I read four articles this week that touched on the theme of vulnerability. I want to summarise them here and the lesson learned from them.
The first one was, This Tip Will Revolutionize Your Online Writing, by Vishnu*s Virtues, who wrote if your articles are not connecting with your audience, they are missing one important ingredient — your personal experiences.
Vishnu discovered, quite accidentally, that when he started talking about his most difficult and painful life experiences (including a breakup that eventually led to divorce), he started getting more engagement from readers.
His message is that if you are not comfortable sharing your life, your writing won’t stand out.
Your unique life story and personal experiences are the differentiators when it comes to writing online. — Vishnu’s Virtues
Talking about difficult things can not only be therapeutic but also helps other people on the same journey.
But exposing yourself online is not an easy thing to do. We don’t know who will be reading our work and how they will use the information. Will we be judged?
Many writers on Medium go deep into their personal lives, talking about their difficult upbringing, dysfunctional families, relationships, and mental health challenges. But all of us can’t do it.
Yet, if we want to write, we will have to learn to intertwine our stories with our writing.
How can we do that?
How can we be vulnerable in front of complete strangers?
The answer came in the next article. Allie Volpe explained vulnerability in The Next Time Someone Asks How You Are, Be A Little Vulnerable.
She referred to social researcher and writer Brene Brown’s work on studying connections, where she found that in order to bond, we must allow ourselves to be vulnerable.
Vulnerability can range from asking for what you really need in a relationship, being in a position where you could be rejected or criticized professionally or personally, or exposing yourself emotionally.
Being vulnerable is hard. Brown found that people often shift to numbness, blame, and perfection in order to shelve those feelings of discomfort. We put up a tough exterior.
But studies show we actually perceive acts of vulnerability — such as admitting a mistake or revealing romantic feelings — as strength in others but weakness within ourselves.
We typically don’t confide our deepest thoughts with those closest to us.
Allie refers to Harvard professor Mario Luis Small’s research. He found that people regularly disclose to those they don’t feel emotionally attached to, such as doctors or co-workers, mostly because they’re experts in a particular area or are physically there when something important comes up.
If have no problem being vulnerable to strangers then why can’t we open up to those we are close to.
Tom Kuegler shed light on that in his article — Afraid Friends Will Read Your Writing? Here’s Why That’s Ridiculous.
The biggest fear we have is that if we expose ourselves (or our friends and family) in our writing, they might read it and not like what they read.
Tom’s argument is that 99.99% of the time our family will not read what we write.
Because we are not the center of their universe. Nobody from our personal life cares about what we type into our laptop late at night and post on Medium the next day.
People can barely keep their own lives straight. They don’t have time to sit down and read whenever we publish something new.
If they do, and don’t like what they read Tom has just the quote for them:
“If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should’ve behaved better.” — Anne Lamott
Then I read the article that showed how to be vulnerable in your writing.
Not only did she put herself out there and shared her darkest secret, but the valuable lesson it taught her. Her story could be a true inspiration for many. That’s what sharing your vulnerability does. It makes you a hero and helps others to learn from your experiences.