When is it appropriate to share personal stories with others? Sharing my story publicly was actually a lot less daunting than worrying about how you'd feel about me being willing to share my story so publicly. For reals, people! I've been scared of what you'd think because I'm willing to share so much, not because of what I'm sharing! Ironic, huh?
When is it appropriate to share with others? Have you ever been afraid you've overshared? Brene Brown, whose own struggles with vulnerability and self-disclosure have been a huge inspiration to me, believes "we should all ask ourselves this before we share: 'Who has earned the right to hear my story?' If we have one or two people in our lives who can sit with us and hold space for our shame stories, and love us for our strengths and struggles, we are incredibly lucky. If we have a friend, a small group of friends, or family who embraces our imperfections, vulnerabilities, and power, and fills us with a sense of belonging, we are incredibly lucky."
Sharing with others who can receive your story with compassion is truly a healing experience. Sharing with the wrong person can tear you down and make you feel worse. This lesson has taken me like 35 years to learn. Better late than never! On the bright side, I am incredibly fortunate to finally recognize sharing my feelings with the wrong person ends very poorly (well...more like catastrophic, temper flailing, all out depression spiral, but poorly sounds much better. Ugh!!).
Brown lists 6 types of friends you should use caution with when sharing personal information. I'm guilty of sharing my feelings with those I've shouldn't. Have you experienced any of these types of friends (or even been one yourself?):
1. The 'It's All About Me' Friend
“The friend who hears the story and actually feels shame for you. She gasps and confirms how horrified you should be. Then there is awkward silence. Then you have to make her feel better.”
This friend always turns the conversation around to her problems. Suddenly you're consoling her because her issues are way more important than yours.
2. The Friend with No Empathy
“The friend who responds with sympathy (“I feel so sorry for you”) rather than empathy (“I get it, I feel with you, and I’ve been there”). This friend doesn't even try to understand you. She pretends but could care less about what you're feeling.
3. The Friend who Lives Vicariously Through You
"The friend who needs you to be the pillar of worthiness and authenticity. She can’t help you because she’s too disappointed in your imperfections. You’ve let her down.” She will remind you of your wrongdoings and disprove of your behavior.
4. The Friend who Loves to Place Blame
“The friend who is so uncomfortable with vulnerability that she scolds you: ‘How did you let this happen? What were you thinking?’ Or she looks for someone to blame: ‘Who was that guy? We’ll kick his ass.'” She shames you for your feelings.
5. The Friend who Avoids or Denies
“The friend who is all about making it better and, out of her own discomfort, refuses to acknowledge that you can actually be crazy and make terrible choices: ‘You’re exaggerating. It wasn’t that bad. You rock. You’re perfect. Everyone loves you.'” Good friends are honest with you. They don't sugar-coat imperfections.
6. The Friend who Competes
“The friend who confuses connection with the opportunity to one-up you: ‘That’s nothing. Listen to what happened to me one time!'”
I'm positive I've been all 6 of these types of friends at one time of another. I failed you. I'm sorry. Likewise, if I've asked you to do more for me than you are capable of doing, perhaps I am guilty for not respecting your boundaries or accepting the relationship for what it was.
For those of you I can really share myself with, who see my imperfections and love me just the same: I am so grateful for you!! Love you E, N, M, C, H, and S!
Have you ever shared with the wrong person? Do you know who to go to when you need support?
Thank you for reading!
Heidi shares personal stories of her ordinary chaotic life. She gives an honest raw look at what it means to be a mom, wife, counselor, and friend struggling to keep it all together. Her personal experiences with grief, relationships, depression, poor self-image, bullying, anxiety, and relational aggression give her a unique perspective on what its takes to overcome tragedy as an adolescent and adult.