How many of you freak out when hearing the word vulnerability? This blog first talks to young Black professionals, coming out of their hood, and trying to make it in a new environment. Let’s be real… You probably made because you could code switching – being 2 different people depending on who you talked to. This is the absolute opposite of being vulnerable. So you may wonder, why do you want me to change the recipe that made me successful? Simple: What got you here, won’t get you there.
I spent 10 years pretending to be someone I was not. It started when I commuted from my hood to the wealthiest neighborhood in Paris. 18 years old Claude gets on a train every morning and after spending 60 minutes underground, gone are the tall Projects buildings, and hello million dollars apartments, fancy cars. Oh and let’s not forget the most obvious. I went from a city where white people were the minorities, to a city where white people were by far the majority. A real cultural shock in less than 60 minutes. What do I do in this situation? My “ghetto” survival mode activates. Say a little as possible. Observe people around. Blend in. So I became what people expected me to be. The big tough black guy from the bad side of Paris. It had its benefits with the ladies :), but really this is not who I was. Sure I can handle myself… but I had 0 will to be a gangster. Still I played the game, and pretended for the 2 years I studied there… No harm right? Well except me.
Pretending to be someone else is exhausting. And I probably missed out on great connections with other people also pretending. Imagine if I had said “Wow, this neighborhood is so different from where I come from. Do you live around? How do you like it?” Simple question showing my interest in their experience, and also showing that I am not making any assumptions e.g. maybe they also come from a different part of Paris, maybe the neighborhood looks nice but is awful to live in. With this type of question, I implicitly ask them to also not make any assumptions about my neighborhood and me. Because vulnerability does not mean a lack of confidence.
Imagine how many meaningful connections I could have made that way. For sure I could have alienated a few students on day 1. Would it have been that bad? Really not, because instead I alienated them after almost 2 years. I just waited their time, and most importantly my time! The worst is all the people I bonded after a while, before I did not show who I was for so long.
You own your life when you are vulnerable, the good, the bad and the ugly. No one can hold any part of your life against you. It is so liberating. it is hard… really heard… especially when you come from an environment where showing any weaknesses will make you a victim for a long time. But it is so worthwhile. It will make people think. They had everything you had little, and you are in the same class, and you outperform. Make yourself unique. Be vulnerable. Tell your true story