Many people struggle with openly showing their weaknesses. Let’s find out how you can embrace being vulnerable without fearing social rejection.
A chronic feeling of inferiority does not necessarily come from confrontation in specific situations. It can also exist in the simply imagined anticipation of people.
In addition, it triggers a strong feeling of shame in certain situations, which leads to numerous blockages and avoidances.
However, many people have occasional thoughts of inferiority and incompleteness.
Table of Contents
- 1 How to embrace being vulnerable: Introduction
- 2 The feeling of personal inadequacy, what is it?
- 3 Examples of situations where you may be afraid to lose face
- 4 “Pretending” is a temptation that can be costly
- 5 Impostor syndrome is one of the risks of pretending:
- 6 Some people lie to protect their self-esteem
- 7 A solution to better accept yourself and embrace being vulnerable: Negative self-affirmation
- 8 To be invulnerable or almost invulnerable
- 9 How to embrace being vulnerable: Conclusion
How to embrace being vulnerable: Introduction
In situations where you’re afraid of losing face, you may feel a sense of personal inadequacy and a fear of revealing your limits and defects.
For fear of displeasing or creating conflict, some people may pretend to be someone they’re not, even if it means making up lies.
However, everyone has qualities and faults, and it is essential to be able to accept these to live better with others.
In this article, we will discover the feeling of personal inadequacy and how to accept this feeling of “weakness” towards others.
The feeling of personal inadequacy, what is it?
How can the feeling of having personal limitations and inadequacies become a pain that reminds us that we are not perfect? Why do some people who think they are imperfect have these concerns about being rejected and left out?
Most often, it is a kind of misjudgment of what causes popularity and esteem from others.
Some think they would be more accepted and valued if they were perfect, bright, and flawless.
Alfred Adler, an Austrian therapist, was the first to insist on the omnipresence of this inferiority complex in our psyche. According to him:
“To be human is also to feel inferior.”
According to him, many of our motivations to act and succeed are caused by the desire to overcome this feeling of inferiority in the physical, relational, or social domain.
Therefore, this feeling of inferiority, this kind of “belief that you’re incapable of solving the problems of life,” would have multiple repercussions on our daily life.
Examples of situations where you may be afraid to lose face
Depending on its intensity, the feeling of inferiority can slumber in our minds, where it may only be activated in specific situations.
In general, this refers to all situations where, rightly or wrongly, we feel that we’re revealing our limitations and weaknesses to others. Here are some examples:
- Losing a game
- Not knowing how to answer a question
- Not knowing the codes and customs of an environment
- Being less educated than others (either in terms of diplomas or knowledge)
- Failing in front of others, or the possibility thereof
These situations can be dangerous for our self-esteem, especially if we feel like the odd one out when not knowing something or not being like others. We fear that, if we’re caught out, there will be a loss of esteem from others and, therefore, a threat of social rejection.
Therefore, people afraid of losing face in front of others will choose concealment strategies. Thinking it’s impossible to avoid the situation and we must surely get caught out, we figure we might as well hide, even if it means lying.
As such, we can adopt strategies of concealment:
- From the least compromising: such as carefully standing back to avoid being noticed.
- To the most compromising and emotionally costly: such as pretending to know a subject.
People with high and fragile self-esteem can also avoid the situation by steering the conversation to a topic where they can shine and not be doubted.
This consists of trying to keep the spotlight on you while attracting conversation where you feel you can impress others.
Another example of a temptation is that of diversion. For instance, we will make a lot of noise and fuss, using our humor to divert attention and dissuade anyone from coming to undermine our self-esteem.
“Pretending” is a temptation that can be costly
For fear of these social failures, there is a considerable temptation to pretend: we will act as if we know, pretend not to care, etc.
However, these strategies of “pretending” have an emotional as well as an intellectual cost. Namely, we become less comfortable and less efficient.
Numerous studies have dissected this kind of phenomenon. For example, in one study, volunteers were asked to present themselves unusually favorably in front of people they knew and more modestly in front of strangers.
However, for most people, the reflexes are the opposite. Namely, we like to present our best to strangers and be more natural with our close friends and family.
After performing this exercise, the volunteers noticed a whole series of discrete dysfunctions appearing in them.
For example, they were quicker to give up on solving mathematical problems or less adjusted in social interactions, etc.
Source: Vohs, et al., Self-Regulation and Self-Presentation: Regulatory Resource Depletion Impairs Impression Management and Effortful Self-Presentation Depletes Regulatory Resources, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2005
Impostor syndrome is one of the risks of pretending:
Of course, this feeling does not indicate a person’s actual worth in the situation where they feel like an “impostor.” Nor is it a desire to deceive others on purpose, as a con artist might do to take advantage of them.
Simply put, this feeling of imposture results from inadequate defensive strategies to protect our self-esteem. Some people feel like they are some kind of fraud and that soon everyone will realize it.
The paradox of the impostor syndrome is that it is activated when we start to act and “succeed” and thus find a particular place among others. If we remain in a phase of avoidance or inaction, it does not occur.
However, once we have taken the plunge, there is the fear of being discovered and exposed for what we are: a less competent person than others thought.
Consequently, one negative emotion is exchanged for another negative emotion. For example:
- sadness: “nobody notices me”
- is replaced by worry: “someone will notice me,”
- which will then lead to the fear of being “unmasked.”
Pretending: a surprising story
In the early days of cell phones, a story was circulating.
It’s the story of a man on a train who talks and talks and talks on his cell phone.
The people around him are both annoyed and amazed because he is one of the first with a cell phone. Many of the passengers have never seen one before in their lives.
