Chartered Occupational Psychologist, Consultant, Speaker and Writer

On vulnerability, imperfections, and how to shine brightly


Have you ever flicked through your Facebook feed, your Twitter stream or your Pinterest boards and felt like everyone else had a better life than you?

That everyone else was more together? Had more opportunities? Was having more fun?

Was doing more?

Me too.

Whilst technology has created wonderful, beautiful, life-changing opportunities to reach out, connect and build community, it also brings a terrible pressure.

Because when we look at social media, all we see are people’s outsides.

The carefully cultivated image that’s a ‘best of’ album of all the bits we’re prepared to show those around us.

Not the tangled, difficult messy insides. The dark moments. The sadness, pain or loneliness.

My Insides on the Outside 

This week, I wasn’t sure what I was going to write to share with you. I’m a planner, and I like to be ahead of myself. I often have content ready weeks in advance, and sometimes I’ve been mulling over an idea for months.

But this week, I didn’t. I had lots of half-finished ramblings, but couldn’t find the one I wanted to complete and polish. It takes energy to write, to create, and I’m running on empty at the moment, because I’ve been travelling for my work as a consultant, as well working on other projects that I find challenging, such as playing with the design on my travel blog.

I mulled, and I pondered, and then when no ideas came, no creative lightning, I worried and I fretted.

Would this be the week I couldn’t think of anything? That I let you down? Would there be a small hole in inboxes where my newsletter should be?

Worse, would nobody miss my little self-development missive?

Was this the beginning of my creative end?

After I’d got over myself, I started to think about a conversation I had recently with Caroline at LifeisLimitless. We spent some time together in Chiang Mai, our own mini-mastermind, discussing our blogs, our offerings and services, and who we want to be in the world.

One thing both of us found challenging was to balance sharing our experiences and the ideas and thoughts we want to put into the world, hoping to improve our communities’ lives a tiny bit with each blog post, each course, each coaching session, but at the same time, share our real selves, our true selves.

Our insides as well as our outsides.

Our mistakes as well as our triumphs.

Our struggles as well as our ‘wise words’.

Being Real versus Being Perfect

I choose my words carefully in my writing. I struggle with perfectionism, and I want to get each post ‘right’.

And I struggle with impostor syndrome, thinking, who am I to be writing this? Who I am to think I can write a blog? Who am I to think I can change the world, even a little bit?

I want to write great words. Words of power. Words of change.

I don’t want to show you my dirty laundry, the loneliness I sometimes feel on the road when I miss my friends and family, or my fear about taking the road less travelled and giving up the 9-5.

I shape the message that I share with the world, but I’m conscious of the ‘proliferation of perfect’ in magazines, social media, and movies, and so I try to share some of my mistakes as well as my triumphs and inspirations with you.

Like the time I went to Indonesia for the first time for a client engagement and forgot to bring my work shoes, so had to hit the mall at a run as soon as I arrived at 9.45 pm and buy a new pair before it shut at 10 pm.

But each mistake is hard to bring out into the light. I blushed a little even as I wrote the above sentence. And I’ve written and deleted the sentence about impostor syndrome above five times already.

The Cringe Factor

But I know that even though I’m in no way perfect, I still have useful experience to share. Some training, as a psychologist, mixed with a heavy dose of practical and personal application. And a desire to help others to be the best version of themselves they can be, just as I strive every day to be the best version of me.

I want to share some of my challenges as well as my successes. But it’s hard to share the lows, the mistakes, the embarrassments. To ‘fess up to the things I’m not proud of.

Combined with that, I’m very aware of the potential to slip into over-sharing. I’ve mentioned the wonderful Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly, where she talks about how we share our vulnerabilities. She reminds us that when we are vulnerable, when we share our difficult times or our struggles with a close friend it’s a huge thing – each tiny moment of connection knitting our friendships together with a thousand fragile threads.

But she also discusses the nature of over-sharing – the celebrity exposé, where they confess all to a tabloid – that we cringe away from. The colleague who gets drunk at the office party and tells everyone about his office crush. The loud and tearful woman in the cafe who tells the barista about her husband’s affair.

We might be fascinated, in a car-crash sort of way, but we don’t feel a sense of connection with that person.

There’s a fundamental difference between sharing successfully and over-sharing

So how do I walk that line?

How do I show you that I’m someone who has useful and interesting experiences that I can share with you, but that I’m just as human and vulnerable as you?

That I check my subscriber numbers, and I’m happy when you invite me into your inboxes? That when you read, share and comment, it makes me warm inside?

But that I also struggle every day with all the wonderful projects I take on? That one of the many reasons I’m interested in self-care is that I’ve had to learn over and over again how to be gentle on myself? How to be kind to myself?

