This is a guest post by Timon, the social skills coach at
Techlecticism.com . You may check is bio below the article.
“How embarrassing a story do you tell when you meet someone new?”
I looked at Dave and pondered his question. How vulnerable am I really? I realized that the more honest and authentic I am to people, the more I connect with people and the better I feel. Not necessarily the other way around.
Dave and I were hanging out with a group of friends from university. We know each other for over 10 years now. We are close because we experienced all the insecurities, triumphs, ups and downs of each other. From the outside, we look like a tough rowdy bunch. But looks can be deceiving. We are all pretty compassionate guys.
Willingly and unwillingly, we show vulnerability to each other. That is what connects us deeply, despite nowadays only seeing each other a couple of times a year.
Along the way, we learned how to use vulnerability intuitively to connect with others. We mastered a little trick. By telling an embarrassing funny story to new people, where we are vulnerable yet humorous, others open up and we connect more easily9In my opinion, it is more than just a trick, although Timon calls it so. It is more about sharing yourself and being honest about who you are and what you believe in. Might it be oversharing? Well, we will cover this below..
I can tell about the time; How I was instantly friend zoned by asking for a date directly after a simple kiss with a cute redhead, oops, amateur move :)! Or how I was giving a presentation to a mayor, while my pants were ripped near my crotch, only realizing afterward of course, hahaha. Or when I was loudly gossiping about my classmate, when she was sitting 2 seats away (“What did you just say about me!”). Hahaha, funny, but not nice of me at all! 10Timon will be covering this, but I have to mention here: when you tell such stories, it is important that you don’t want anything back in return. Not a laugh nor a smile. Not approval. Heck, not even connection. You do that to share who you truly are because this is a prerequisite for human connection.
All examples of how I messed up, was flawed, how I made mistakes as a human. We all make them, but by telling them with a laugh I show humor, self-awareness11Important! Here is an article about it., and vulnerability. Inviting others to share as well
But many people don’t really show themselves. They hide behind a societal image of how they should be. Hence the question: “how embarrassing is the story we are going to tell?” Because to connect, you need reciprocation. I open up, you open up. If I can tell an honest story and get one back, bam, instant buddies. If I get a weird look or a boring ass reply, never mind, no connection is there
I used to be timid and fake as well. Pretending to be a nonchalant nihilist. Acting like I didn’t care about anything. But deep down I deeply cared about many issues, especially the opinion of others. I didn’t want to show it, but indirectly I did act that way
How about you?
Do you feel you can’t really be yourself? Because it feels scary, unsafe even?
Pay attention, because showing yourself is the path to accepting yourself, and connecting to others.
Divine Faulty People
We are all simple primates.
Part of being a bipedal intelligence is wanting to belong to other people. Your office colleagues down the aisle, your college mates, or a few new faces at a party.
‘But what if you are yourself and you are rejected? Or shamed? What says that about you? That proves you are the loser you thought you were! So better act a bit cooler than you are, a bit tougher, a bit meaner. A lot less,… you.’
Sounds familiar? Most of us had a train of thought like this somewhere in life. Especially in high school where you are thrown in the chaos of larger society. You desperately clamp on what seems to be right. Looking at other people to imitate what seems to work, or playing your personality down so you don’t stick out.
Whenever we adapt to act like someone else, we create a persona. This is a behavioral mask, an alternative you. Something to show the world. But it is out of fear. Or “professional necessity” as some rationalize it. A pretty exhausting practice, just because you don’t want to be rejected.
Hey, it’s not weird you put up a front. You meet thousands of people in our life. How do you fit in with all these different characters? Besides, you are given an image by the media about how you should be. Somehow that never correlates with who you are? Are you wrong then?
No wonder we develop a mask, or several masks,… slowly becoming the act we perform every day, even believing sometimes that it is the real you.
So yeah, putting up a front prevents real rejection. The real you is not put at risk. It also prevents true connections with people.
We all instinctively know when we are not meeting someone real. You are posing, they are posing. You do this, despite desperately craving an authentic connection12Something that we all crave. Fuck the ‘lone wolf’ camp!. You want to be part of a group. Just for being who you are.
Instead, you pretend to be someone else or hide in the shadows.
The problem is only exacerbated by social media. How easy it is to pose what you want others to see. Or to be blinded by flashy posers with millions of followers. The blizzard of likes confuses popularity for meaning. Fuck, I used to post only pictures that obscured my cute beer belly. Or where I was hanging around ‘cool’ people.
The most ironic is that in sites where we are anonymous, we find it much easier to be our unfiltered selves and bridge the gap with strangers.
