Vulnerability Is Not a Weakness
In the first month of my graduate scheme job, I announced to everyone that I wanted to be Commercial Director within five years. That cringe-worthy moment will stay with me forever, and it took about ten years and a load of extremely hard lessons to knock the youthful arrogance out of me. I’m not sure that it has gone entirely, but I have found a far more worthy behaviour to aspire to:
I try to embrace my vulnerability.
I spent ten years of a corporate career building myself up, but spending the last few years breaking myself down has been far more fulfilling. I find it psychologically so much easier to be honest about what I’m not so good at (with myself and with others). It gives you a foundation upon which to build a genuinely authentic life.
Whether you are a politician, a leader, a teacher or a parent, admitting that you are not perfect is the first step towards drawing others into your world. Imperfections fascinate people - they invite them to explore your why, and the most satisfying conversations almost always start from a place of “I’m in a bit of trouble.”
I believe that we all recognise this to be true, but in a society where perfection has been idolised, it is sad that our imperfections tend to get brushed under the carpet. However, as social media brings us closer to each other, we are quickly realising that everyone has their demons. More importantly, people are increasingly happy to talk about them.
I watched an incredibly powerful programme on British TV the other day. Channel 5’s “Me and My Mental Illness” featured a number of incredibly brave individuals talking about their struggles. One of them, in particular, made a huge impression on me. Alastair Campbell was the (might I say Machiavellian) PR brains behind the success of our former Prime Minister Tony Blair. He suffered in silence with depression for decades, but it is only since leaving his role that he has been sharing his story. It made me think – why couldn’t he have talked about it at the time? Would we really have judged him harshly for it? I hope not. I think that it would have made him that little bit more human. I now see him in a totally different light – I like the guy, I feel for him, whereas before I felt that he was a bit of a smarmy git.
You see, that’s what we are. Human. No one is perfect, and when you accept that about yourself, there is no shame in sharing it. I have so many imperfections that they would take at least ten blogs to cover. I won’t bore you with the details now, but I won’t be scared to do so if the time does come.
The most interesting thing is that I have found my calling as a writer. My worst exam mark at GSCE (aged 16) was a B for English Language - in the era of As and A*s. My grammar is highly suspect, and typos are ever present. Someone even once said that my writing was akin to literary diarrhoea. Yet, somehow, even with these flaws, people read and enjoy my blogs. Clients are happy to “borrow” my voice, and most find that it works well for them. I’m not sure I’ll ever see myself as a proper Writer (with a big “w”), but I am pretty sure that it is what I’ll be doing for the next 20 years. What I mean to say is that I am happy in my own professional skin, imperfections and all.
Vulnerability warms the soul.
I can imagine that Alastair Campbell felt that little bit better about things after he recorded that programme. I hope that he did – it has made him into a hero of mine.