Welcome to my confessional!
(Yes, my confessional is an international website where thousands of people read and–perhaps–groan at my pithy columns).
As I write my latest screed, I often wonder, Am I being too vulnerable? From discussing my frayed family (insert a wry Happy Holidays) to my smoldering anxiety, I divulge my biggest, baddest secrets to, well, everyone.
Despite my well-worn hesitation, the answer is a resounding no. In fact, maybe I should be a little more vulnerable.
Sure, there is an understandable tinge of embarrassment and anxiety when sharing my personal failings. There is a nagging sense that my brazen honesty could jeopardize my future employability. Perhaps a future employer will google “Matt Loeb” and discover my treasure trove of anxiety-soaked ruminations on obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, and familial strife.
And that would be okay — even if I do have to subsist on Ramen noodles and saltine crackers for the indefinite future.
You see — there is power in our shared vulnerability.
In my columns, I touch on human foibles and failings. Specializing in self-doubt — with a touch of self-deprecation, there is an inherent relatability for many readers. Notwithstanding the occasional caustic email (“Your column was so insensitive”), most readers respond with an appreciative message. I struggle with the same paralyzing bouts of depression. …Geez, you summed up my family’s Thanksgiving. Can we just celebrate the holiday season to-go?
More than just commiserating over brutal family soirees, there is a sensitivity — even humanity — underlining our snark. For many of us — myself included, we shroud ourselves in secrecy when discussing difficult emotions and thoughts. It has taken me years to discuss my simmering sibling feuds with my beloved aunts and uncles. It can be equally distressing to broadcast my deepest emotional ebbs to the (Psych Central) world.
But as I have aged and wisened, I recognize there is fortune in misfortune. And power in, at times, feeling powerless. Sharing vulnerability — whether an emotional, physical, or spiritual hardship — strengthens our collective humility and self-awareness.
This truism is more than just a personal Mattism; influential leaders intuitively recognize the power of vulnerability. Starbucks CEO Howard Shultz,”The hardest thing about being a leader is demonstrating or showing vulnerability…When the leader demonstrates vulnerability and sensibility and brings people together, the team wins.” Sharing vulnerability — from confiding to a friend to a therapist to a room of powerful CEOs — provides an opportunity to connect in meaningful, authentic ways. This emotional connection results in mutually beneficial outcomes; research corroborates that we are more likely to act inclusively and compassionately toward others after learning of their personal hardship.
As winter unleashes its ugly wrath. I understand the temptation to retreat into a depressive cocoon of self isolation — and self-flagellation. The holiday season can be particularly challenging — even more so if familial relationships chill. But there is power in our own narrative — even if our pockmarked story doesn’t match our peers’ sparkling narratives.
The real winter chill: concealing your own vulnerability. And not letting anyone else read your book — or, tongue in cheek, Psych Central column.