When is it safe to share your story, and when isn’t it? This is a question that needs to be navigated with care, whether you’re sharing a personal story with a friend or sharing your story with the wider public. Now that the holidays have arrived, this is a particularly timely topic.
In general, my golden rule is this:
Don’t share your story publicly until you’ve worked through it.
What do I mean by that?
If you’re working with a challenging personal story, bypass the instinct to share it at the holiday table (or on Facebook) until you’ve worked through your story enough so that it no longer triggers you.
For those of you writing about some kind of personal challenge, this might mean working with a therapist or getting yourself the emotional support you need to work through the past (and shore up your present) before you share your story with the larger world.
Because when we share a vulnerable story before we’ve worked through it, some well-meaning (but unhelpful) folks will respond with comments or advice that inadvertently feed our shame and leave us feeling like we’ve been run over by a car.
Which brings me to my second rule of thumb (this one from one of my all-time heroes, Brene Brown):
“You share with people who have earned the right to hear your story.”
And she’s right! This one is SO important.
So who are the people who’ve earned the right to hear your story? Well, they’re your ride-or-die folks (as Shonda Rhimes says). The people you can trust no matter what. The people you know will be there for you no matter what. No questions asked, no unasked-for advice dispensed.
Now, are there exceptions to this rule? Of course. (There are always exceptions!) When I was grieving the loss of my mom, part of my healing process involved sharing my story with people who could hear me without trying to fix me.
But I didn’t know who those people were. So I reached out tentatively, dipping a toe in here, a toe in there. Some could handle it; many couldn’t. But bit by bit, I began to see that I wasn’t as alone as I thought, that I did have a few of my own ride-or-die folks I could turn to, people who were willing to help hold me through my grief. And that’s a gift I’m grateful for to this day.
So go slow, if you need to—there’s no rush. Try out the waters yourself. Check in with yourself, and see what feels right for you. What does your body wisdom tell you? Do you get a gut-ache when you think about so-and-so’s response to some previous challenge? Does your heart open up when you think about seeing so-and-so? Honor that.
This holiday, take a moment to reach out and honor your ride-or-die folks.
In our next post, we’ll delve more deeply into what to share (and what not to share) when you’re writing a book.
Until then, thank you from the bottom of my heart for being part of our community. I’m so grateful for you!