“Ugh, Kirsten, shut the f*ck up!” I mutter to myself for the four hundred billionth time in my life. Yet again, I have surprised myself with something that has passed between my lips- an internal musing that was never meant for public consumption has now taken its place right at center stage of conversation. There are times I wish I could capture my own surprise, which no doubt, mirrors that of my listeners. It’s really a wonder I didn’t go into PR as I have spent countless hours cleaning up my own messes. Even BP would be impressed with my ability to casually diffuse an incredibly awkward situation. Extra details from bad dates, physical ailments none would ever admit to, feelings most prefer to keep at bay. When it comes to personal plight, my ability to keep quiet is reminiscent of the beating heart in Edgar Allen Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart. If backpedaling was a sport, I’d qualify for the Olympics. But alas, I live by the mantra, “Mean what you say. Say what you mean,” and for better or worse, one must own his words.
Like most people’s best qualities, my openness, and frankness, is also one of my worst. I have no problem putting it out there– from my outfits to my emotions– and while some find that refreshing, others find it revolting. To know me well is to know that nothing I say (for the most part) is out of malice. I love hard and feel deeply. Unfortunately, I keep a fairly close circle, so my average audience is likely to be experiencing this word vomit for the first time. Hi, it’s nice to meet you, I snore when I sleep.
In many cultures, people share meals in order to relate to one another. Other cultures wash and braid each other’s hair. For me, telling stories, and sharing my own woes is the way in which I bond with others. I see it as a way to say, “See, I have those scars too.” “I’m afraid of the same things.” “Look how bad I messed up.” “We’re all human, welcome to the sh*t show that we call life.” And indirectly, it is probably a way for me to look to others and ask if what I’ve been through is “okay” too.
Throughout history from the Bible to Greek mythology all the way back to ancient hieroglyphics (the original emojis), storytelling has been an important way for history to be remembered, lessons to be taught, and used as a portal for people to connect to their roots. And while it is a truly beautiful thing to be able to share pieces of yourself with others when they may need it, Hemingway said it best, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed,” there is such a thing as oversharing. You can also be too rich and too thin.
In school, we are taught from an early age that sharing is the right thing to do. Tommy can have all of our blocks if he’d like them. Don’t be so selfish. But when does sharing your stories out of genuine generosity and encouragement of enlightenment become uncomfortable oversharing and an introduction to indecision?
The problem with oversharing is two fold- beyond the obvious potential of offending the general population. First, people begin to feel comfortable weighing in on your problems, solicited or not. I’ve found myself frustrated, foiled, and sometimes even angry when I’m telling a story and others begin to pipe in with what I should do or where I made my biggest blunder. I’m very self aware and already know the catastrophic state of my mistakes, but when you’ve made a habit of inviting everyone in to watch things unfold on the main stage, and unless your name is Kanye you can’t kick them out mid performance. Take a bow, my, friend, this is a little something people like to call “boundaries” and while we don’t want to build a wall in Mexico, we do need personal boundaries.
Next, you forget how to make your own decisions and/or you get lazy. When you stop sharing out of acquired wisdom and instead share in order to gain acceptance, you begin to lose track of yourself and rely too heavily on others’ opinions. This, again, opens you up to a public forum for your problems and while most are weighing in with hopes to help, more likely than not, despite the best of intentions, they’re bringing their own experiences into the mix and this can be a catalyst for confusion. I’ve said it before, no one knows what the f*ck he is doing and one would hope we’re all doing the best we can. No one is an actual expert on anything– except math. You might be an expert in arithmetic. Much like a muscle can atrophy, when your intuition isn’t used, it becomes weak and all of a sudden you can’t distinguish your gut feelings from your inclination to react from past experiences, yours or otherwise. It’s like a ship lost at sea with no land in sight. You can no longer make your own judgement calls without weighing in first.
But stories are important and they will always be a noble way for humans to relate to one another. There are times when I’ve been caught by a passage in a book I’m reading and finally feel understood. Articles written by people who have conquered some of my same quandries have given me hope. And let’s not forget that music is one of the greatest ways to tell a story. There’s a reason there are so many songs about heartbreak and we all know I love a good cry in the shower (or at least now you do). It is important to be open to others and to find ways wherein we can relate to everyone from the Queen of England to the man who hosed down the sidewalk this morning. The key comes in finding the balance and distinguishing what you are sharing and your reasons for sharing it. It is a matter of telling your story without asking for approval. Jesus certainly wasn’t asking his disciples whether or not he should confront the Pharisees. Sure, every day is a new chapter and you have the option to rewrite your ending in any way you choose, but masterpieces are printed in ink, not etched in pencil. Your story is your own and you can share it whenever and with whomever you choose. Just remember, there will always be critics, ask the New York Times, and know that not everything is always a best seller.
“The best moments in reading are when you come across something– a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things– which you had thought special and particular to you. Now here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out and taken yours.”