Before sharing your story publicly on social media, it's good practice to check in with yourself first. What are your intentions? What are you hoping to accomplish? There is a big difference between being authentic and oversharing. Let me explain...
Forbes Journalist, Amy Morin describes authenticity as, “being brave enough to be yourself and genuine enough to live according to your values.”
I am a content creator and editor by trade (among other things) and I always find this balance to be extraordinarily delicate. It almost seems like a catch 22. They say that in order to write engaging content, you need to share about yourself in an authentic way, because people connect with people - not businesses or causes. But... if you overshare, it can have the opposite affect than what you intended.
This balance can be nerve wracking at times, especially when people submit personal content to this Project Proactive blog. We always have to consider the writer’s intentions (among other factors like if it’s in-line with our mission and purpose of the blog, and if the person has an adequate support system to deal with the potential outcome of sharing publicly). Thankfully we have clinical advisers that we consult with to make these call for us.
But the bottom line is, that you can be an authentic person and maintain your sense of privacy at the same time. It’s not mutually exclusive.
Being honest and “sharing your story” does NOT mean sharing your deepest darkest secrets with the world. Using social media like a personal diary and relying on likes, comments and shares to build your self esteem along with your brand image, can have serious consequences.
So here are a few things you should think about before you start to put yourself out there full-monty for all the world to see:
Are you sharing your “scars” or “open wounds”? (as Brené Brown refers to it in her book Rising Strong). She also says “share from your heart, not your hurt.” There is a big difference between sharing from a place of health and centredness or sharing from a place of pain (Vulnerability can actually be a good thing in the right context, but it can also be damaging if you share too much, too soon and in the wrong setting). Figure out where you’re at emotionally before you choose to share something personal in public.
What are your intentions? If you can be real with yourself and check in with your intentions, you may find that it’s more appropriate to share your story in a more intimate setting. Oversharing publicly can not only make other people feel like you have invited them into a very personal space when they barely know you, it can have the opposite effect you were going for. Brené Brown calls this “floodlighting”.
People need to earn the right to be in your inner trust circle. When you share your story publicly it should feel relatively safe. The last thing you want is a vulnerability hangover the day after you share about your personal life. Unless you are in a very healed state and not at risk for tearing open a deep wound and making it deeper, you might want to consider sharing in a more intimate space at first. It’s always good to review your ideas about sharing with a competent therapist or mentor beforehand if you are worried.
Is what you are sharing going to hurt other people? (I’m not talking about extreme cases like calling out an abuser, which can and SHOULD be done in a methodical way with professional support and guidance). With skill, you will be able to share your story, when you are ready, while still protecting other people’s privacy - like the people who were not the direct cause of what you are going through but will feel directly hurt when you share. There is always a way to pull it off when you learn the tools. Just proceed with caution and ask for help.
Be prepared for potential consequences. For better or for worse, sharing your story can result in unexpected reactions. Try to predict potential outcomes and decide if you are good with ALL of them. Usually an incoherent emotional dump, will give new meaning to a “walk of shame” even if there is really nothing to feel shame about. It will most certainly have challenging outcomes. Be methodical and prepared before you share. You need to be comfortable with any possible results.
What are your core values? Is who, what, where, why and how you are sharing about yourself in line with those values? When you can keep your values at the forefront of your mind before every single act you do, you will be golden. It’s called living with intention.
Ok so let’s say all of those points check out and you feel it’s time to share, you still need to consider ways to check in with yourself each and every time you write emotionally for public consumption.
In her book Daring Greatly, Brene Brown explains that, “Using vulnerability is not the same thing as being vulnerable; it’s the opposite — it’s armor.”
Let’s look at some reasons we might be tempted to over-share:
If we are in an emotionally vulnerable place, we might mistakenly think that sympathy from strangers will help fill that need. Check in with yourself. Are you sharing your mistakes in an effort to help others learn? If yes, that can be a sign of healthy authenticity. Are you sharing your personal difficulties in order to gain pity or support from those not qualified to support you? If yes, you’re oversharing.
It can be exhausting to share your story over and over again. It might feel easier to just share with everyone you know once and for all. Some people put their story out there as an attempt to fast-track relationships and skip the difficult task of making personal connections. Authentic people are all about making personal connections first though. You cannot fast-track genuine relationships. As I mentioned before, there should be a sense of trust with someone before you share what is generally saved for your besties.
We sometimes feel like people are looking at us in a way we don’t want to be seen. When our pain is raw and unsteady, the thought that someone might be judging us makes us feel really anxious. In an attempt to fix that, we might over-share (as a defense mechanism) to try and control what others are seeing. That kind of oversharing generally causes more harm than good. People who are mentally healthy learn to tolerate that anxiety, realizing that defensiveness is not needed. People can think what they want to think.
So how can we be our authentic selves and also share genuinely and publicly in a way that is not over-sharing and is still in line with our personal values?
Here are a few ideas that I personally found really helpful in my own writing:
Share about what inspires you and why
Infuse your writing with quotes that inspire you and/ or short biographical sketches of your mentors and why you look up to them
Share memories of times that remind you about the topic you are writing about. Anecdotal stories are fun ways for the reader to get to know you without you disclosing anything that should be kept to your inner circle.
If you want to approach a topic that is more intimate, you can talk about it in a more global way - making it less personal. Talk about famous people in history that have been through what you are going through.
Think about anecdotes and things you care about that can give the reader insight into who you are, but that doesn't reveal too much about the parts of you that are saved for your inner circle.
What parts of you are you incredibly proud of? Play up on your personal strengths in your writing. If you have struggled before getting to this point, you can share “your scars” rather than your “open wounds”. If you are worried that this part of you still gets triggered, make sure to consult with a professional before ripping it open publicly.
I love sharing things that make people think outside the box. If you do this, just know it may not be well received by certain communities or types of people. Putting your opinions out there like that is for sure authentic… but If you are going to be bold about your opinions, it’s good practice to show in your writing that you have considered other points of view too (if this is hard for you, read “The Points of View Paradox” in Steven Covey’s book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People). A lot shifted in me when I not only became open to being wrong, but when I realized there are many ways to be right.
After reading this, if you really feel that you are ready to talk openly about everything you have gone through, you have weighed your pros and cons, you have considered all potential outcomes and your family is supportive, go for it! A solid support system can make all the difference in the world.
I can’t wait to read your authentic story no matter how you choose to share!
If you want to submit it to our blog, email your story to firstname.lastname@example.org .