However, in reality, the man didn’t have a real cell phone. It was just a plastic toy. So the man continues to pretend and impress the people around him until another passenger appears to have a heart attack.
The train passengers then ask him to use this rare and precious device to warn the next station so that the emergency services can be ready to receive the sick passenger.
But the man is confused and later admits that it was only a toy and that he was pretending.
Whether true or false, this embarrassing story was widely shared by those concerned about impostor syndrome.
The moral of the story: pretending can cause a risk of being unmasked by others and, therefore, not being accepted for who you really are.
Some people lie to protect their self-esteem
Self-esteem issues can lead some people to lie. Generally, there are several explanations for lying, depending on the circumstances. We can lie:
- In order not to provoke a conflict
- For fear of displeasing
- Out of a desire not to cause pain
- Or out of a need to value oneself if one feels inferior in a particular field.
In all these circumstances, lying is the wrong answer to a real problem. This is the wrong answer because:
- It accustoms us not to confront the difficulties of life.
- For little immediate benefit, it guarantees trouble in the future.
Suppose you choose to lie to deal with your problems, complexes, frustrations, or limitations. In that case, everything becomes complicated, guilt-inducing, and insecure.
Many repeat liars are people who doubt that they can be loved as they are without embellishing who they are or what they do. Unfortunately, many of them don’t know how to say no. Therefore, they first need to learn to assert themselves to stop lying.
Others tend to lie to gain self-worth, to attract complaints or compassion. We can also lie to avoid having to give explanations or to escape a conflict.
Indeed, the temptation to lie can sometimes lead to inventing imaginary pretexts to avoid having to assert oneself.
Most often, lies related to self-esteem are innocent, but they remain lies nonetheless.
The case of mythomania
In the case of mythomania, the relationship with lies goes far beyond that. In fact, we tend towards a real addiction to lying, even if it is totally unnecessary.
We lie as a useless reflex, an automatic triggering of a mechanism that is too often engaged.
A solution to better accept yourself and embrace being vulnerable: Negative self-affirmation
If you feel you are inclined to cover up too often or “make a deal with the truth,” you must act.
It is exhausting to spend a lifetime lying and pretending. While it may be less frustrating than giving up, it’s infinitely more exhausting.
Of course, the problem is not our weaknesses but rather our inability to deal with them. We fear acknowledging our shortcomings will lead to irreparable rejection, or we think they are insurmountable.
These two errors lead us to inappropriate strategies.
Negative self-affirmation aims to gradually develop the habit of being ready to reveal your weaknesses and limitations to reevaluate your risk of social rejection.
Therefore, it is possible to test the validity of their predictions through a series of exercises with a therapist. Here is a series of sample exercises:
- Practice admitting your inability to answer general knowledge questions.
- Simulate going to a store and having the operation of a household appliance explained to you, telling the salesperson that you did not understand, and asking for more explanations.
- Simulate being in the street asking for directions and having the person giving them to you repeat them.
The purpose of these exercises is to confront the person with low self-esteem with what they have always feared so much and have never tried to face.
As a result, the person will discover that the real risks are much lower than the assumed risks.
Once you have done this exercise, you will have to face the most challenging part: to discover yourself in real life, with real people, and not only in role play.
At this time, the risk of loss of esteem is more significant than with strangers or the therapist.
In therapy, the exercises and the therapist teach people with low self-esteem that it is not always necessary to reveal their weaknesses but to always feel capable of showing them depending on the people around them, circumstances, environment, etc.
To be invulnerable or almost invulnerable
You may have an acquaintance who simply cannot be victimized! This person, even if you criticize them, will take it well. They won’t accept it directly but will try to understand the criticism.
Or there are lecturers who fear they won’t be able to answer the audience’s questions. But in the end, why should we always know everything immediately? To be admired?
Some have enormous difficulty recognizing, during a discussion, that their arguments were no good, that they mistakenly took a position too quickly, and that the other person’s arguments were more logical and, therefore, better.
In any case, the only solution, the most honest, the most soothing, the strongest, and therefore the most rewarding, is to say:
“I don’t know” or “I made a mistake.”
This can occur in both directions: obviously, good self-esteem allows for such behaviors.
However, conversely, engaging in such behaviors is good for self-esteem. Indeed, it teaches us that it is possible to remain esteemed without being perfect. Being able to assume your limits is difficult, but it is necessary and valuable.
Are there any risks involved? People with low self-esteem, who do not often do this, have many stories about unscrupulous conversationalists abusing the expression of this vulnerability.
They are then reminded that the solution is not to generalize the “unlocking” response but to adapt it to the other person. In social exchanges, it is essential to observe others more than yourself.
It is also important to increase opportunities for negative self-affirmation to create that human experience, based on many interactions, that those with low self-esteem lack.
From then on, they will benefit from their attitude, i.e., having real-world information about the social acceptability of their weaknesses. As a result, they can progress better from that than from their previous assumptions in their imagination.
How to embrace being vulnerable: Conclusion
People with low self-esteem often fear losing face with others or revealing their weaknesses.
They have a sense of personal inadequacy that will tempt them to pretend or lie for fear of displeasing or not being accepted by others.
However, adopting attitudes of concealment or lying can be risky. For example, it can result in social relationships that are complicated, guilty, and insecure.
Negative self-affirmation, which consists of revealing your weaknesses and limitations, seems an effective way to improve your mood and self-esteem and embrace being vulnerable.
It is essential to accept yourself as you are, with your qualities and faults, and not to be ashamed or afraid of being different from others.