Sometimes, we are reticent about letting people know things about ourselves that may seem embarrassing, such as our age or academic credentials, our current employment or marital status, or other such details. We tend to keep those things to ourselves, even when we don’t need to. It’s one thing to be cautious or private or shy, but another thing entirely to hide from people because we are afraid to be judged or looked down on. We usually feel this way out of insecurity about ourselves; we worry too much about what others think about us and we fear to be shunned or put into a box. We focus on ourselves and our own feelings of inadequacy and often fail to realize that whomever we are talking to has feelings of inadequacy just as strong or stronger than our own.
But sharing things about ourselves with others can be a kind thing to do because it can help people find hope and realize they are not alone. When we are appropriately vulnerable with people, having their best interests in mind not just our own, we can really make a difference for those people in our circle of acquaintance, people who may be hurting much more than we can pick up from a casual look at the outward persona they present.
By using the phrase “appropriately vulnerable,” I am not suggesting that you throw away common sense about what level to share with people, nor to endanger your own privacy or sense of identity. However, I am suggesting that we can often help other people by taking off our mask and be willing to be seen as our less-than-perfect, normal, and actual selves.
Yesterday, because it was my birthday, I decided that there was no point in trying to hide my age when talking to people. I could easily have done so, but I didn’t really need to obscure that fact from others. At times, it’s really encouraging to people to know that someone can still sing publicly or develop technical skills or learn coding, even though they are not “young.” Without revealing my own age, no one could gain any encouragement from me learning or doing things at my age. They would just assume that whatever I did was part of the ordinary level of what “I can do” at whatever age I am—which they might not guess. However, if I didn’t tell anyone my age, I could never imbue a discouraged person with the hope or encouragement that no matter how old we are we can keep learning and trying new things. I felt that being vulnerable about my age was a “kind” thing to do in the circumstance.
I am 60.