I always thought of myself as being an open book.
I am happy to share thoughts and experiences that to many of my friends would be far too personal to share with someone they did not completely trust. The one exception is that I don’t like sharing them with people if I anticipate they will make negative comments about these thoughts and experiences but maybe it is a trait of mine that I assume the best about most people because I have definitely shared a lot with strangers and acquaintances.
But I had a recent experience that made me realize I might not be as comfortable with oversharing as I thought.
Partially motivated by drink and games like Truth or Dare, I shared some personal experiences with a group of people that I was not close to and had not built a relationship of trust with. At the time, I didn’t think anything of sharing it. I suppose, to me, I like the idea of being an open book because 1.) the highly personal thoughts and experiences you have are often quite accurate reflections of who you really are therefore sharing them with others allows you to share yourself with them, making for more genuine relationships and potential connections and 2.) sharing everything freely means you have nothing to hide which feels safer – there are no secrets to be revealed about you without your consent if you reveal everything yourself. Maybe this is a behavior I’ve developed because I have had people in my life before who have shared private thoughts and experiences relating to me with other people so I’m guarding myself against that.
Well, a few days later from having shared such personal information with these people, I thought back to what I had said and felt extremely uncomfortable and even anxious about it. I felt regret. I felt vulnerable and vulnerability made me feel uncomfortable because I had not built a relationship of trust with these people so I would never want to be vulnerable in front of them because I don’t know what they are going to do with that vulnerability – will they guard it or will they trample on it?
Yet, I wasn’t so much fearful that they would use the things I shared against me because the fact is, they were things that had actually happened and that I am not ashamed about and they don’t reflect badly on me. So why does it make me so uncomfortable for them to know? I suppose, I realized that these experiences just felt private to me. Maybe some of them were moments that were only for me or only for me and the people I shared them with. It’s hard to explain and was interesting for me to consider as someone who has been such an open book with strangers before.
But people change. Maybe with time, I have come to view experiences I’ve gone through with a different lens and they’ve come to mean something different to me – something worth keeping private from people unless I trust them. But it’s not that I think these things will be used against me. But letting people see moments where you might have been vulnerable – even if it doesn’t reflect badly on you at all – is a big decision. I only want people I really trust to see me that way.
Yet, I wonder if this is a bad impulse for me to have. I wonder if I secretly feel ashamed or fearful about who I am at my core. Because I feel embarrassed and vulnerable that I shared personal information with these people. But why should I feel this way unless I don’t feel confident about who I am in private moments?
I’m still unsure how I feel about it.
Tied to this topic is my sharing online. The fact is, I’ve shared much more online than I have with most people I know. But my online presence is mostly anonymous. At the same time, though, it lasts forever and it is not really anonymous. Someone who knew me well enough in my offline world could easily recognise the girl writing this as me and I have not tried to disguise myself so that people stumbling upon this site cannot recognise me.
But I suppose because I cannot see people reading what I write, and avatars on a post feel so far removed from reality, it doesn’t really impress me hard enough that there are people who read these intimate thoughts in my brain …
And of course I also want to feel seen. I want to share my thoughts and be known. But only by the right people … the people who will appreciate these thoughts. But how will we know who appreciates them if neither person can be transparent enough?