Vulnerability is overrated. That’s it. That’s the tweet.
Fun story – I actually sat down next to Brene Brown in a Portland classroom “greenroom” while we were both getting ready to do breakout talks at one of the first WDS events 10+ years ago.
Great lady, and then next year she went on to give her TED talk on vulnerability that’s got some 17M views and counting. Great job Brene!
Maybe at the time, vulnerability needed some PR, but it’s gone way too far.
Vulnerability has taken over an entire section of social media where people write blogs, do podcasts or do tik toks to slow, sad piano music of things they’re insecure about that get millions of views.
It’s not just unhelpful. It’s depressing.
You have amazing people instead of being inspiriting talking about what they’re amazing at and the limits of human potential – talking about things that they’re bad at – like bookkeeping.
It’s become this ritual – like some sort of weird, secular confessional where people have to tell people they’re not perfect because they don’t like to bookkeep (even though they have an amazing business, work out like a maniac, and have a great relationship).
If you’re nailing the big things – guess what? No one cares if you suck at bookkeeping.
Everyone hates accounting (if you love accounting, we appreciate you).
This public sharing of vulnerability isn’t just unhelpful and uninspiring. It’s borderline dangerous.
It rewires your brain to think loser thoughts.
- “I’m good at this one thing, but I’m not that great at this other thing (that doesn’t actually matter)”
- “I’m kind of bad at this.”
- Then you focus on that.
- Then you start believing it.
- Then, you start acting out what you believe.
- “I’m bad at things”
The worst part? How you do anything is how you do everything. Your thoughts bleed into other parts of your life.
And the focus you put on the things you’re bad at turns into beliefs that you start to carry over into the areas of life where you actually excel and slow you down there.
If you’re bad at something – cool. Your goal with the things you’re bad is not to make them your strengths. The goal should be for your weaknesses not to kill you.
That’s it. Get good enough at them for not to be mortal deficiencies or major hindrances to your goals.
You might not be great – that’s fine. But are they good enough? That’s passable. Or better – get someone else who is great to do it for you.
Then focus on what you’re good at.
In some respects, your vulnerability isn’t just not useful – it’s irrelevant. Because it’s not killing you and you have someone to pick up the slack – if you get the big things right – your weaknesses won’t actually matter.
If you’re still laser focused on sharing your weaknesses – there might be a few reasons why:
You might not be as good as you imagine you are at something you care about (emphasis important).
If that’s you – the goal shouldn’t be to be vulnerable. It’s to fix the problem and be better.
I had to do that earlier this year. I wasn’t fat. But I wasn’t not fat either. For [someone who runs a fitness site], that’s a tough pill to swallow. But I took a test, got an objective results and then made some changes.
You enjoy the dopamine hit that comes with praise from sharing vulnerability – but don’t want to have to do the actual hard work.
This means you get all the dopamine without actually addressing the issue or accomplishing the hard thing. Instead, you just have to share that you’re not good at something and get the same (or even more) feedback.
That’s even more dangerous as it’s negatively incentivizing you to keep being vulnerable instead of either 1) patching the weakness or 2) accomplishing the difficult thing.
The point of humility is to act as a buffer against you believing your own BS. From becoming the next Elizabeth Holmes, Adam Neuman, or Icarus and flying too close to the sun. These people lie to themselves so much that when they’re talking to other people – they’re not lying – they believe it and eventually their disconnect from reality is their downfall.
But if humility turns into this public self-flagellation where you never can actually act because you’re too busy being vulnerable and humble – you’re doing it wrong. And it’s not even a helpful trait. It’s harmful – to you and others.
We get it – you’re vulnerable and not perfect. Spoiler alert: nobody is. That’s all baked into the assumptions by you being human.
The question therefor – given that premise – is – “now what?”
Focus on what you’re good at. Then be f-cking amazing at it.
You have impossible things to do. Get to work.
This is available as a rant on Instagram or Tiktok as well.
Ben Kemp says
I’ve not seen the behaviours you’re describing (not that they’re not there, but just that I’m not looking), but it doesn’t sound like true vulnerability…it just sounds like listing things you’re not good at.
Vulnerability is opening yourself up emotionally, admitting when you’ve made mistakes even when it’s hard, or (as IMPOSSIBLE will now), trying things which are hard and where you might fail.
Dr Bréne Brown describes it as “uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure” and what you’ve described doesn’t sound like any of those things. Better examples of true vulnerability more likely come in longer pieces such as biographical interviews or books where people talk about their feelings and trauma’s in order to be accepted by themselves and others.
Indeed, what you’re describing sounds unhelpful, and just another social media trend, but I’d encourage people to look at real vulnerability rather than just using the buzzword.
Mike Pacchione says
This should be your speech
Joel Runyon says
I thank you very much for your professional psychology on how to talk to your self. Your professionalism makes it on point. We are only human, but humans with a brain and with a brain that listens to the human. Thanks again.
Michael Hamlin says
Appreciate this post. There is something to be said for going too far in any one direction including being too vulnerable! Keep up the great work.
For me, vulnerability is about accepting to put yourself out there and taking the risk of failure, whether when trying to sell something, asking a girl out, etc. It’s about allowing yourself to get rejected or fail after trying something bold. So many people turned it into pursuing other people’s sympathy. But vulnerability isn’t about sharing how your life isn’t what you want it to be.
When I start a new business, I’m vulnerable because I risk failing and losing money.
When a student submits his homework to a teacher, he’s vulnerable because he takes the risk of getting a bad grade.
When I cry to someone because I’m not living the life of my dream, I’m not being vulnerable.