The 21st century is the age of oversharing. it feels like we need to know everything about everyone. And we are pressured to present a perfect (yet highly falsified) reality.
You aren’t considered “normal” if you don’t have several social media handles. It has now become an unannounced protocol to take a photo of our food before we eat it and create boomerang videos cheers-ing with friends.
At times, I find myself wondering if portraying a lifestyle has taken precedence over actually living a life.
So, when does sharing become oversharing?
Was it last week when you spilled the details of a fight with your significant other?
Is it that quote you just posted?
Was it the conversation you had with the cashier about your family’s lack of boundaries?
“But I don’t understand, isn’t this being vulnerable? Isn’t this what letting people in is all about? How can having the comfort to speak freely about our lives be oversharing? What’s the point of social media, if not to share – our experiences, our milestones, and our lives?” you ask.
I get it, oversharing is confusing.
Especially when social media bombards our lives and we carry out personal diatribes in our day-to-day.
Before we move any further in this conversation, let’s define the differences between vulnerability and oversharing, so as to not confuse the two. Then, we can get into where our oversharing comes from and how we can stop the unintentional diarrhea of the mouth.
The Definition of Oversharing vs. The Definition of Vulnerability
Vulnerability is defined as the willingness to show emotion or to allow one’s weakness to be seen or known; willingness to risk being hurt or attacked. (reworded; original source: Oxford Dictionary).
Oversharing is defined as the disclosure of an inappropriate amount of detail about one’s personal life. (reworded; original source: Oxford Dictionary).
The link between being vulnerable and oversharing is willingness.
This willingness stems from two different places.
The willingness tied to vulnerability is in the context of a situation or relationship where personal information has been shared safely – to help understand a person’s struggle and help others feel less alone. It is, as Natasha says, sharing that is “non-gratuitous.” “It’s aimed at inclusivity, not exclusivity.” Willingness in the name of vulnerability is not attached to self-serving behavior, and it is not meant to initiate action or manipulation for personal gain.
Vulnerability requires a level of humility. This is a willingness that is akin to bravery, it’s showing our authentic self with the possibility of misunderstanding and judgment, but not abandoning the version of ourselves that we have revealed.
The willingness that comes from oversharing is rooted in attention-seeking behavior. This willingness can be disguised as bravery, but it has different roots. When we overshare, it’s like we are screaming, “HEY! I AM HURTING AND I NEED YOU TO VALIDATE THAT MY STRUGGLES HAVE BEEN HARD!”
We want to be seen.
We want to be heard.
We want to be cared for.
We want to know that we matter.
These are feelings that are inherent to the human experience, they’re natural. However, when we overshare, we set ourselves up for fake sincerity and connection. Not to mention, oversharing breeds forced and often, unfair expectations.
Think about it: when you’re in the company of someone you don’t know very well and they reveal too much, are your reactions to them sincere? At that moment, you’re most likely focusing on how you can segue the conversation to a different topic; yet, still, show the appropriate reaction for their sob story.
Does that interaction sound pleasant for either person involved?
Do the words of encouragement you’re hearing feel genuine?
For someone to give a genuine, heartfelt response, they need to be vulnerable. And people aren’t used to wearing their heart on their sleeve for strangers.
When You Have an “Oversharing Attack,” Is That Oversharing a Coping Mechanism?
In my opinion, yes. As Natasha has said before about her own inability to stop oversharing in the past, “oversharing is an involuntary, rapidly-growing-in-real-time response to un dealt-with trauma.”
Why Do People Overshare?
We overshare when a part of our lives/ourselves has been silenced.
We overshare to feel relevant in this world.
We overshare because we long for connection.
We overshare because a part of us doesn’t feel safe and this is how we “ask” for help.
We overshare when we don’t how to attain validation from within. So, we seek it externally.
I’m a firm believer in inner child work. The coping mechanisms we learn in our formative years cross over to how we handle life as adults. Oversharing can be your inner child calling for help. Maybe as a child, you couldn’t safely express your feelings because emotions would disrupt the “peace” at home.
I can attest to this experience.
I overshare as an adult now because as a child, I was told not to tell anyone about my problematic home life. Even after twelve years in therapy, I still have moments of oversharing – as if I’m making up for the time as a child when I should have asked for help. It’s my duty now to compassionately redirect; to pivot. To make the choice for my younger self as to how I am going to help and protect her.
Oversharing isn’t always tied to our past. It’s amazing that as adults we can feel silenced and powerless, though we are regarded as being fully formed and responsible in our emotional regulation.
Whether it’s in your romantic life, professional life, or in your friendships… problems happen each and every day. It’s possible that in these relationships, fair communication and empathy aren’t reciprocated.
Whatever your explanation for oversharing is, it’s most likely because you have a need or desire that isn’t being heard or met. It’s easier to garner sympathy and understanding from a stranger because they don’t see how you behave normally.
Once you receive encouragement from said stranger, you are relieved but also, mortified that you spilled your life on this unassuming person. A person, who, like you, has their own problems, fears, and insecurities.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t share your struggle with others, but share with those you TRUST. Venting is critical to the healing process from weakness in oversharing to strength in vulnerability. To vent in a healthy way, ask permission to share your experience and listen to your instinct as far as the other person’s ability to mentally handle what you’d like to share.
Two people that are deeply hurting do not always have the emotional capacity to be there for others. Thus, do not put the expectation of another person’s validation of your existence, to heal your pain. Constantly relying on emotional validation is a drain for everyone involved. On the flip side, oversharing isn’t always a negative thing. It can be a gateway for heightened awareness, self-reflection, and everlasting change.
The choice is yours.
MINDFULLY be aware of who you are sharing yourself with. Remember: you are not for everyone and everyone is not for you. Your life is something to be shared, but only with those you have mindfully (not compulsively) decided to open up to.
In the words of William Shakespeare, “All the world’s a stage,”…but choose your audience wisely.
Below Are My Tips on How to Stop the Diarrhea of the Mouth and Stay on Your White Horse:
- Acknowledge to YOURSELF that you feel unheard. Write it down. Write down all of your anger, hurt, insecurities, and pain. Writing your feelings down provides tangibility, it gives a physical and malleable presence to emotions. Personally, I like to destroy whatever I write out that is upsetting me (safely, of course). ***If you are a reader of Natasha’s past posts, she mentions writing your ex’s name on a piece of toilet paper, dropping it in the toilet, doing your business over it, and FLUSHING. Try it. It’s cathartic.
- Choose a TRUSTED FRIEND to vent your story to. When we choose someone that we have MUTUAL trust to speak our feelings to, the response will be more genuine because of a foundation that has already been established. Always be considerate of the place that the other person may be in. It can be extremely helpful to ask if they’re in a mental place to listen to you. They may be going through their own struggles that you know nothing about.
- Ask yourself this question: “Does Royalty talk to paparazzi?” Royal Families do not divulge their private life to the paps. They keep quiet and handle issues with non-reactivity. You are royalty and need to start treating yourself as such. Don’t be snobby, but believe that it is a privilege to have intimate knowledge of your life because IT IS. Before opening your mouth, think: “What do I gain from telling this person this? Have they earned the right to know me in such a way?” Know your worth. Your time and experiences are precious.
- And of course, therapy. Granted, seeking a mental health professional isn’t an option that is accessible to everyone (my heart breaks). Speaking to a certified professional puts you in the perfect lane to overshare in a safe, healthy, and productive environment.
Written by: Natasha Adamo Team Member, Brieana.