Nowadays we all have the chance to influence others and to spread out meaningful knowledge and personal learning experiences on social media that can make the world a better place – more conscious, kinder, braver, and wiser. Yet, there are only a few people who do that.
Let’s take Facebook as an example. I have 2100 friends, out of who I know about 70% in person. Of these, there are 20-30 humans that I find inspiring or interesting in a way or another, and whose profile pages I proactively follow to see what they do, read, learn, believe and feel. So, over a large period of time doing so, I’ve come to a conclusion that I feel the need to talk about. Way too few people share personal learning experiences and educational resources that others could benefit from.
I use social media because I want to stay connected to people who do great work and share it openly. I want more professionals, especially those in learning and development fields, to share more of what they discover, explore, live, and learn. I want more people, no matter their professional and personal curiosities, to talk about their life journeys. If you discover amazing materials and tools to become a better version of yourself, why wouldn’t you distribute among your friends?
Even though many of my friends and acquaintances do invest in themselves by going to training courses, by reading books and articles, by listening to conferences, talks and online courses, most of them keep the knowledge and inspiration for themselves, or for private conversations. Does the sharing skill need to be developed on a macro level for the benefit of humans who want to keep educating and growing?
As great examples for people who communicate vulnerably and honestly, and who have the habit to share learning resources, I’ll nominate my favourites: Alis Anagnostakis, Paul Olteanu (in Romanian) and Brené Brown, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Mark Manson (in English).
Now, why do I believe it is important to share the real us and learning resources?
The more I talk to people, the more I realise that my problems, struggles and dilemmas are not unique. Most of us keep them for ourselves for fear of admitting our limits and flaws to others. When we do that, we disconnect from others. Brene Brown says it beautifully in her Vulnerability TED talk: “You can’t say, here’s the bad stuff. Here’s vulnerability, here’s grief, here’s shame, here’s fear, here’s disappointment. I don’t want to feel these. I’m going to have a couple of beers and a banana nut muffin. You can’t numb those hard feelings without numbing the other affects, our emotions. You cannot selectively numb. So when we numb those, we numb joy, we numb gratitude, we numb happiness. And then, we are miserable, and we are looking for purpose and meaning, and then we feel vulnerable, so then we have a couple of beers and a banana nut muffin. And it becomes this dangerous cycle.”
We could be living 90% of the time in loneliness, being lost and unhappy, but we distribute posts about how powerful, happy and surrounded by friends we are. I wonder if the outside image is congruent with the inner self and how aware we are about it. We numb our grey shades. We numb our struggles. And we become so good at this that we eventually forget what we feel and believe deep within. By sharing the real aspects of ourselves, the struggles and the conquers, we show the human side of us and, this way, more and more people find inspiration and learning resources on how to triumph gracefully.
Does this have adverse consequences?
Yes, it might. Not everyone will like that you are not that certain about all the topics in the world, not everyone will look up to you when they find out that you never watched “House of Cards”, still make mistakes after years of studying English, or that you are not quite good at cooking. This means exposure. You’ll get real and people won’t see you as a model of perfectionism.
Can everyone afford this kind of communication?
It depends on how honest one is with themselves. This transparency can be destructive for a coach who didn’t figure all out and wants to work with people who are struggling with the same stuff. Well, that might not help for your personal branding, but hey, this helps you to understand you are not quite ready to work in this industry, or, if you already do it, you have 3 choices?: a) it’s time to take a break, b) you can’t work with people who struggle with a certain type of problem, and c) it’s okay not to know everything. At least, you can choose a frank and transparent attitude towards yourself and towards the clients.
What about a manager of a company? How will they be perceived if they talk about their vulnerabilities and real interests? Will that be a step back for their personal branding? If they want to be perceived as perfect, powerful, know-it-all managers, yes. This might not be a strategic move. If they know they are on a continual learning process, they have their own flaws and limits, but they are working on them, then they might feel comfortable to share parts of themselves that are not always cool.
Is there a limit of vulnerability in public communication?
Yes, there is. I’ve been thinking a lot if there are some things I need to keep for myself and not communicate on Facebook or my blog. Then I wondered if this is still vulnerability and authenticity. I think I’ve reached a conclusion: one can still be authentic if they share parts of their struggles, flaws, and limits. Sometimes it is about making your voice heard, other times it is about keeping silent. Like in the practice of mindfulness or yoga for instance, the more you do it, the more you become comfortable with it and you expand the limits. In other words, we become more vulnerable, open and real by radiating, step by step, our true selves. And so we develop the muscle of being honest.
If we start sharing who we really are and what we truly know, feel, believe and do, the standards of appreciation will improve and more and more people will “like” and share real stories, texts, pictures, and opinions. Valuable learning experiences and resources will inspire others to dream big, do good, dare, overcome fears, learn, and push limits. This way we will come back to our true nature, and we will connect to each other on a deeper level.