I’m a recovering chronic over sharer.
I often tell people that I have no vices, other than worrying but that isn’t fully true. For decades of my life I have had a real issue with over sharing. I would compulsively tell people much more than they should know about me. More than they would like to know about me and more than I was really comfortable sharing in the first place.
I felt like I had no control over it and I never really knew why I did that. I thought it was sort of just part of who I was. I wasn’t particularly happy with it either. I often felt intense shame and vulnerability after having let something slip or allowing an insight into my life that I would otherwise have kept private.
This ranged from seemingly benign information such as what I wanted to be when I was a 5 year old (green dinosaur – old habits die hard) to deeply personal information about my personal life. As you can imagine, that can get you into a few really difficult situations really fast. Sometimes I even shared information that wasn’t mine to share in the first place. I’m most ashamed of the times when this happened. I like to think that my friends and family can have confidence in me and so I’ve worked particularly hard on this aspect of my problem in recent years.
In order for me to stop sharing things I really wanted to keep to myself I needed to first realise the root cause. Why did I feel the need to do this? I had to go really far back, to where it all started to go a bit wrong.
As a young child and awkward teenager, I suffered at the hands of bullies. It was brutal, nothing was off limits to them. My appearance, my intelligence, my hobbies, my family and even just the way I walked were all fair game to them. I never really felt liked, at its worst I didn’t feel loved. Even though I had my family around me watching me go through so much pain and telling me I was perfectly fine the way I was. I couldn’t hear them. I needed to be liked, even if I didn’t really like the people I was trying to win over.
I would have done anything to make the bullying stop and just be a normal child.
I wanted to have close friends, the kind that would be there for me and like me for who I was. I felt like the only way to make that happen was to be an open book. Maybe one day I would share something amazing and they’d change their opinion of me. They would like me for who I was because I would make that painfully obvious to them. This transferred into my adult life and soon my adult relationships became strained under the weight of all of my insecurities.
Even my non-verbal communication is affected. I don’t need to tell people how I feel – they can see it on my face in a second. The irony is that if I don’t like someone they need only look at my face to figure that out. Maybe that’s why all my efforts never really worked! I’m not sure I want to make that go away either, I like my face the way it is.
I don’t know if this is something that’s naturally changed as I have grown older but I have slowly stopped feeling the need to tell everyone everything about me. It has been a gradual and welcome change. Maybe it is because I have started writing blog posts and so I have an outlet for all of the things I need to say. Or maybe, simply, it is because I don’t need everyone to like me anymore.
Whatever the reason, I am happy with the outcome. Now, when I tell someone something, it feels intentional. It feels right that they should know this because I have chosen to do so.
My personal relationships have improved in my view. I no longer have uncomfortable friendships where I felt at a disadvantage or where there was some false intimacy that wasn’t quite right. My husband doesn’t have to watch me agonise over my relationships and wonder if they are really as well intentioned as I thought they were.
I like to think that my friends know who they are and are secure in the knowledge that I am sharing exactly what I want to with them and not because I can’t stop myself.
It seems strange that in learning more about myself, I am telling other people less, however, I like to think that I have struck the right balance of open/closed. (A little bit of programming humour for all my developer friends)
I’m no longer an open book and some people might not even get to read the blurb but I know that for those who I allow to read me like one, I am worth the effort.