A reader recently reached out to me with some questions about vulnerability. How much sharing is too much? Why do some people seem turned off when we share our hearts? And why is it so hard to find community that will accept us as we are?
Well, I’ve been chewing on those questions for several days now and my answer can be summed up in four little words.
I have no idea.
See, I am no expert. I’m just a wife, a mom, and a somewhat-consistent blogger. I have no insights into the human psyche, nor do I understand the whys and wherefores behind what most people think, say, and do. Minus my kids. They’ll tell you that I can be pretty psychic about what they’re up to whether they like it or not.
So, I’m going to avoid answering her questions directly. In effect, I’ve already done that with my four word answer above. Instead, I’ll share a list of things I know to be true about my own experiences with vulnerability. Maybe that will help? And maybe some of you can relate and would like to share your own thoughts, as well.
Vulnerability in sharing…what I know.
It’s easier to share things with people online than it is to do so in person.
Our online “personas,” as authentic and true to ourselves as they may be, lend us a bit of anonymity that makes us brave. Therefore, we might tend to share more in virtual community than we would in face-to-face situations.
When we talk with others in person, we are able to see their reactions in real time. That can be helpful, but it can also hurt. Behind our screens, we are able to simply put our thoughts out into the ether.
We do ourselves no good when we put our big thoughts and feelings out into the world only to sit there and wait with baited breath for the world to respond (i.e., likes, shares, comments, etc).
Everyone has different levels of comfort with personal information, both in terms of sharing their own and receiving others’. I think this holds true both in virtual and IRL situations.
Being open and airing your dirty laundry are two different things.
Somewhere, somebody said “Trust in the little things is a big thing.” Maybe I’m riffing on Luke 16:10? I don’t know. Regardless, it’s good to make sure that the people you are sharing the intimate (or even not so intimate) details of your life with are worthy of the honor of your trust.
Even if you deem someone worthy of that trust, they may not feel comfortable knowing your business.
One of the most important lessons we teach our kids is summed up in this post. Basically, it boils down to this. The only thing you can control in a situation is your own actions, not how anyone else will react to them and not the consequences that might come from them.
Even the truest, most sincere, deepest friend of the heart is no substitute for a therapist if that’s what is truly needed.
That said, a good cry on a trusted friend’s shoulder is good for the soul.
“In real life” relationships trump virtual relationships, hands down.
That’s not to say, however, that good and honest and true relationships can’t be forged online. I have some amazing relationships with people online! But meeting in person, talks on the phone, and shared experiences can go a long way towards turning the virtual into the authentic.
And the expert says…
Take a look at this quote from vulnerability expert, Brene Brown:
“I only share when I have no unmet needs that I’m trying to fill. I firmly believe that being vulnerable with a larger audience is only a good idea if the healing is tied to the sharing, not to the expectations I might have for the response I get.”
― Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead
This seems like such a good metric to use when deciding what we want to share with the world at large and what we may need to work on privately a bit more.
“I only share when I have no unmet needs that I’m trying to fill…”
“…not to the expectations I might have for the response I get.”
That’s a bit to chew on right there, don’t ya think? I know it makes me think twice about some of the things I’ve shared – both in person and online! – before, you know?
Just thoughts, no answers
So, I guess I have to apologize to the reader who asked these wonderful questions. All I can offer her, and anyone, on this subject is my own random thoughts.
I guess I kind of miss the days that my grandmothers must have known. The days of sharing your hearts and lives organically over the clothesline on a sunny day or a shared cup of coffee at a kitchen table.
Maybe the thing all of us should do is to simply be intentional about what we share, when, and with whom. Concentrate on the relationships with the actual people in our lives. And seek to understand ourselves enough to know when our sharing may be a call to seek deeper healing.
Don’t forget! Leave your thoughts on the subject in the comments! Let’s help each other out, shall we?
Finally, friends. Yes. I am aware how ironic this all is. Sharing about sharing…being vulnerable about vulnerability…in an online setting. It’s all very meta and 21st century. Think I’m going to go call a friend or pick up a book now…