Like this, I guess. Without over-sharing, without drama.

Letting you know, you’re not alone in your imperfection.

More than that. That those imperfections – those things you consider flaws – are all the beautiful facets of the jewel that you are, that let you reflect the light back to others, and shine brightly in the world, even when you don’t feel it inside.

That pain, vulnerability and challenge are what connects us all as human beings. And that when we acknowledge that, we expand both our compassion for those around us, and our self-compassion.

You Are Not Alone

I’m not alone in my imperfections, and neither are you. Both of us shine brightly. Both of us are a complete human being, as worthy as anyone else of being here, and sharing our thoughts, ideas and message.

Perhaps it’s time you let someone else know they don’t have to feel alone with their imperfections either.

Let them shine.

16 Comments... Read them below or add one of your own
  • Katherine June 2, 2015, 3:19 am

    Ellen, I love your warmth and vulnerability. Honestly, what a relief to see myself portrayed in your struggle to be more real. As a hypnotherapist I am often guarded and question myself about how to appropriately introduce more personality into my blog. So far I’ve kept it impersonal, but I would love to have the courage to be more open. Thank you for sharing.

    • Ellen June 2, 2015, 8:20 am

      Thanks so much Katherine, I really appreciate your feedback and to know others out there struggle with some of these issues :-) I think that our humanity, and our stories, are core things that connect us as human beings, so I am sure your readers would love to see a little more of you in your blog. Wishing you a lovely week.

  • njoku remigius u john June 2, 2015, 5:13 am

    DearEB,I am happy for ur concerns, nd ur efforts to reach me. I promise to surf my Facebook feed nd emails which I have not being doing for sometime now. Continue to be kind to me.Regards…..Njoku.

    • Ellen June 2, 2015, 8:20 am

      Thanks very much for your comment Njoku, and be kind to yourself too :-)

  • Elle June 2, 2015, 1:04 pm

    I’ve long since thought the best comparison I can make Ellen is with who I used to be. I can look back on my life and see that my best self then is very different from my best self today.

    And as I recently wrote ‘True contentment lies not in trying to keep others happy, but by allowing yourself to shine and sharing who you are and what you do.’ And I believe that wholeheartedly.

    So dear one, shine on. I’m loving your messages.

    Elle :-)

    Elle recently posted…5 Easy-to-Steal Habits of Happy Successful PeopleMy Profile

    • Ellen June 6, 2015, 4:39 am

      Thanks Elle, kind words and wise advice x

  • Jim June 4, 2015, 3:19 am

    You hit the nail on the head, Ellen! No question, it feels as though everyone else knows what they’re doing when I feel like I haven’t got a clue. Nice to know you can relate.

    • Ellen June 6, 2015, 4:40 am

      Thanks Jim! It’s definitely not the case everybody else knows what they’re doing! You (and others) might want to read my article on Impostor Syndrome many of us feel like we’re underachieving, even when we’re not.

      I can most *definitely* relate :-)

  • sherill August 3, 2015, 2:09 pm

    Hi, loved your post. Nobody is perfect, always keep in mind that each one of us is unique in our own little ways, and true indeed,that we are worthy like anyone else in this world. Thanks for sharing.
    sherill recently posted…Test Your Financial FreedomMy Profile

    • Ellen August 7, 2015, 10:16 am

      Thanks very much Sherill for reading, that’s a beautiful thought.

  • Debbie Hampton February 22, 2016, 9:34 pm

    Oh Ellen,

    I could relate to this so much – especially “the imposter” syndrome. Like you, I get over myself and move forward using positive self talk, affirmations, and visualizations. Sometimes, I kind of even believe them for a little while. :)
    Debbie Hampton recently posted…How What Goes In Your Mouth Affects What Goes On In Your BrainMy Profile

    • Ellen February 23, 2016, 6:31 am

      Thanks Debbie, it really does help to know others feel the same way :-)

  • Betsy Henry/Zen Mama February 23, 2016, 4:23 am

    Your post definitely makes me feel that I am not alone. I have that same inner dialogue sometimes. Thanks for your honesty Ellen!
    Betsy Henry/Zen Mama recently posted…How To NOT Change SomeoneMy Profile

    • Ellen February 23, 2016, 6:31 am

      Thanks for sharing Betsy, I really appreciate it <3

  • Laura J. Tong February 24, 2016, 7:00 pm

    I love the picture you’ve painted of opening up, of sharing our insides as well as our outsides – such a rewarding approach in life. You’ve got the balance just about perfect I’d say. :)

    • Ellen February 27, 2016, 5:51 am

      Thanks Laura. Not quite sure about that, but I’m working on it!

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