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We dissolve stuck and rewrite patterns. We apply radical playfulness to life (when we feel like it!), embarking on internal adventures (credo of Safety First). We have a fake band called Solved By Cake. We build invisible sanctuaries, invent words and worlds, breathe awe and wonder.

We are not impressed by monsters. Except when we are. We explore the connections between internal territories and surrounding environment to learn what marvelously supportive delicious space feels like, and how to take exquisite care of ourselves. We transform things.* We glow wild.**

* For example: Desire, fear, worry, pain-and-trauma, boundaries, that problematic word which rhymes with flaweductivity.

** Fair warning: Self-fluency has been known to lead to extremely subversive behavior, including treasuring yourself unconditionally, unapologetically taking up space, experiencing outrageously improbable levels of self-acceptance, and general rejoicing in aliveness.


Blogging therapy: Nooo! Don’t make me be vulnerable!

Let’s go. This is number seven in our weekly series on how to take some of the scary out of blogging (or of anything else).

In case you want to catch up (you totally don’t have to), here are the rest of the posts:
Part 1. What if people are mean to me?
Part 2. What if I throw a party and no one shows up?
Part 3. Why even bother when there are already other people doing it better?
Part 4. What do I saaaaaaaaaaaaaaay?
Part 5. Help! Perfectionism! Gaaaaak!
Part 6. But I’m not an EXPERT!

Dramatic Voiceover Voice: “Previously on Blogging Therapy … ”

Right. So if you were here last time, we figured out that people actually want to relate to you.

In other words, showing up and being a real live human being with issues and fears and worries is a good thing.

And that triggered some serious “but I don’t want to be vulnerable!” and “but I can’t be vulnerable!” stuff that we all have.

You know how it is … you don’t want to be laughed off the internet or anything. Heaven forfend. And because — seriously — being honest about your imperfections is pretty damn terrifying.

Let’s talk about that. Who knows? Maybe we can soften this whole vulnerability thing up — make it a little less daunting and a little more attractive.

And anyway, if this is an issue that comes up with writing, it’s going to come up in every other part of your life as well. I know. Yuck. Sorry.

Vulnerable?! I’d rather walk on coals while poking myself with sharp objects.

We really, really need a better word for this.

There’s a reason you don’t feel like being vulnerable. And it’s also okay that you don’t feel like it. Why would you?!

I mean, it can be kind of an icky, uncomfortable word.

If I were going to do some linguistic mapping to chart out my own, personal associations with the world, some of them would definitely be negative. Like this:

vulnerable = [+ can be wounded] [+ weak] [+ helpless] [+ no protection]

Ugh. Right? So yeah, who wants that? On the other hand, there’s a bunch of completely different — and contradictory — stuff packed in there too.

The paradox of vulnerability.

Turns out there’s also power in vulnerability.

And beauty. And tenderness.

The kind of transparent openness that lets light through and draws admiration.

A hidden strength that comes from being tough enough and brave enough and secure enough to show a little softness and share something that is true.

And that’s what we want to access. The good parts. The internal reserves of strength that we need in order to be able to relate to the people who need us the most.

So if we want to shift this concept of vulnerability from a place of weakness and fear to one of power and solace, we have two choices:

First, to decide that from now on: vulnerability = strength. To remind ourselves that only a super strong person could be so human.

Or second, to replace the word itself. To talk about “humanity” or “open-ness” or “transparency” instead of calling it vulnerability.

I’m going to leave this choice up to you. Just decide. And while you’re deciding … let me make my main point.

Pay attention because this is absolutely my main point.

What I’m about to say is so important that I’m going to make a big deal about it through the magic of typographic emphasis:

The best way to convince people that you are capable of helping them is to demonstrate that you understand their pain.

If you truly want to help your right people (and of course you do), they need to trust that you understand what they’re going through.

All their hurt. All their fear. All their resistance.

That you know it. That you may be further along in the process of moving beyond it, but you sure as heck remember what it’s like.

You just can’t do that without showing a little skin. Just a little. Just enough.

Your humanity — your “hey, look at me, I’m a real live human being”-ness — has to be allowed to shine through, or no one will believe that you can help.

And that would be tragic.

Can we get an example with that?

Look at Naomi “fansocks” Dunford. She’s a genius businesswoman who teaches people with tiny home businesses how to make them work and be totally successful (yes, you should look at Online Business School because it’s the best thing ever).

She’s a brilliant copywriter and a terrific writer in general.

But her most popular posts are not the ones about how to make money or how to write copy or anything like that.

Naomi’s most popular posts are about how terrified she is and her fear that “doing what I love is a fabulous sparkly present and I’m stomping on it daily“.

Oh, and that time she accidentally did a topless video conference call with a client.

She’s written about being a highschool drop out and being on welfare and living in a homeless shelter and losing her baby. And all sorts of things that most of us can’t even imagine happening, never mind telling anyone about.

And my point is not that being honest about her pain and fear hasn’t hurt Naomi’s business.

It’s that it’s only helped her business. By a lot.

I can totally vouch for this too.

