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The Beautiful Mess Effect

2 min read

Feeling uncomfortable showing your weaknesses? Don’t worry, believe it or not, people tend to like you more when you are vulnerable and imperfect. Exposing what we believe are our fragilities and failures to others can help us connect with them and see situations more positively. That’s what a team of psychologists from the University of Mannheim, lead by Anna Bruk, call the “beautiful mess effect”.

According to what they wrote in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, contrary to our worst fears, having the courage to show our vulnerability will often be rewarded. The researchers found evidence for the beautiful mess effect across seven studies involving hundreds of participants. Inspired by the work of Brené Brown, a professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work who popularised the importance of vulnerability in her books and Ted Talks, Bruk and her colleagues define vulnerability as the willingness to expose yourself emotionally to another person despite being afraid and despite the risks.

Self-disclosure can build trust, seeking help can boost learning, admitting mistakes can foster forgiveness, and confessing one’s romantic feelings can lead to new relationships. “Confessing romantic feelings, asking for help, or taking responsibility for a mistake constitute just a few examples of situations that require showing one’s vulnerability”, the authors explain. The same is true for others opening up to you.

“When depicting others in a vulnerable situation, individuals are typically expected to represent it more abstractly, focus more on the positive aspects of showing vulnerability, and, therefore, evaluate it more positively. And even when examples of showing vulnerability might sometimes feel more like weakness from the inside -Bruk and her colleagues concluded-, our findings indicate these acts might look more like courage to others.

In the end, our weaknesses show that we are human and most people find that to be more charming and likeable than someone who pretends they are the best at everything and can never do wrong.

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We can all benefit from adopting a “beautiful mess” attitude. How? Simply embracing our imperfections, and being okay with showing our vulnerability. It’s about beginning to develop an open, honest and authentic inner dialogue that accepts our flaws and making peace with each aspect of our personality, messes and all. The truth is we are all a “beautiful mess” in one way or another. We all have a past, we are all a little rough around the edges. When you are comfortable with your imperfections, that gives other people permission to be comfortable with their own flaws as well. A great way to build a stronger connection with everyone.

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