I’ve caught a little flak in the past for the stuff I post online.
Predominantly, that flak consists of comments about “oversharing”, or the art of putting too much out there on the table for the world to see.
I tend to share the highs and the lows, the mundane and the really profound. Some days there are lots of thoughts rattling around in my head, so there are lots of posts and status updates and comments. Some days, I’m feeling introspective and so I observe more than I write.
Either way, I have let a lot of that critique completely derail me in recent months, to the point that I was second guessing my engagement and writing so much that I wrote nothing at all. Self-doubt had the reins, and I had handed all my power over to other people.
What the hell?
Whether it was 140 characters or 1400 words, I was sitting there thinking “What if I post this and no one likes it? What if I offend someone? What if I’m sharing ‘too much’? Not enough? What if it’s stupid? What if it’s too serious? Not serious enough?”
Oh, the loop I put myself into. What a mess.
I’m not doing that anymore. Because I’ve realized a few important things.
I both enjoy and need the interaction and catharsis that comes with sharing raw, human conversation.
It’s not a matter of clicks or internet fame. No, it’s more a matter of validation I guess (though that can be a bad word these days). Sort of like putting a signal out into the universe and having someone ping back because you know someone else is out there, reading that, and going “yeah”.
Also, the process of articulating my feelings and thoughts into words that will be suitable for someone to read requires work beyond just stream-of-consciousness journaling (which I also do, and helps for a different reason). My anxiety-disordered brain pretty much has a constant stream of jabbering going through it at all times. Some of it is harsh self-criticism, some of it is hopeful and optimistic desires about the future, a lot of it is everything in between.
But it needs someplace to go.
The process of writing things out in coherent sentences, finding words for the feelings and thoughts, and owning them by putting them out there publicly in a way that I can’t easily take back or deny is therapeutic. That part of the writing and the sharing is for me.
The part that’s for me and for others: We have really been taught that sharing imperfect, raw, honest and emotionally-driven thoughts is a bad thing. We attach all kinds of labels to it, from weak to “oversharing” to “TMI” to dramatic…you get the picture.
The truth is that this is why we are all a hot mess. The fact that we stuff all these feelings and experiences down and instead cough up a filtered, approved version of our lives — whether online or off, mind you — is eating us alive. Mental health issues are reaching crisis proportions, bullying is seeing outcomes like never before, but yeah. Let’s tell each other that you better not share something unless it’s balanced, always kind, never angry, happy, introspective, mature, comfortable, relatable.
So, if I’m an oversharer, great. I take that as a compliment. Because that means I’m doing exactly what I set out to do when I gave that terrifying TedX talk: to not ever be silent when there are feelings and emotions that need air to breathe.
I’ve also realized that I don’t have to keep people around that make me feel badly about the person that I am.
Removing people from my sphere of influence — again, online or off — when they consistently hurt me or make me feel less is not only okay, it’s essential.
That doesn’t mean I don’t have people around that challenge me, or call me on my shit sometimes, or make me more thoughtful. It’s just that they’ve earned the right to be there and do those things by also loving me, being kind to me, and supporting me when others were absent. By loving who I am if not always what I do, and letting that be the constant through-line, always known and heard.
They? They can be the one to say “dude, that was a bit much” or “yeah, you need to think about that in the future.” And I’ll listen. Because they’ve earned my trust and respect.
The rest? They don’t get permission to make me sit there and stew on my self-worth.
I’ve also learned that I respond to aggressive people with aggression, which is horrifically unhealthy (I cannot emphasize this enough). I am not nearly so naturally aggressive as I come off, but I use it as a defense mechanism when people throw things at me that I’m not prepared to receive (or to receive with such assertion or command or venom). I don’t like that part of me, not at all. And the more aggressively I behave, the more wound I am, ready to react that way in the future. Yuck.
So, I’m walking away from people and conversations like that when they start coming at me. And I’m working very, very hard on not doing that to anyone else.
So, yeah. I just posted that.
If I post too much for you, or you’re horrified that I would put a post about depression in my Twitter stream alongside my professional stuff, if you’re astounded that I must use the word “bullshit” once in a while to make my point or can’t understand why I would both love the New York Times AND a ridiculous video about giraffes, that’s okay.
The internet has built-in easy buttons for that: unfollow, unfriend, unsubscribe, un-something.
I won’t lie and say “I don’t care” like I’m too tough to be bothered when someone opts to walk away from me. It stings a little, but it’s all in the spirit I’m going for here which is shaping a world that works for you, being the person that you truly are, and not letting a bunch of “should” get in the way of being that, no matter how imperfect it is.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some writing to do. 2014 is going to be a whole new-old ballgame.