“Ugh,” I sneered at the second person that week who urged me to be more vulnerable. I thought, “Why in the world would I do that when the possibility of getting hurt is even remotely possible?”

Did you know that the first definition you’ll find when looking up vulnerable in the dictionary is “capable of being physically or emotionally wounded”? Or how about the second definition: “open to attack or damage.”

Yikes. Please sign me up for that. That’s sounds exhilarating.

When others advise me to change something about myself, especially those who I hold to a high standard, I tend to come off aggressive because I know it’s true and I’m too stubborn to confess my weaknesses and admit they are right. Or maybe it has to do with the exhausting quality of being a perfectionist. Research professor and bestselling author Dr. Brené Brown has done extensive research over this topic relating to vulnerability for more than a decade and says perfectionism is nothing more than a form of armor we use to protect ourselves from being judged.

“Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing.” – Harriet Braiker

In an interview with Oprah on Oprah’s Lifeclass, Brown breaks down what perfectionism really is: “It's a way of thinking that says this: 'If I look perfect, live perfect, work perfect, I can avoid or minimize criticism, blame and ridicule.'" As Brown would say, it’s a 20-pound shield I carry around in hopes that it will save me from getting hurt. 

This got me thinking. Some of the people I’m most inspired by or surround myself with are authentic individuals who share their imperfections and emotions freely. I find this to be both brave and courageous qualities I’m not personally accustomed to putting into daily practice. These people are being vulnerable. Maybe I’m so attracted to them because they are everything I am not? The recommendations I got to be more vulnerable started to make more sense the more I became aware of my insecurities and the shield I was pathetically using.

Here’s what I’ve learned on my continuing journey to becoming more vulnerable:

  1. No one likes perfect people. They are boring.
  2. Perfectionism is a waste of time. I could be so much more productive in my life rather than trying to avoid or minimize criticism, blame or ridicule.
  3. When I start feeling naked, like I’m exposing too much of my heart, then that means I’m doing it right.
  4. There are too many people, especially women, walking around with 20-pound shields. It’s my job to make them aware of it like the two people did to me in one week.
  5. Expressing my insecurities is extremely freeing, plus most of them are quite hilarious when spoken aloud.
  6. I’m more present and at peace with myself.
  7. Did I mention no one likes perfect people?
  8. I finally realized what it feels like to love myself. Now I can love up on others twice as much!

Perfectionism shows up in many aspects of our lives, some more than others, but we need to understand how much control it has over us. It can be very beneficial in some ways or very limiting in others. The first step is just being aware of yourself and finding a healthy balance.

I am proud to say that every day my shield is decreasing in size. How heavy is yours?

___________________________________

Anna Schott is the marketing director of a start-up company where she serves as lead in the creation of all strategies and execution that improve awareness and brand image. When she’s not tackling to-do lists you can find her biking, networking, writing, reading and finding joy in the ordinary.

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