aren’t made of steel, and you have unique life experiences and thought processes that you can share in your own way. However, it’s also very critical to be conscious of what you’re trying to communicate and how you come across — you don’t want to seem like you’re desperate for people’s pity or attention. You want to build others up, not keep them stuck in a place of despair and self-pity.

When you’re expressing yourself, there must be a balance between authenticity and excellence. The purpose of vulnerable self-expression is to acknowledge that you are human and you have a lot to work through. You can be honest about your difficulties before you can take action, but what you do to move forward in spite of your struggles is the most important message you should convey when you share anything about yourself.