A science-backed way to build new relationships, enhance existing ones, and make you the most dazzling person in the room
We try so hard for people to think we’re good enough. We starve ourselves to be thin. We hide the fact our marriages are falling apart or we’re depressed. We lie about how much we drink, how much we weigh, or how much we make on the job. We stuff ourselves into Spanx, conceal our acne, dye our grey hair, and usually answer “fine thanks” or “great, how about you?” when people ask us how we’re doing.
And we do it to be liked. To be popular. To make everybody think we have it all together.
Though we may be twenty-somethings or thirty-somethings or even older, at least a part of us is still stuck in high school. We can’t quite overcome the adolescent need to impress and fit in.
But what we don’t realize is that we’re sabotaging the exact things we want by trying to pretend to be something we’re not.
The truth is we’re all a “hot mess.” And ironically, letting others see us for the “beautiful mess” we are is the best way to draw people to us.
Science even proves it.
The “beautiful mess effect”
It’s natural to hold our vulnerabilities close to our chest. It’s scary to reveal our flaws, fears, and insecurities. When we do, we feel weak. Naked. Exposed to a world that can cruelly pick apart our imperfections piece by piece.
But research studies have proven that disclosing these not-so-perfect aspects of ourselves leads people to like us more, not less.
As a matter of fact, so much research has been done on this phenomenon that it has a name: the “beautiful mess effect.”
An article in The Atlantic explains how this term came to be.
The article cites research done at the University of Mannheim in Germany.
Researchers conducted a study where participants were asked to envision themselves and others in acts of vulnerability, such as admitting intimate feelings for someone, saying “I’m sorry” after arguments, and confessing work errors to people on the job.
Findings revealed that when participants pictured others showing acts of vulnerability, they saw these people in a positive light. However, when they imagined doing these things themselves, they expressed that they would feel “weak and inadequate.”
The bottom line?
If we like people who show their vulnerability, it makes sense that they would also like us when we expose our own vulnerable side.
The reasons people are drawn to those who admit their flaws and insecurities
Actor Emilio Estevez states:
“We are all wonderful, beautiful wrecks. That’s what connects us — that we’re all broken, all beautifully imperfect.”
And when we try to hide the “wreckage,” we sabotage our chances to really bond with others.
Here are some reasons that making the courageous choice to show our true selves will connect us more deeply to others.
Being vulnerable enough to show our flaws makes people more comfortable and less self-critical
Why do people want to see evidence of your flaws?
Because they’re flawed. And it’s awfully lonely feeling like a piece of crap when everyone around you seems to have it all together.
For example, let me confess my weaknesses to you (this is hard, so be gentle). I hate my freckles. I hate my big nose. I hate the squishy stuff that’s been growing around my middle. I have a few acne pockmarks around the bottom of my chin that are the first things I see in the mirror (before the freckles and the nose and did I mention the wrinkles? Nope, okay, add that to the list).
And I know without a doubt that some of you also feel the same way.
Because we share the same insecurities, it’s highly likely that simply admitting my flaws would make you more comfortable around me.
For example, if we talked face-to-face, my honesty would probably make you less afraid that I might notice your frown lines or your muffin top or the glaring pimple you were so hoping would be gone before you saw me.
The great thing is that when we show our imperfections to others, we give them a beautiful gift: we make them feel better about themselves. Our honesty causes them to feel less critical by reminding them that it’s okay to be just who they are.
And when someone unshackles us from our fears of inadequacy, it feels fabulous. As a result, we want more of these feel-good moments, which means we want to spend more time with you.
Confessing our faults and fears fosters intimacy
When we’re vulnerable enough to admit our mistakes and errors, it paves the way for meaningful conversations with others — conversations that connect us to them more strongly.
People are more apt to tell you their hidden demons because you shared yours first.
And this intimate sharing of information is one of the most essential things that bonds human beings together.
That old phrase that “misery loves company”? Well, the fact is that not only does misery love company, but it also needs company.
Because not only do we want to be freed of our need to be perfect, we also want to talk about being imperfect.
We want to get all that psychological gunk out of our systems — and sharing our anxieties and blunders cleanses us of some of that emotional sludge.
Being with someone vulnerable is almost like therapy. We feel free to speak without being judged, and because we talk, those hefty emotional weights on our shoulders suddenly fall off.
For example, the Better Health Channel cites the benefits of talking through our problems, stating that it allows us to “sort through the problem, see the situation more clearly, look at the problem in a new or different way, and release built-up tension.”
So in addition to the happiness that comes from feeling safe to intimately communicate with you, we also become more able to successfully deal with the issues that plague us.
And that’s something that will make us long to be in your presence more often.
Ways to work on being more vulnerable
Practice being more open about your feelings and behaviors
Let’s say you’re on a first date with someone.
If he or she compliments your outfit, be honest. Tell them you were scared as hell that you’d make a bad impression. Tell them that you saw a picture of them online and felt that you had to up your game.
It’s the truth, isn’t it?
Then admit it.
Maybe your friend dragged you to a party full of people you don’t know. When he or she introduces you to their pals, tell them you tried to dodge the invitation because you’re devastatingly shy. Tell them that you had an extra glass of wine to loosen you up enough to attend.
Contrary to what you might believe, people will find your candidness endearing.
Express your desires
As much as our flaws bind us together, so do our dreams and desires. So don’t be afraid to share them.
If you’re talking with your coworkers, tell them why you decline their offers to share lunch. Reveal that you’re spending the time at the gym because you want to lose the extra weight.
Someone in the conversation likely wants the same thing. They may even ask you if you would mind them tagging along.
Confess your regrets and mistakes
We all have things we’re ashamed of — things we should’ve done but didn’t and things we did that we wish we could take back.
Mistakes make us human, so don’t hide yours if they need airing.
Tell your partner you’re sorry for blowing up at them the minute you walked in the door. Let them know you’re really angry at yourself for missing an important deadline at work and being scolded by your boss.
Tell the high school friend you run into at the grocery store that you’re embarrassed at not calling or keeping in touch.
Tell your coworker you regret not doing your fair share of the project you were both assigned to work on.
It’s okay to screw up sometimes, but it’s not okay to pretend you didn’t. People are much more likely to understand when you admit your errors.
The bottom line:
The truth is the whole time you’re trying to impress someone with your awesome closeness to perfection, you’re losing the opportunity to build relationships.
Actor Ashton Kutcher explains the importance of being vulnerable. He states:
“Vulnerability is the essence of romance. It’s the art of being uncalculated, the willingness to look foolish, the courage to say, ‘This is me, and I’m interested in you enough to show you my flaws with the hope that you may embrace me for all that I am but, more important, all that I am not.”
And this vulnerability is not only “the essence of romance,” but it’s also the essence of friendship or any other connection with someone in the universe.
Yes, you’re a “beautiful mess.”
So am I.
It’s more than okay to admit this. As a matter of fact, it may be the most charming thing you ever do.