Despite the quote above from the Bard himself, this post isn’t about laying your soul bare to the one you love. It’s not about romance, or long-term relationships, or opening your heart to the person of your dreams. Yes, it’s totally important and beautiful, this process that we go through when we meet someone worthy of our love. I see Instagram quotes and online self-help articles on a daily basis telling me that “the only way he’ll love me is if I let him!” Don’t get me wrong – we need to have this conversation A LOT because, contrary to Hollywood romcoms, romantic love can be really hard, particularly if we don’t first love and trust ourselves. But today I am thinking about a different kind of love and a different kind of vulnerability.
The kind of vulnerability that I often see affecting me and those around me is the feeling of fear that comes along with putting your passion, whatever that may be – your art, music, writing, ideas, or other creative or professional pursuits – “out there.” I happen to be thinking about it because that’s what I’m doing right now. Putting myself out there – to you. (Yes, it’s very scary.)
Although the critique of social media as a space of rampant self-promotion and oversharing may suggest otherwise, and although it may seem fairly easy to share pieces of yourself online to your social networks, I think there are different levels and degrees of sharing. And also, I think that people (in general) overshare (in the psychological sense of “overshare”) a whole lot less than social media critics would have us believe.
We’ve all had the experience of our social media feeds being dominated by the voices and experiences of a few more vocal friends. Hourly updates about their kid’s potty training progress or photo after photo of an amazing vacation (we’ve all done it). I’m not saying this kind of sharing is bad or negative. Plus, filtering tools make it easy enough for you to “quieten” those of your friends who surpass your personal sharing threshold. (Everyone’s is different, I think.)
The point is that social media make this kind of sharing really easy, but it’s typically pretty superficial.
What I’m talking about putting out there is a product of your own creativity. A thing that you care so much about that it feels like you skinny dipped into the depths of your soul, spelunking through cracks and crevices to dive ever deeper. Diving naked through caves is probably super dangerous, so please don’t try it. But as far as metaphors go, this one holds. Diving deep down inside oneself is a daunting and sometimes scary exercise.
The thing that you created as a result of this process feels like something only you could understand or value. In order to make it, you went to a place inside that you don’t often let other people see. Perhaps you’ve been working on it meticulously for a really long time. Or perhaps it flowed from you in a frenzy of creativity and when you stepped back, wild eyed and hair frazzled, you thought you held your own heart beating in your hands and you felt wrung out and beautifully empty. It’s for good reason that many artists and writers, musicians and actors, entrepreneurs and inventors all employ the same metaphor to describe their projects – childbirth.
It’s really, really hard to share something like that because it requires a lot of you to produce it – a lot of YOU, as a unique, complicated, bodyheartmind with all of your memories, feelings, emotions, and subconscious energies, all funnelled into it. It feels scary to share something that made you feel that raw, even if those you share it with won’t ever actually know just how far you spelunked to create it.
For some of us, it’s the thought of criticism that makes us closet up our most amazing work. We have a hard enough time convincing ourselves that it’s good and authentic, without having to defend it to someone else. It’s equally hard to think about simply accepting the critique and using it constructively. The question to self becomes, do I really have enough faith in myself to withstand external judgment?
For others, the thought of praise is the hard thing. We don’t think we are worthy, we don’t want to feel like we’re self-promoting, we don’t want to take up too much space, we don’t want to deal with the consequences of someone actually believing in us. Consequences like the pressure to continue being praise-worthy or the need to start believing in our own abilities.
These are all really hard feelings to contend with and, if you’re reading this nodding, I want you to know that I have also felt all of them. It’s why it has taken me so long to be more forward about having created my own company, about having written a blog, about my yoga teaching, and about my own creative journey. But the truth is, all of this stuff I’ve been pouring myself into isn’t going to go anywhere if I don’t start being more vulnerable.
Brene Brown has a lot to say about this vulnerability thing. Just as the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu, Audre Lorde, Judith Butler, and Sigmund Freud among other diverse thinkers all agree that “vulnerability is strength.” Many other brilliant minds have pinpointed vulnerability as the key to growth, success, and happiness in life, and they have given us a lot of reading to do. For what it’s worth, these are just my two cents (or three? Sorry, this is longer than expected.) But, for me, it comes down to:
Bingo. That’s it.
I bet you’re disappointed. Isn’t that so lame? It’s all about love. How cliché. I thought we weren’t talking about that.
No, but really.
Sharing your passions, creativity, gifts, or talents with your friends, family, community, city, country, the world, the universe, the aliens – WHOMEVER – is an act of love. Just like romantic love or platonic love or familial love, it requires openness to others and faith in oneself. Taking a chance to love means knowing that if it doesn’t work out, you’re still going to be you. You will not be broken, diminished, or eaten up. You will be whole. And the more authentically you can be in touch with this you-ness at your core, this truth inside of you, the less scary it feels to be vulnerable.
When you take a step to fully present your offerings to the world, authentically and honestly, that is big, big love. And I’m pretty sure that’s the whole point of this worldly existence, no?
This isn’t about your ego. It’s not about getting “likes” or “favourites” or pats on the back (remember that super analog way of getting praise?). The ego is the function that’s seizing up our brains with frenetic laser beam thoughts of, “What if they hate it?” “What if my crush thinks I’m dumb?” “What if this makes me seem weird?” “What if someone likes it and wants me to do more and then I crash and burn?” Pew-pew-pew.
But there’s another place inside you, and that’s the place this creative offering comes from. It’s a place of truth and honesty that transcends the needy ego and, sometimes, even the noisy, cluttered chatter of our over-thinking minds.
What I’ve tried to explain here is just why, as the title of this article states, self-promotion makes me feel icky. When I say self-promotion, this is what I’m talking about. Promoting in terms of showing, revealing, sharing, or asking that others pay attention to my work. There are often negative connotations attached to this word, but the way I’ve been talking about it here is not egoistic or self-absorbed or shameless; rather, it’s about the right of every human being to do something impactful, to take up some space in humankind’s collective attention span. That shouldn’t feel icky – that should feel like an incredible opportunity. Perhaps it feels like both, and that’s where vulnerability does its work.
I like to think that if you do something with love and authenticity, that’s what you’re going to get in return. When you share it, that’s being vulnerable and open and strong. So share lots of that and I will too. It’s one kind of sharing that can never be overdone.