I’ve written about starting this business with my last twenty euros. About the second worst summer of my life. And about being scared of increasingly ridiculous things. I’ve also completely fallen apart in public here, more than once.

It has not hurt my business in the slightest. Just the opposite.

Actually, I’ll let you in on a secret. But first I have to tell you that I have the best coaching clients in the world. Super high quality. People who are smart and creative and funny.

Are they stuckified? Yeah, that’s why they come to me. But they’re amazing people to work with and I love them all madly. We have fun. And we have crazy breakthroughs together.

You know why? Because they trust me completely.

And you know why they trust me? Because they know that I get it. Because of the vulnerability thing. I have shared so much crap with them here that they know that I know about their pain and how it works.

They know I’m not going to try to talk them out of it or tell them that they have no right to feel bad. They know I understand just how miserable it is. And I do.

That is the power of being human and vulnerable out loud with your readers.

How to get started with this whole “being all human and stuff” practice:

1. Tiptoe in. You don’t have to start with the awful. Just share some of what you’re really thinking and feeling once in a while.

2. You can absolutely practice being human without sharing the most awful, tragic humiliations of your lifetime. It’s not like your first post (or your hundredth) needs to be about your ten year struggle with alcoholism.

3. Express genuine feelings. Not “life is so unfair” but “I look at all this stuff happening in my life and I’m feeling anxious. I’m finding myself really needing some reassurance and not always knowing where to get it.”

4. Model the process. If sharing things is terrifying, maybe that’s what you share. If you’re in a tough spot and you’re processing it by writing your way through it, show us what that’s like and how it’s helping you.

So that we fellow human-beings-with-issues-of-our-own can find solace and comfort in watching you work through the hard.

One last worry?

If all this processing stuff seems like it might be a little time-consuming, I hear ya. I know that a lot of the people who have written to me about why they’re never going to start a blog have mentioned the “I don’t have the time for it” bit.

We’ll be talking about that next week.

In the meantime, I’d love it if you’d just start noticing what it is you love about the blogs and websites you love. I’ll bet that with most of them it’s not because of their distance — it’s because of their closeness.

And maybe just the realization that being all human and stuff is valuable and possible and even kind of attractive — for some weird reason we’ll never understand — maybe that will be enough.

And if not?

And if not, that’s where you are right now.

Not the end of the world. You’ll just keep practicing at your own pace, right?

Tomorrow: complete and utter goofiness. You know I’m in the middle of moving, right? Next Tuesday: the whole “but blogging is too time-consuming” thing. See ya when I see ya.

18 Responses to Blogging therapy: Nooo! Don’t make me be vulnerable!

  1. Charlie says:

    I’ve got a good bit of socialization working against me on the vulnerability bit. First, it’s the Macho Man image of masculinity that *does* make vulnerability out to be weakness. I’ve never seen Chuck Norris be vulnerable…(yes, I went there).

    Second is this idea of expertise that I inherit from being an academic. Just give me the facts, in an expert way, and leave the rest to the side. The rest has always been the most interesting part to me.

    Third, the image of a military leader is skewed beyond all recognition. I doubt I’ll get much sympathy on that one, though.

    Needless to say, it’s taken a lot for me to get over myself and become more human. Actually, it’s a daily battle. Half of probably the best discussion points that I could bring up get drowned out by two themes: I’m either not expert enough to talk about it or experts don’t talk about these types of things. (Especially male experts…)

    It’s interesting how our fears override the data we get that we disconfirm them. Sure, I know that my most read and commented on posts are the ones where I show a little skin – but those can easily be explained away. They’re flukes. Not representative. The zeitgeist. Whatever.

    A 100% correlation in such things is not a fluke. It’s a manifestation of genuine, universal human connection.

    Thanks for reminding me – okay, beating this over the head – about this.

    Charlies last blog post..Feedback Needed on New Productivity Aid

  2. ophelia says:

    Great post. I blog knowing that its just for myself. For the other sites, I write for myself knowing that someone else will be reading it. There isn’t much difference except I watch my spelling and make sure I throw in enough semi-colons and em spaces to keep it looking spiffy.

    The internet is littered with blogs half started and lost. There is a Blog Purgatory out there with the wailing souls of forgotten words.


  3. Pace says:

    Havi, thanks for writing this. I’ll take this to heart, and I think it will completely solve the holier-than-thou problem. Thank you.

    Paces last blog post..Making a habit of being happy: 8 things that help me be happier

  4. Hiro Boga
    Twitter: HiroBoga

    Havi, thank you for another wise and wonderful post. Vulnerability lets what’s real shine through and makes room for our shared humanity, and for love and friendship and empathy and all that good stuff. None of which happens until we’re willing to be seen.

    It’s a big part of what makes your writing so powerful that it draws me in like a kid to a campfire. :-)

    Sending you a shower of blessings for your move today.

    Love, Hiro

    Hiro Bogas last blog post..Seeing Whole

  5. Hi Havi

    (Another) great topic.