Surprise, You Are Good Enough!
Whether you like it or not, you crave connection with others. Also when you are an introvert! You are neurobiologically wired to want this. Connecting with people and community is what gives you deeper meaning in life. Connecting despite being your flawed self gives you worth, brings you self-esteem.
As said, you can only do that by being vulnerable. As Brene Brown, queen of vulnerability research, puts it. There are two kinds of people. Both seek worthiness – a.k.a. a sense of love and belonging. The first believe they are worthy of it. The second don’t think they deserve that belonging
Group one is more wholehearted, who openly embrace themselves. The second hides behind their persona.
If you do not feel worthy yet, take the leap! Showing your true self will make you see that people are very willing to accept you. No matter what hard time you might have endured in your upbringing.
To show the real wholehearted you, do these 4 things:
- Be courageous enough to accept being imperfect. Big ass surprise! We all are imperfect, no matter what other people might claim,
- Be compassionate toward your own imperfection. It’s perfectly fine to be imperfect.
- Start connecting by being the authentic you, letting go of imposed images.
- Be vulnerable. Know that what makes you vulnerable, makes you awesomely you, some might even say beautiful.
Vulnerability is a part of the deal to find yourself and the real person in front of you. If you open up, embrace yourself, your opponent is much more likely to open up as well. To gain trust give trust. To live is to take risks, but it’s worth it. To enjoy meaning in life, let go of the control you try to impose.
It like the old zen analog about life,… just like picking up water with your hands, you can’t hold it more tightly if you clutch, it will just seep through. But if you hold it gently – it will stay in the cusps of your hands. Take it easy, don’t desperately hold on, because you can’t control outcomes.
There will be struggles anyhow in life. Putting yourself out there with the risk of rejection and shame is hard, but the only way. No reward without risk. In the end, being yourself is the only intrinsically rewarding way to live. Not that new pair of sneakers, not uploading some amazing selfie – just the relationships you forge.
Wait! A Bit of Nuance
A small caveat here, you can open up too fast.
If you immediately lay down all your insecurities in an attempt to connect, it often backfires. Your counterpart probably isn’t ready to reciprocate on that level! So take it easy, grow a sense of who to open up faster and which people take it more slowly. You can imagine, that introverted or more formal people take it one small step at a time. They appreciate if you bloom slow yet steadily as well.
On the other hand, if you have that magic pixy in front of you or a bubbly fool like myself, we appreciate it if you show your inner workings faster. So we can share, shift gears and grow an intimate bond.
So yeah you might be hurt sometimes because you are rejected. But you learned something. If others don’t open up when you do, they might not be the right people to hang out with. But don’t let that stop you, being yourself unapologetically.
Don’t expect, or think you have the right on reciprocation of authenticity and trust. But know you are (growing) the stronger character that lives openly, without shame and hesitation about who you are.
So this sounds like the “Just-be-yourself-and-everything-will-be-alright” advice. Definitely an overused self-help trope. It’s a bit different though, not everything will magically be great. But showing your true self more is definitely key in truly connecting with other people. And a sense of social belonging is one of the most important factors for a long meaningful life.
As you show yourself, you will actually find that those quirky weird things you were afraid to talk about, is what people connect with the most.
You’ll notice, as you do this more often, you will way more easily accept yourself. Making it even easier to share. You’ll also learn some uncomfortable truths about yourself. That’s great, better to confront them than to stow away. If you accept all of you, you can work on your flaws.
The best thing is, as you accept the way you are, people can poorly hurt you with it. Embracing the full you, including your insecurities, makes you invulnerable to shame.
So experience gratitude and joy of who you are, know you are good enough.
BUT, BUT, BUT DOES THIS MEAN THAT I SHOULD LAY DOWN MY GUARDS AND SURRENDER TO VULNERABILITY?
Yes and no.
Some of you may read Timon’s post and decide that you are going to surrender to this thing which is called vulnerability. And some of you may read and decide that this is bullshit and vulnerability is all about being a helpless wimp!
Well, for both groups, I have something for you. There is an article which was written by Mark Manson about how people choose to use vulnerability to connect with others and end up failing; he explains the reasons and what should be done. Check it out here. Also, you may check Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly in which she outlines what vulnerability is and what it is not.
For the time being, make sure you check out Timon’s work on social skills; it is incredible.
This was a guest post by Timon from Techlecticism. If you want to learn more about growing confident and connecting to people, hop on over to his site. There he helps people overcome social anxiety, develop their confidence and make new friends.