Being vulnerable has been difficult for me ever since I moved to Singapore. Even as I pen this post, I still feel uneasy sharing such personal thoughts that even my closest friends and family members know little about.

I first came to Singapore in 2007 after graduation and worked a junior role in the design industry. Like most Malaysians, English isn’t my first language, which was a communication barrier for me at the time. Because of that, I worried about being perceived as not as smooth, smart, expressive or even competent as my peers at work.

Eventually, I realised I had developed a profound fear of expressing myself or opening up to people including friends, colleagues and acquaintances. Back then, I also had little work-life balance. Even though work had been financially rewarding, I found little job satisfaction and had no one to turn to when I felt stressed or faced problems.

These feelings of insecurity and helplessness slowly led to burnout. I was not aware of the impact this had on me until recently. When Tuber started to have small talk sessions during our weekly check-ins, I initially struggled to open up about myself as I feared showing my weaknesses, especially in a professional setting.

But each of us slowly began to ease up during casual conversations. I finally realised that while it might not come naturally to me, opening up is more about my willingness to share rather than the fear of being judged. I started to let go of the shame and think positively, focusing on my desire to connect better with the rest of the team. I believe that doing this will eventually help me to identify, process and understand myself from a different perspective.

Here are three key things that help me open up the lines:

1. Embrace vulnerability as a strength

Being vulnerable isn’t a bad thing. It’s not easy – we need a mindset shift to believe that the pros of putting ourselves out there outweigh the cons. By embracing vulnerability as a strength, we are able to show our authentic selves and have the courage to feel inadequate sometimes. Authenticity allows us to connect and be honest with people, especially our team members, which in turn builds trust, strengthens work relationships and lets us leverage our capabilities and skills for the benefit of the team.

2. Be brave and talk it out

Having a safe place to talk about our feelings, opinions and ideas can motivate us to share more about ourselves. As we realise that other people share our struggles or can empathise with us, we feel more comfortable opening up. It also helps us reflect on our actions, develop better self-awareness, acknowledge that there’s room for improvement and take responsibility for the choices we make or the things we say.

3. Be a good listener

Apart from being able to open up confidently, it’s also important to be an active listener who encourages other people to speak up. This is especially important at work, where we’re so used to proving our capabilities and focused on doing or saying the right thing. Being a focused and engaged listener can motivate and encourage our colleagues to step outside their comfort zone and share their own thoughts and concerns.

So learn to be vulnerable with the right mindset, and with the people you care about (including your colleagues!). Start small by sharing a recent experience and how it impacted you. It could be a decision that leaves you beaming!

Illustration by: Xinyi