Vulnerability can be scary. We wouldn’t protect the vulnerable parts of ourselves if they weren’t precious, a little bit embarrassing, or a little bit painful.
But if we’re telling a story, vulnerability is the juice – the thing that makes our story feel authentic. So when you want to tell a story that will resonate for generations, you often have to go against your normal instincts; to actively move toward feelings of pain, fear, or even embarrassment.
You might wonder, “Why would I do this to myself?” The truth is, vulnerability is the path to greatness. In opening ourselves up to others, we find true connection and joy. We allow ourselves to be fully known, and give others the gift of becoming closer to us in the process.
1: PEOPLE WANT TO KNOW THEY’RE OKAY TOO
The first thing to recognize when telling an authentic story is that everyone, literally everyone, has painful, embarrassing, or difficult moments.
Imagine one of your heroes – perhaps an artist or athlete that you love – talking in an interview about one of their darkest and most difficult experiences. Maybe they grew up poor, or lost a parent at a young age, or struggled with the way their body looked in high school.
These are difficult experiences to revisit, but as listeners, we love hearing these stories. Why? It’s because when we hear others talk about the deep, hidden difficulties that we have also experienced in some way, we feel less alone.
Even though it’s scary to reveal your most difficult moments, this is exactly the effect you’re going to have on other people when you do. You might feel fear or embarrassment when telling the story, but you’re actually paving the way for others to connect with their struggle in a more meaningful and positive way.
2: YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT THE FUTURE WILL NEED
In the past, those who lived through periods like the Holocaust didn’t know at the time that they would be in history books, or that their stories would be treasured by future generations as snapshots of a crucial and meaningful time. But they were — and now we thrill at everyday stories, like the story of someone who cried and decided to be an astronaut while they watched the moon landing, or of someone who lived in Paris during the roaring 20’s. To the people who lived then, these moments are quite ordinary, but to us, they are extraordinary.
Believe it or not, your story will likely be received in the same way by future generations. Your life is a snapshot of history; the more vulnerable and authentic you are about your struggles, the more useful, comforting, and inspiring your story will be to the collective memory of mankind. You never know – your most embarrassing moment, a hundred years from now, could even save someone’s life.
3: VULNERABILITY WILL CHANGE YOU
Being vulnerable and authentic is like facing a dragon. Revealing vulnerability may feel risky or weak, but it is actually an extraordinary act of courage.
The more you engage in this act of courage, the more your real self will come out––both when you’re telling your stories, and in your everyday life. You, and those around you will get to know the real you. In facing that dragon and telling your story, you’ll make yourself and everyone around you more free and more empowered to be their true selves.
It is a gift of encouragement and freedom to others…and also to yourself. When you recall those difficult, transformative moments that shaped who you are, that’s a way to recognize your own courage. You’re not just the person who experienced those things–you’re the person that survived them. And now, future generations can benefit from your experiences.
Only you can step across that threshold of vulnerability––to give generations to come the immeasurable gift of your authentic self.