You're Not Perfect. That's OK.
“We love seeing raw truth and openness in other people, but we’re afraid to let them see it in us.” (Brene Brown)
There’s an illusion in the business world that we cannot expose our flaws to anyone around us - not our colleagues, our clients and certainly not our bosses. The fear is, of course, that we will be judged, perceived as someone who is fundamentally flawed and, accordingly, cast off to career obscurity.
It’s an illusion that becomes all the more exacerbated at the management level. I can’t afford to show any weakness. I have to always impress that I know everything. I can never say ‘I don’t know’.
The illusion is bred of insecurity - a concern about what others think of us, that we not be perceived as inadequate, that we always be liked (or, worse, feared).
You see this in the employee who never exposes his true views on anything to his colleagues. Or the boss who won’t admit to not knowing what’s happening within her department. (I once worked with someone who was never self-effacing, never uttered a word that wasn’t politically correct, never suggested that he didn’t have an answer to a question.)
The problem with this view is that it stops us from engaging in real relationships, in building real trust.
It also, as it turns out, is far from the reality of how others actually do perceive us in our moments of vulnerability. Because, as it happens, studies published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology have shown that when we do expose ourselves emotionally, when we put ourselves at risk, so to speak, our colleagues actually react quite differently. They see us as human, as real, as much more likable.
To quote from the article above, the explanation is to do with how the human mind processes information:
“…when we think about our own vulnerability, it’s more concrete and real, because we are so close to it. Under that magnified perspective, our imperfections are clearer, and it’s easier to identify everything that might go wrong. But when we think about another person’s vulnerability, it’s more distant and abstract. We can take a wider perspective that allows us to see not just the bad, but the good as well.”
The point is, there’s nothing wrong with being yourself, with putting yourself at risk with those you work with. In fact, almost always, there’s everything right with it. It shows your true humanity and brings you closer to your team. It allows you to build real bridges and, frankly, allows you to get much more done, much more easily.
Yes, there will be those who will abuse this trust every now and then. That’s an unfortunate reality. But instead of interpreting that as a reason not to do or a verdict on your and who you are, see it for what it is: a verdict on them and what they are not.
The point is to embrace our vulnerability and our humanity. Don’t get caught up in the illusion, the false bravado.
That isn’t who we are. And it certainly isn’t who we should be.