I am becoming an avid fan of Brené Brown, Ph.D. and I am currently reading her book Daring Greatly. I find her to be down to earth and funny; a killer combination if you ask me. I had an epiphany while reading a piece in Chapter 4. This was something my husband tried to un-eloquently explain to me awhile back and I just was not getting it. Now, it makes sense.
I feel as though she would be ok with me referring to her as Brené and not Dr. Brown, so that is how I shall proceed. Daring Greatly is a book about the trials and tribulations of being vulnerable, within our ever changing human skin and emotional landscape. Which, let’s face it, can be wonderful; but also immensely painful and terrifying in both an emotional and physical way. Brené is a “shame researcher.” She uses her personal and professional experience to explore the topic, which is unequivocally related to the experience of being able to be vulnerable.
In Chapter 4, Brené talks about how oversharing is not vulnerability! She expresses the idea that oversharing actually results in feelings of disconnection, distrust and leads to disengagement. People overshare for multiple reasons. In many ways they are looking to connect with someone, not realizing oversharing too early in a relationship will actually cause disengagement distrust and disconnection. According to Brené people overshare to sooth their pain, test the loyalty and tolerance of a friendship and in an attempt to force a relationship due to their need for connection.
As she talks about in Daring Greatly, I feel as though I am on a constant social tightrope. Knowing there is a fine line between sharing just enough and sharing too much, I feel every inch of the tightrope! As a counselor in training and as a person, I value connection. I understand that living without connection, is in many ways inhumane. Humans are not meant to survive alone. We need connection to not only live but to live healthy, well-adjusted lives. We need connection, to be happy! Feelings of disconnection can result in both emotional and physical ailments and can even lead to death. This is exactly how important connection is. I promise you, I am not remotely exaggerating!
So, how do we walk the social tightrope successfully? This is the question I have. My husband said to me, “some people cannot handle the kind of information you have and want/need to share.” I thought to myself, what? If they care about me at all, won’t they want to know who I am, where I come from and what I am made of? Why wouldn’t they want to get to know me, below the surface? This did not compute because I desire connection above all other things in life. I want to share my story and have others share their stories with me.
I want to BE connected!
I spoke to my husband about some women in my life, who I really wish to connect with on a deeper level. He totally understood, but his response was “it’s too early for that, they aren’t ready.” My response, “Why? We have known each other for over two years now. How is that not long enough to want a deeper connection?” He shook his head at me, lovingly exasperated. My favorite line I use on him lately is, “If I cannot inspire people to want to listen to me and to want to know themselves, then I will not be a very good counselor.” Is this an unfair expectation of myself? Probably…..
So Brené comes along and speaks to the concept of “floodlighting.” She talks about what happens when you overshare before the receiver is ready to receive that specific type and breadth of information. How oversharing too soon, accomplishes the exact opposite of what we want. How it pushes people away, causing them to recoil and shut down. Yeah, that is exactly how it happens! Looking at it now, I can see it more clearly.
However, this is not where my struggle ends. You see, in the past, I was really bad at sharing at all! I kept things bottled up. People in my life would refer to me as cold-hearted or selfish/aloof. I pulled away, instead of leaning in to social situations, if they were too heavy or emotionally laden for me to handle. I was afraid of getting hurt, so I kept my thoughts and feelings at surface level. Rarely ever going deeper with another person, even after knowing them for a long time. Heck, I still have a hard time telling people I love them, even when I really do!!!
So oversharing pushes people away, but so does not letting people in enough. I think the trick is, every person is different. What might be too soon for one person, may not be soon enough for another. How do we gauge? How do we know when it is worth the risk?
Ahhh….the social tightrope!
I had someone tell me once, “I am just not an empathetic person.” “If you are looking for empathy, you will need to look somewhere else.” Yikes! The statement made me wonder about her level of connection. Her desire to, or not to be, connected with those around her. Right now, I am on the opposite end of the spectrum from her. I am empathetic, too deeply sometimes. I am also at a point where I believe connection, is everything. How do we span the divide?
Brené gives a little hint to it in her book. She says, “When it comes to vulnerability, connectivity means sharing our stories with people who have earned the right to bear them – people with whom we’ve cultivated relationships that can bear the weight of our story. Is there trust? Is there mutual empathy? Is there reciprocal sharing? Can we ask for what we need? These are the crucial connection questions.” Pg. 160
If we do not feel these things, then maybe it is too soon? Will this limit the amount of friends we have in our life? Is it better to have a few really good/close friends, than several people to hang out with?
How do you connect?