    As they say, one’s strength is in one’s weakness. For example, one can be overly sensitive and easily get hurt, but think how one can use that to really feel with people…


  6. […] thanks to Havi for writing a post on vulnerability that prompted me to action. And to Mynde for being herself and being open to letting others in. And […]

  7. James | Dancing Geek
    Twitter: dancing_geek

    3. Express genuine feelings. Not “life is so unfair” but “I look at all this stuff happening in my life and I’m feeling anxious. I’m finding myself really needing some reassurance and not always knowing where to get it.”

    This is the one that I reacted to. I can find it so easy to just run off into whinging (Man Flu!) rather than thinking out loud through the process.

    My new #1 priority is ‘to be in the process’. So I shall make my new #1 blogging priority ‘to write through the process’.

    Looking forward to trying this out when I complete my own little move…

    James | Dancing Geeks last blog post..Heads up on the move

  8. What a fantastic point. Although I try for funny and am not currently too “businessy” with my blog (though I’d like to be), I’m at my best when I’m authentic. I think it goes to your point about others knowing you feel their pain. When you read what someone writes, you subconsciously put them on a pedestal. They’re not REALLY a normal person; after all, they wrote something semi-authoritative. Being real (including vulnerability) is a great way to break through that.

    Johnny Truants last blog post..Unfortunately, pants

  9. Melissa says:

    *hugs* Once again you’ve said EXACTLY what I needed to hear. I was thinking about writing a few posts on pregnancy and post pregnancy in the real terms, not oh my goodness it’s a baby and all giggles. I wasn’t sure I was ready to go there yet, but this is making it easier. I know there are many things I know now that I didn’t know that no one wanted to talk about.

    Good luck with the move, remember when you get frustrated take time to breathe!!!!

    *moving always makes me frustrated and overwhelmed*

    Melissas last blog post..And There I Go With The F Bomb Again…

  10. [Charlene] says:

    See, I warned, I mean, told you I’d be back!

    What a great post. I missed the first six and jumped right in here, like you said I could. (I would have done it anyway, so thanks for giving me permission).

    You did such a beautiful job of explaining the great stuff that happens with transparency and making the shift between vulnerability and transparency. I strive to live my entire life with transparency, but every so often, I hit a blind spot and shrink back into feeling vulnerable. Now I have a place to bookmark for those scary days when I feel like my words have taken me to a naughty place with other people, or someone I really like has placed me in their “time out” space because I’ve revealed too much or scared them in some way. Both of those do happen, but they only hurt when I forget to focus on what I value and who I’m trying (my very best) to be.

    I can see why my friends told me I was going to love your blog. I ♥ you (in a totally platonic I-love-your-mind kind of way). At least for now.

    [Charlene]s last blog post..Finding My Voice

  11. 1. You are delightful. Thank you for sending love.

    2. My thoughts are with you in the House of Dreams.

    Naomi Dunfords last blog post..If You Build It, They Won’t Come

  12. This was exactly perfect, even though I’m not actually blogging yet. (Well, I am, but it’s not “Open to the Public” yet. *grin) But this is EXACTLY the battle I have with myself during my Pleasure Party presentations.

    When I started, it was really hard not to do that “teachery” thing, the expert that is lecturing to her students voice. I have learned, although sometimes revert to, that the more I just be myself, let myself be my own silly, dorky, sometimes completely politically-incorrect-self, the more my guests/clients respond and open up. The less scary I am, the more kindred to them, the easier it is for them to listen to me talk about some of the most intimate issues around sex, bodies, relationships and fear.

    I still catch myself being “Teacher” or distancing myself from them, but it happens less and less. I notice in my fledgling blogging that it is the same learning curve. It gives me hope and calms the stress knowing I’ve found a way to be “authentic” (for want of a better word) in person and will in print, in time.

    Thanks Havi!


  13. Havi Brooks
    Twitter: havi

    Thanks @Charlie for the first ever Chuck Norris reference on this blog. I really don’t know what took so long.

    Clearly we were waiting for a post on VULNERABILITY for that to come up.

    And thanks to all y’all for the great insights and for chiming in. I’ve been kind of out of it with the Big Move and it’s great to check in and see so many wonderful people hanging out here.

    Like a surprise party or something.

    @Dana – I’m sure that when your secret blog becomes available to the rest of us, it will be absolutely amazing.

    @Charlene – I LOVE that you skipped the other posts. That’s exactly what I’d hoped people would feel free to do! And nice seeing you here.

    Internet hugs all around. Thanks for cheering me up when I’m covered in dust and full of splinters!

  14. Hannah
    Twitter: Hannah_Savannah

    Hi Havi!

    Maybe it’s the first time I am writing something, I am not sure. I just thought I’d shout out and let you know that your blog is a rock of solid ground in the sea of self-doubt that is the proces of wanting a blog, wanting to write.

    Thank you.


  15. […] In fact, it seems to also be true in terms of labors of love as well. It seems that the posts where I am open and write about the things deep inside – that is the posts where I am most vulnerable to how they might be received – these are the ones that can touch people the most, that generate the most thankful e-mails and messages in twitter. And I am not the only one seeing this in blogging. […]

  16. M says:

    What do you think about writing all this stuff and how it effects job prospects or employers who might see it?

  17. […] try something that Havi does: let’s exchange the word “vulnerable” with something else. Maybe […]

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