In my day to day work, it is mostly expected that I exude confidence and certainty. I would believe this expectation applies to almost every professional in their daily work, regardless of their position in the organisation. We need to show confidence during our one-on-one meetings with our line-manager, in our internal and external client meetings and project groups we participate in. In all these situations, we project as much as possible confidence in what we do and say.
Confidence is an important skill in our daily life, an asset that can be accumulated with practise. They even say having confidence in yourself makes your life easier. Looking at myself, confidence has been extremely instrumental in two ways: to help inspire myself to have conviction in my actions, and by having confidence in myself I motivate and inspire others. With confidence, I can influence my environment to entrust me with the authority and capability to facilitate workshops and coach professionals.
However, confidence can sometimes be a façade that masks an equally human and valuable character trait which we are often afraid to show: vulnerability.
Like myself, I feel vulnerable at times, but I am reluctant to show and express it. How would people react if they know about my doubts, my weaknesses? Although we all have our weaknesses, we prefer not to show due to high expectations from ourselves, our colleagues and our leaders.
It is the same mentality that drives behaviour on social media, which is why everyone reveals only the glamorous side of their lives. Everyone seems to be leading a better if not perfect life! We create an environment where being vulnerable is unforgiveable. You may not even find many books in any genres discussing the value of being vulnerable. More often than not, these books emphasize the ability to project strength, confidence and skill.
I think that being upfront and open with vulnerability is an important trait. Being able to admit and share times of weakness, even in a public setting, is a way to earn trust from our audience. Showing my weakness and not hiding from imperfection is an important trait, it lets others know that I am human too, like everyone else. It’s admitting to myself and others that I don’t have solutions to everything, I don’t know how to deal with certain situations, that I have self-doubt too.
To this end, being able to show confidence is an essential skill and an easy one for most people to portray. But being able to be open and go out there with your vulnerabilities and weaknesses is equally valuable. Yet, it is more difficult for most people to achieve. The higher you are in an organizational food chain, it gets harder. This is partly because, as the top-ranking person in an organization, it’s more difficult for those lower in the organisation to “speak truth to power”. As a result, the leader doesn’t receive the necessary feedback on their behaviour to realize what their weaknesses are in the first place.
What can we do about our vulnerability?
- Firstly, take time to identify your vulnerabilities. One easy way to get started is to admit when you don’t know something. Admit first to yourself that you don’t know and then do not be afraid to share this to your environment. Be truly honest to yourself!
- Have a trusted person in your private and professional life who is able to provide you with candid feedback on your weaknesses. Do, for instance a 360-feedback assessment to get insight on your strengths and weaknesses. This will help to become more self-aware, because we all have our blind spots too.
- Be willing to share your vulnerabilities at home and work. Of course, there are situations where showing your weakness isn’t too favourable, but there are enough instances where admitting vulnerability will help engender trust and buy-in. After all, vulnerability is relatable; it shows that you’re human, like everyone else.
- Get support from people around you to deal with your vulnerabilities, use your surrounding as a setting for development and growth.
Remember: it’s easy to project confidence. Most people expect that especially from their leaders, but when we show overconfidence, people don’t believe in us anymore. It’s far more difficult to show vulnerability or weakness.
Professionals who are able to do that will be viewed as the kind of people that others would acquaint with and trust because they give an honest image of themselves. I hope that you agree with me that vulnerability is a strength and learn to make room for it.