In sharing, how much is too much?

A few friends have started writing lately, taking the wild plunge into sharing their ideas and experiences publicly. Sounds easy enough, until you try it.

In conversations with all of them, the topic of vulnerability comes up over and over again. How much is too much to share? To what degree should writing be censored to avoid total awkwardness? And on a practical level, what if my employer Googles me and finds my blog – would anything be damaging?

These are completely legitimate questions. For years I’ve grappled with finding the right balance in my own truth-telling; figuring out where to draw the line in what truly becomes oversharing. I genuinely enjoy writing about my experiences, even when they’re unpleasant, because it helps me process my feelings and find the lessons in the struggle. Still, there are lots and lots of things that I can’t write about publicly, but for the simple fact that these stories and lessons involve other people who don’t choose to share life with the world.

In writing, and in life in general, the magic happens when you let your guard down. Jumping ship from your comfort zone is not without risk and it’s usually pretty terrifying. Yet, there are SO MANY clichés that demand we do this. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Go big or go home. Dance like no one is watching.

The more you can put yourself out there in any situation – this goes far beyond blogging – the greater the chance you’ll make truly inspiring connections. But there’s also the lingering fear that you could completely screw up and humiliate yourself.

Over the past year, as I’ve written more openly, particularly around my challenges in motherhood, I’ve found there’s something really magical in being the person who compels someone else to say, “I thought I was the only one.”

Because isn’t that all we really want to know in hard times, that we aren’t alone in our struggles? That someone else – anyone else – has felt this alone/scared/weak/guilty/etc., and survived?

The definition of vulnerable includes phrases like, “capable of being hurt,” and “someone open to being physically or emotionally wounded.” So, while we often think being vulnerable puts us in a position of weakness, I think it’s actually quite the opposite. Being vulnerable puts us in a position of total bravery.

Being vulnerable also can be defined as, “open to censure or criticism.” Now if that isn’t brave, I don’t know what is. Voluntarily putting your thoughts on a platter for the world to dissect is hard. Really hard. But it’s all worth it for those occasional moments when you create a real connection with someone, and maybe even help her a little. 

My goals in blogging are all over the place. To record life, to process hard times and celebrate good ones, to entertain and to share stories. But the greatest satisfaction comes in the rare comments from strangers, thankful that they aren’t alone.

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The Scariest Words to Speak

I’m convinced that the simplest phrases are always the hardest ones to say. No matter how many times we use them, spitting them out is always a terrifying, sweat-inducing experience.

It’s not because we don’t know how or when to say them, but because speaking them out loud makes us face things that are challenging – things that make our hearts beat a little faster. We become vulnerable, and in case you haven’t noticed, vulnerability is UNCOMFORTABLE.

When you’re vulnerable, you’re putting yourself out there. It’s like emotional nudity – your feelings, reputation and desires are out on a figurative chopping block for the world to see. That’s terrifying. More terrifying in fact, than a lot of things that are genuinely scary, like spiders or roller coasters. Spiders and roller coasters can kill people, you know.

Here are some of the simplest yet hardest things to say. Maybe they should al be printed as bumper stickers so we get more accustomed to seeing them around town.

1. I’m sorry. Apologizing is akin to admitting you were wrong or taking the blame for something that caused others distress. Not a fun position to be in. What’s more, just saying the words doesn’t automatically resolve a situation, it can make it worse when it initially brings things to the surface. But saying I’m Sorry isn’t something anyone ever seems to regret, and it usually leads to feeling better before too long.

2. I need help. Asking for help is hard when it makes us feel like we’re incapable of something that we want to execute independently. It reveals the simple reality that we can’t accomplish something without support and humbles us into relying on others. I’m very independent so this one’s sometimes a teeth-gritted-grimacing kind of desperate plea.

3. I don’t know. Why not just scream, “I’m an idiot!” That’s pretty much how it feels to admit this. Like at my first internship in college, when I had to tell my boss I didn’t know how to use a coffee maker. There’s a caveat to this one, though; sometimes it’s a great ice breaker or gateway to get something you want.

4. I want more money. It probably wouldn’t come out this directly, but no matter how you spin it, salary negotiations can be icky. I guess there’s an art to asking for more money in a non-greedy manner, but it’s not one I’ve mastered. Women are constantly reminded that we need to fight for equal pay, but our emotional intelligence interferes and alerts us of a risk of offending someone.

5. I can’t drive right now. Impaired driving is a horrible thing to do. Selfish, dangerous and stupid. Yet so many people avoid admitting they’ve had a few too many to drive, and the inconvenience and embarrassment take precedence. This is one that everyone should practice and use, even if it’s awkward or scary or hard to explain.

6. No. Because it’s awkward, and makes us feel selfish.

7. Yes. Because it’s awkward, and makes us feel selfish.

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