The Dark Side and the Downside of Faux Vulnerability

by Jul 28, 2022

The Downside of Faux Vulnerability

The dark side and the downside of faux vulnerability. Before you share information on a wide scale it’s important to think about why you are doing this?


Authenticity is about being genuine and living your life openly in accordance with your values. It means you are walking your personal talk.

Recently lines have become blurred and the phrase has become synonymous with someone bringing their “whole self” to the workplace and being “true to themselves.”  They share details of every last emotion, both highs, and lows, flooding our screens in a never-ending tsunami. Beans are spilled and secrets shared.

They use social media like a one-way therapy session with an unidentified audience, because people are learning that certain types of content work “well.” By “well,” that generally means their story gets attention. People click on it and it may even “go viral.” They publish their viewer stats as living proof that people love their vulnerability. They feel seen, heard and recognised.

They think when they are perceived as being vulnerable, people will identify with them and truly come to understand them, what makes them tick, and perhaps above all, their inner pain. It is one massive dopamine hit of anonymous recognition.


faux vulnerability

Downsides of faux vulnerability

Before you share information on a wide scale it’s important to think about why you are doing this? Is it to share your experience as part of a learning moment? Is it for recognition? Is it to make you feel better?

Brené Brown in Daring Greatly warned us of the dangers of faux vulnerability: “Vulnerability is bankrupt on its own terms when people move from being vulnerable to using the vulnerability to deal with unmet needs, get attention, or engage in the shock-and-awe behaviours that are so commonplace in today’s culture.”


Faux vulnerability defence corps

If you suggest that someone is oversharing there is a “Faux vulnerability “ defence corps, who leap to that person’s defence, critical of the old school way of doing things. It’s perceived as closed and unaware. Name-calling and mud-slinging are not uncommon.

But faux vulnerability is the latest tool in the manipulation playbook. Some of the vulnerability we see on social media is far from true vulnerability. It is manufactured for clicks and attention. Sometimes the author is unaware. Sometimes they shamelessly overshare for personal gain.

In Daring Greatly Brown refers to this as “floodlight oversharing.” When we broadcast whatever we want to feel vulnerable about there is no space for listening, contemplation or genuine engagement. The memo about the 6 second pause before you post passed them by.  Yes thousands, maybe millions of people have seen our post. They may not even have read it. That almost doesn’t matter. The impression stat is all we need to know.

Experts routinely flag up this Grand Canyon wide engagement gap, but that is dismissed as rain on the faux vulnerability parade.

Worth a read: Authenticity in leadership re-examined – 3 Plus International

Vulnerability balance

Finding the balance around vulnerability is a difficult choice. It’s about what is appropriate and productive, but above all it’s understanding what the purpose is for sharing. Appropriate, productive or purpose all sharing carries an element of risk.

If the goal is to get attention then you will have a different strategy than someone who has other reasons which are sometimes unconscious.

  • Oversharing can flood an audience with faux vulnerability which Brown says results in “Oversharing is not vulnerability. In fact, it often results in disconnection, distrust, and disengagement.”

Worth a read: Dealing with oversharing in a T.M.I. culture – 3 Plus International

But what about revealing too little about yourself?

  • Under sharing allows people to second guess you or make assumptions. They fill the information gap themselves with teir own beliefs and they may not always be right.

But before you share your personal stories, factor in your motivation and think about the potential consequences.

It is possible to be truly authentic and still maintain your sense of privacy.


If you need support in your career contact 3Plus for a 30-minute complimentary call to assess your career needs.



Dorothy Dalton Administrator
Dorothy Dalton is CEO of 3Plus International. A specialist in diversity and bias conscious executive search, she supports organizations to achieve business success via gender balance, diversity and inclusion. She is CIPD qualified, and a certified coach and trainer including digital learning.
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