“Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” ~Leonard Cohen
We human beings are social creatures. For the most part, we like to be with people, and we want people to like to be with us. The trouble is that we get all tied up in trying to communicate a version of ourselves that we think people will find attractive.
We want to appear successful, interesting, in control—and a winner! To keep up this image we work hard to hide away the parts of ourselves that we are not sure about, or we feel don’t work so well. The last thing we want to do is appear weak, or somehow insufficient. So, we go for projecting some kind of perfect version of ourselves that will ensure that we are loved and wanted.
The truth is that it’s impossible to keep this act together. Inevitably a moment comes when something gets to us so strongly that we can’t pretend any longer. We appear as we actually are—flawed, brave, struggling, and absolutely human.
This is the moment when we can experience vulnerability as a superpower. When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, we are not pretending, we are not hiding—we are simply present with whatever is going on inside us. Ironically, it is this very feeling of authenticity that draws people to us, not the brittle effort of perfectionism.
Zero Tolerance for Vulnerability
For many of us our upbringing did not teach us how to be vulnerable; we’ve had to learn as we’ve faced the challenges life’s put in our way.
My mother was an Ulster Protestant from a large, working class family with no patience for emotional frills. Her family was loving but tough, and she brought me up in the same way. I was her first child—emotional, sensitive, curious—and had to bear the brunt of everything she missed about Ireland when she decided to marry an Englishman and settle in London.
From my early years I can remember my mother urging me to hide my feelings from other people and never, ever to let them see when I was hurting, or in pain. She warned me that if I did, then I would be seen as showing weakness, and then I would be fair game to be taken advantage of, and ultimately, made a fool of.
She was my mother, and she was trying to protect me by instilling in me the values she herself had grown up with. It took me years—and sometimes I still fall back—to realize that the voice in my head urging me not to make a fool of myself, to keep…