Authenticity and Vulnerability
I was scrolling through Facebook recently when I saw a post that caught my eye. It was a TED video of Brené Brown speaking on “The Power of Vulnerability.”
I watched the 20 minute video with fascination. It struck a chord because I’ve known for a long time that my deep fear of being vulnerable holds me back in life.
It’s something I’ve worked on purposefully for the past 20+ years, and I think, honestly, I’ve made great strides. But it also seems to be a two steps forward, one step back kind of thing. I know my fear of being vulnerable keeps me from making more meaningful connections with people, and from stepping out from behind my desk and putting myself out there more in business.
Ms. Brown had some powerful messages, including:
“Vulnerability appears to be the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love.”
That sounds about right.
And because we’re afraid to be vulnerable, she says, “We numb vulnerability, we numb joy. We numb gratitude. We numb happiness. ”
What’s the result of this numbing?
“Now we’re miserable. And feeling more vulnerable. It’s a vicious cycle.”
How do we try to cope?
(I know that one. Ask my friends!)
“We pretend that what we do doesn’t have a huge impact on other people.”
So what’s the solution?
“We need to let ourselves be seen. Deeply seen. To love with our whole hearts. To practice gratitude and joy. To believe that we are enough.”
Absolutely. But easier said than done…
(Then again–aren’t all worthy goals more effortful than we imagined?)
Ms. Brown says that when we’re able to do this—to let ourselves be seen, to practice gratitude and joy, to believe that we are enough—”We stop screaming. We’re kinder and gentler to ourselves and to the people around us.”
I want that.
She also talks about authenticity and connection. She says it’s only by being truly authentic that we can deeply connect with others.
That makes sense, and it’s interesting, because I think most of us feel on some level that we have to pretend to be someone, or something, we’re not in order for people to like us. But sadly, we actually sabotage ourselves when we pretend, because that pushes away the opportunity for real connection.
So what does all this have to do with marketing?
Well, there’s a lot of talk in the marketing world about being authentic and demonstrating vulnerability. Sometimes it feels fishy. Like it’s really more for appearances and to make the sale than coming from a deep place of truth.
The thing is, if it’s not true and not from the heart, then it’s deception. And any human connection—whether it’s between family members, friends, or business owners and customers—is always more meaningful and rewarding when it’s based on real, honest-to-goodness truth.
There’s no doubt: being authentic is scary. Being vulnerable is downright “I think I might die” frightening. But we’ve got to try our best to allow ourselves to be both for two reasons: 1) so we can connect deeply with others, and 2) so we can be happy.
Plus, there’s a funny way that allowing ourselves to be both authentic and vulnerable leads to greater success in our personal and professional lives. At least that’s the theory I’m going on.
Curious to see Brené’s talk? Here you go -- enjoy: