My friends describe me as “open,” constantly sharing another rambling anecdote. I am often praised for my honesty, admired for not holding back even intimate information about my life. And while I value my ability to open up, this quality plays out in a more complicated way for me internally. Whenever I share something personal-with a close friend or near stranger- I question myself before and after the exchange. How much should I share? Will this person understand? Will it change their image of me-for better or worse?
Did I say too much?
I pride myself on my honesty, because it connects me to people on a deeper level. Sharing with others helps me take ownership over parts of my life that make me feel uncertain. When I disclose such information, I can try to be understood and validated. Sharing also helps me let go of stigmas that may stem from issues I keep inside. When I share these stories and feelings, I often do so in an effort to make myself more comfortable and at peace with painful areas of my life.
Yet I cannot help but wonder: who deserves to know certain information? How will this change our friendship? Do I trust this person enough to expose my sensitivities?
And beyond this, I question my own motivations in such expressions. Is my disclosure coming solely from wanting to be understood? Seeking sympathy? For attention? Not only do I struggle to navigate what I feel safe sharing and with whom, I also find it challenging to examine the purity of my own intentions in the process.
The questions that emerge before and after sharing information with people all settle into an ambiguous answer of “I’ll never really know.” I can never be absolutely sure where my desire to open up comes from exactly, or who will react in the way I need, or what that even entails. I can never anticipate what pieces of which stories will shock people, bring us closer, or create distance. Every time I make a choice to share-or not- I take a risk. And every time I do so, I learn a little more about letting go, and about holding on to what feels authentic.
I so appreciate everyone who has embraced and accepted what I have to share, and who has felt comfortable enough to reciprocate. Any level of disclosure is a brave choice if it comes from a place of sincerity. I am more than what I share or hold back. I am constantly re-evaluating these many fine lines, and I am growing to embrace that balance.