Vulnerability is one of life’s longer lessons.
In my case, the lesson didn’t start to sink in until age 23, when it finally dawned on me that presenting perfection may not be an ideal recipe for friendships. I’m still learning.
The idea of friendship aside, I eventually began to understand that perfection is not even a good approach for working relationships. This arises from the principle of “consider the competition.” The aura of perfection produces exactly one outcome on a group of people: it makes each individual feel that they, too, must be perfect.
A group of people trying to be perfect produces a group of people who are bad at communicating, stunted at sharing ideas, incapable of realizing they’ve made a mistake, and abysmal at fixing that mistake. To put it concisely – it is a fatal distraction from competence.
In the context of competence, vulnerability is not over-sharing. It’s understanding the relevant flaws and blind spots which may harm a goal – whether the goal is a finished product or the ability of a team to work together (possibly one of the most basic, crucial, and therefore difficult, goals).
Inevitably, one of those flaws or blind spots will arise from you. Do everyone a favor and mention it. Use humor or strategic doses of self-deprecation as needed. Make it clear you are prepared to be honest with yourself and straightforward with others. This may have the odd and unintended side effect of building trust.
It kills me to admit it: even now I want to be the expert – the expert on (apparently) lack of perfection. Dear Lord, child, what a tangled web you weave for yourself. Well, there’s a point to this admission of squishiness. Be realistic with yourself about your flaws and inadequacies, because good work has no room for blind spots. If you value good work, quit blinding yourself by trying to blind others. There’s far too much work to be done in this world to excuse trying to rescue your ego at the inevitable expense of your honesty and effective intelligence.
It’s a long lesson, like I said. Gentleness doesn’t come easily. But who knows…you might find a few friends along the way.