Vulnerability makes everyone uneasy and uncomfortable.
As far as possible, you would try to protect yourself from it. You devise elaborate procedures and shields to keep it away from you. In an ideal world, you would never EVER feel vulnerable. In the same ideal world, you would also have deep and meaningful relationships with the people you love the most. Connection and compassion, love and belonging are effortless and spontaneous in this world. There is no mess; everything is in its right places- seamlessly.
Unfortunately, the ideal world doesn’t exist.
If you set limits with someone, and she responds maturely and lovingly, you can renegotiate the boundary. In addition, you can change the boundary if you are in a safer place.
~ Henry Cloud
This real world of ours is gloriously messy. Things are never in place when you need them to be. Connection and compassion, love and belonging- and the joy which is born of them all- don’t happen when you ensconce yourself in bubble-wrap so you can keep vulnerability at bay. The other end of the stick of connection and compassion is vulnerability. When you the banish one; you banish the other.
Connections happen when you let yourself be vulnerable. People are able to relate to you when they see you struggling as they are struggling. Your labor gives them courage for their own hours of lonely effort.
But this, warns Ms Brene Brown, does not mean you let it all hang out indiscriminately.
It’s like this: some people have walls which means they let no one in. This equals unhealthy. Some people let everyone in and let themselves be stepped all over. This equals unhealthy.
~ Benjamin Alire Sáenz
When you overshare, you run the risk of floodlighting (this refers to the shocked feeling you have if someone shines a floodlight in your eyes unexpectedly) your confidant( s). This is particularly true of sharing over the social media.
I am sure you too know of many people who let it all hang out for all and sundry. Far from enabling connections, this kind of oversharing actually creates rifts of disconnection. If that were not bad enough, they end up feeling shut out and shamed for having shared their most painful vulnerabilities.
There are two guidelines Ms Brown herself follows when she shares her own struggles. Given the work she does, it is essential that she practice what she preaches. Yet, she must also ensure that she doesn’t floodlight her readers and audience. Here’s what she does.
She never ever shares a vulnerable moment that she has not already worked through with a loved one. When she shares, she does so from solid ground. The pain of the issue has already been processed and no longer has the potential to generate any shame. Moreover, she ensures that her purpose in sharing a painful and/ or embarrassing incident is for teaching/ demonstrating one of her principles. It is not to gather attention, sympathy or commiseration.
Secondly, she before she shares, she ensures that her sharing is not a means to fill any unmet needs. If the purpose of her sharing is to highlight the healing that happened after the shame storm was over, or to demonstrate the shame resilience that she practiced, only then she would share.
Once again, she emphasized the importance of those one or two people with whom you have a robust enough relationship which can bear the weight of your shame story. If there is not enough of a connection, your sharing may floodlight your confidant. If that happens, they will get uncomfortable around you. In some cases, they would even withdraw from you- not because they are judging you (though it would seem like that)- but because they are not able to process what you shared with them. In their confusion, they no longer know how to react/ respond to you.
When you get such a response from your floodlighted confidant, it is natural to feel as if you are being swallowed whole by the mother of all shame storms. You (wrongly) conclude that you aren’t worthy of connection, or that real connections aren’t possible between people.
To help decide whether to share or not, or when, it is a good idea to ask these questions:
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 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?
It is good to ensure that the intention behind sharing is based in a desire to connect not to stun and extract attention or sympathy (or pity).
It is a good idea not to share (or take irrevocable decisions) when you are Hungry, Angry, Tired or Lonely (called HALT for short). You are already vulnerable and your thinking is in a flight or fight response mode. That is not really a good time to take life altering decisions. People are more likely to regret having put up a nasty status message up on Facebook to hurt/ punish someone than they are to maintaining a dignified silence until the first (and second and third) heat of their anger has subsided.
It is also good to have Boundaries when you share your deepest vulnerabilities.