“Oversharing is not vulnerability. In fact, it often results in disconnection, distrust, and disengagement.”
-Brene Brown, Daring Greatly
Oversharing: I’ve totally done it, and it’s awkward.
For about 4 years when I was at home with my third and fourth babies, I wrote a personal blog. Overall, it was wonderful. I shared stories and inspiration, connected with other moms–and most important, I connected with myself.
It was a resurrection of the writer in me to take steps in my life to write regularly–and to write for an audience. Having an audience is key, because when you are trained as a journalist, especially as a magazine journalist as I was, you are taught to write for an audience.
Writing for an audience in my personal blog was a way of re-connecting to the professional writer in myself.
BUT…part of the learning process was to bridge the gap between a piece of professional writing (like you might write for a magazine) and a blog post in an “online journal”–the original intention behind blogs before they became part of digital marketing for businesses.
A personal blog is not quite your diary and not quite a finished piece for publication. It’s…something kind of in-between.
In my learning phase of blog writing and social media, I wrote personal blogs and social media posts where I danced in gratitude for the delete button. At least the damage was minimized. And in the meantime, when I realized that some people saw too personal of a glimpse into my life, I’ve worn regret like a pair of oversized clown shoes I couldn’t remove.
Brene Brown is the Go-To Guru for Questions on Vulnerability
My friend and go-to advice counselor Tara L. Robinson recently recommended Brene Brown’s new book, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. In it I found a thousand pearls of wisdom…but one of the things that interested me the most in my career of writing, social media, and blogging was her advice on oversharing.
In her book, Brown defines two types of oversharing. The first is Floodlighting, which Brown describes as having intentions which are “some combination of soothing one’s pain, testing loyalty and tolerance in a relationship, and/or hot-wiring a new connection.”
According to Brown, floodlighting involves misusing vulnerability and is sometimes a case of sharing too much too soon.
The second type of oversharing that Brown defines is called The Smash and Grab. It differs from floodlighting in that it is about gaining attention. As Brown describes it, “it’s sloppy, unplanned, and desperate” and involves “smashing through people’s social boundaries with intimate information, then grabbing whatever attention and energy you can get your hands on.”
The Smash and Grab is most evident in sensationalistic celebrity culture (the Kardashians come to mind).
Now for the 2 Big Questions You Need to Ask Yourself
- Have I worked through this experience with people I feel safe with (i.e. a therapist or friend)?
- Am I sharing myself for the purpose of teaching others, or am I disclosing as a way to work through personal stuff and meet unmet needs?
In additional to these two big questions, Brown includes some other questions to help guide you in becoming “mindful about what, why, and how we share when the context is a larger public. ”
These questions are especially helpful for those who are writers and speakers–the people who inspire us to work through our experience and learn from them–and who remind us that we are not alone.
Why am I sharing this?
What outcome am I hoping for?
What emotions am I experiencing?
Do my intentions align with my values?
Is there an outcome, response, or lack of a response that will hurt my feelings?
Is this sharing in the service of connection?
Am I genuinely asking the people in my life for what I need?
Am I trying to reach, hurt, or connect with someone specifically, and is this the right way to do it?
I will be keeping this empowering checklist in my back pocket (possibly tattooed on my hand). The next time I have the wisdom to avoid going into the oversharing zone , I’ll be doing my little happy dance of gratitude to Brene Brown.