Vulnerability and Faking It

47114660-ab43-0133-a059-0e7c926a42afMy online therapist and I have been talking about vulnerability. Ughhhhhhhh DO WE HAAAAAVE TO?

He sent me a TED Talk to check out. It’s a talk I’d seen before, but hadn’t given a ton of thought to. Brené, the speaker, suggests that selective numbing just ain’t a thing; you have to feel everything to feel anything. Oof! 

It’s hard for me to allow myself to be open to my vulnerability because I struggle with Impostor Syndrome. I feel like a fake, so I must project absolute confidence–or at least active competence–at all times to not be called out for being a lying cheat.

Of course, I don’t actually succeed at that. Instead of projecting confidence, I fairly often project indifference or calm acceptance. I kept repeating “I’m happy to do it” with a smile on my face, regardless of how I felt. I’ve written before about how I felt like admitting I wasn’t busy every moment of my career felt like an admission of complete failure: if I wasn’t always slammed with work, then I wasn’t valuable enough to justify keeping on the payroll, according to my douchebag brain.

I know that I need to experience my moments of vulnerability and feel them–no shame, just acceptance that I’m not Super Woman and I’ve got plenty still to learn.

So he sent me this one. The speaker describes how she told an advisor that she felt like a fake who didn’t belong in academia. Her advisor told her to go ahead and fake it. So she did, and continued to do through school, though working as a professor. One day, a student came up to her and told her they felt like a fake who didn’t belong in academia. It was her moment to realize that faking it kinda worked!

I decided to give the “I got this” posture a try. I did my Kimmy Schmidt power poses before a meeting, sat through it like a ballerina wearing a medal and just spoke with authority. And I found that I was treated like an active, bright and engaged person. Imagine that.

I’m struggling with deciding if there’s tension between these two concepts. How do I best project confidence while still allowing myself to feel and share my vulnerability? Are confidence and vulnerability necessarily mutually exclusive? Can I fake it and still be vulnerable? My counselor answered with this video. I do agree that failing to set boundaries is setting yourself up for bitterness, and it’s not truly being kind. But I’m not sure how to get myself to feel absolute confidence about setting boundaries. I know that the results will definitely prop up my backbone, but until I get there? Whoosh. I gotta fake it.

Another topic that Brené and my counselor have touched on: what have you got to lose, kid? I already feel exhausted, overwhelmed, anxious and sad, worrying about what everybody thinks of me and how I’m perceived. So what have I got to lose by actually doing something that I worry will cause them to see me badly? All that can happen is I’ll feel exhausted, overwhelmed, anxious or sad, right? What if setting a boundary actually frees up that emotion and lets me have a real experience?

“What’s the greater risk? Letting go of what people think, or letting go of how I feel, what I believe, and who I am?” – Brené Brown

I’ve got miles to go. I’m not there yet, and I may never get there. But I’m trying. I want to come up with some specific goals and benchmarks for myself so I can feel more confident pointing to my therapy experience and saying “this helped me,” but I definitely feel like just getting the permission to stand up for myself is a game-changer.

One Comment Add yours

  1. KathyRo says:

    A friend and mentor from early in my career gave me the same advice: fake it until you make it!
    One time I was stuck on the Project From Hell, a veritable Death March Project and I confessed to a coworker that I was worried we were being judged, that management felt there was somebody better out there. His response is something I carry with me to this day :
    “Well they can go find that person. I’m what they have right now and I’m doing the best I can.”

    Keep pushing on Dootsie! Its gets better.

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