I’m a big fan of transparency – and so I often wear my heart on my sleeve, including when it comes to talking about my weaknesses.
For people like me, self-revelation can be scary and relieving and empowering. There are other emotions I’m sure other people have mixed in there. That’s why it’s important to be self-knowledgeable about your self-revelations. Here are some questions I’m thinking about as good proxies for deciding the wisdom of sharing weaknesses:
1. Does this help the person who is hearing this? Are you just trying to look self-knowledgeable or “humble”? If you are telling them something that has no utility for them, you’re just burdening someone else with your problems.
2. Will this help you avoid continuing the weakness? Your self-revelation should be instrumental to correcting the weakness, whether by creating accountability or allowing someone else to avoid the worst affects of your weakness.
3. Will the person you’re telling help you? Does this person you’re telling really care about your wellbeing and growth? If they do, knowing your weaknesses might help them help you – at least in becoming more self-aware. If they don’t care about your wellbeing, or if they are not trustworthy, handing them a weakness can be as bad as handing them a weapon. You can be truthful with these people without over-revealing.
4. Is this coming from a place of strength or neediness? The intention and the origin of your self-revelation matters. Are you just trying to get attention or pity or easy forgiveness for something you’ve done wrong? Don’t do it. Maybe you should self-reveal weakness when you have taken other steps to right the wrongs your weakness has caused. Then – from a place of strength – you can talk about your view of your weaknesses.
5. Will this help others see you more clearly? Once you share a core weakness, you may be judged by it. People like to simplify people and interpret them in the simplest frameworks. Consider the risk of giving a simplistic explanation of your weaknesses: others will start to see that weakness in all failings, whether it’s there or not. If you are going to share, be sure to share the nuance as well.
Be vulnerable, be true, but be wise also.