When I was a teacher, one of the worst things a kid could have, the thing that would hold her back throughout life and beyond, was low self-concept.
It was whispered about children, as though they would never get any farther than flipping hamburgers at the local McDonald’s because they had, you know:
a low self-concept
Of course, as teachers, we did everything we could—praise, special recognition, a paper crown on their birthday, stapling their paintings front and center on the bulletin board—in a valiant effort to make them feel better about themselves.
So they would have improved self-esteem.
There was nothing wrong with that, of course. Kids need to grow up feeling good about themselves.
Really, adults need that, too.
In my career twists, from teacher, to marketer, to writer, I finally landed in a place where I understood what that low-concept kid was feeling. I was suddenly back in school. And when I compared the stories of others to what I was producing, I felt inadequate. Faulty. Flawed.
‘The mind of a writer can be a truly terrifying thing -isolated, neurotic, caffeine-ladled, crippled by procrastination and consumed by feelings of panic, self loathing and soul-crushing inadequacy. And that’s on a good day.” Robert DeNiro, actor
But what I came to realize was this. I could leverage my fears in a powerful way as a blogger. I could learn how to process them and use them to fuel my writing. It wasn’t so much telling readers all the mistakes I’ve made in my business or life. It was more like showing them that yes, I am real. I have encountered some of the same challenges they have and I’ve come out on the other side stronger, smarter, more successful.
The Single Most Common Trait Exceptional Bloggers Possess
In the world of content creation, I find that the best writers, bloggers, and plain old communicators, the ones whose stuff I can’t wait to read, have a certain vulnerability. They let me in close, tell me what they’re really feeling. They examine themselves, bare their hearts and souls.
They admit their humanness.
They use empathy to imagine the shoes their readers walk in and gently suggest solutions to problems they may face—all in a non-threatening way.
And that is what authentic blogging is all about: fueling our writing with a sense of vulnerability, showing our readers that yes, we have faced some of the same stuff they have. And we lived to tell about it.
Why does that place of discomfort and pain produce such good writing and elicit such amazing responses from our friends and readers (as opposed to a “happy post”)? I think it’s because humans connect with (and remember) pain at a much deeper level than joy. And it’s something that bonds us as people on a journey on this planet.
5 Ways to Stay Vulnerable in Your Blogging
The first step is to gather your courage. As a friend and colleague of mine once said, “It takes so much more courage to show our flaws than to present our first date selves.”
Yes. For sure. Fears can be used in powerful ways in our writing. You’ll find that if you name them, you’ll shrink that elephant in the room to the size of a mole rat.
And what gets people interested in what we are saying—as marketers, as speakers, as writers and content producers? What’s been missing? It’s the heart, the soul. The passion. The willingness to try a new idea, even if it gets shot down.
When we do that, are we opening ourselves up to attacks and criticism? Certainly. To the possibility that someone will disagree with us? Of course. Is it risky? Absolutely.
Is it worth it? Beyond measure.
Here are some things that have helped me keep the vulnerability in my blogging.
1. Don’t overthink.
I take the prize for this one: thinking too much. I am cursed with an overactive brain that I sometimes can’t turn off. If I overthink a topic or issue I am blogging about, I sound like a technical writer, not a human.
When instead, if I just write from the top of my head, those uncensored thoughts will emerge, the ones that, in the second draft, I will either discard or find gems of truth I can use in my post.
2. Write from your own truths.
There is no better thing to say to your readers than, “This is what is true for me.” It can open up marvelous discussions about topics in ways that a less personal post cannot do. It might be an experience you had or something you observed on the web or in real life. That extra step, thinking about the applications for you—in business and in life—can leave your readers with great takeaways.
3. Take off the protective gear.
Sure, you may be a business coach who wants to appear competent in all things. Maybe you think you will scare prospective clients away if they know you have fears and challenges yourself.
But showing your vulnerability doesn’t mean that you make your readers feel that you don’t know your stuff. When you can present it in terms of “this is what happened to me and here is what I learned,” it can be a very powerful bonding experience.
The heart and soul of great art is the ability for the artist to be vulnerable. If being vulnerable means taking off the armor and allowing yourself to be hurt, it also means being open enough to connect with people on deeper levels—to touch the heart and not just the head.” Mitch Joel, journalist and publicist
Blogging is a science. But exceptional bloggers, just like writers, photographers and painters, recognize that they are also sharing a piece of themselves—and their art. So blogging becomes a way to express who they are and how they feel about the world.
4. Leave the lecture at home.
We are all carrying around more than our share of guilt in this world (some of us more than others). I don’t know about you, but my plate of guilt is full. I don’t need any more.
So how do we avoid lecturing our readers? By injecting our own personal stories and experiences into a post. I have found that positive usually works better than negative. Sometimes, though, a post idea comes along that naturally has a negative slant. So blog about epic blog post headline fails, but don’t point your finger at your readers. Use examples that you see around you—or, better yet, something you broke (and how you fixed it).
5. Don’t be afraid to share your opinions.
When I have written about this topic before, several readers in the comments confused this with whining. Some were afraid (rightfully so) of coming across as either a sourpuss or a know-it-all.
But sharing an opinion, when it comes from the heart, can help your readers sort out their own thoughts about a topic or issue. And though stating our opinion opens us up to judgment and criticism, it also provides a safe place for others to process their own feelings.
You are putting yourself in a vulnerable spot, but you know you can handle it. You are grounded in your truth and are willing to share it with the world.
That makes vulnerability an extremely powerful thing.
Your readers can go to lots of places for straight information and education. If you infuse the normal stuff with your personality and unique take on the world, readers will flock to your blog.
So dig a little deeper. Try writing a ‘think piece’ that takes a normal topic to new levels with your unique perspectives. Tackle a business or social media problem that’s been bothering you. Write a story about a personal experience and tell us what you learned from it. Or write about a fear, in a way that connects with your readers and shows them that they are not alone in theirs.
What about you?
Do you think that writing with vulnerability is a sign of strength or weakness?
An audio option for this post.