I had lunch with a girlfriend (and fellow coach) this week and we talked about EVERYTHING, as you do when you’re sitting across the table from someone you completely trust. We talk about each aspect of our story: love, life, parenting, food, relationships, and more. I’m sure you’ve had one of those conversations that run the gambit. So, I took a deep breath and told her how much the “#metoo” meme horrified me.
Well, it horrified me for many reasons. By the sheer volumes of women (and men) that spoke out to denote individual story as part of the sexual harassment/sexual assault story. Some with simply tweeting or leaving a Facebook status of #metoo. Others shared detailed stories of sexual harassment or assault. Yep, right there on Facebook and Twitter and blogs (and probably Instagram), too.
And the almost blithe sharing of #metoo stories on social media horrified me, too. Because now, all those stories are out there. And by out there, I mean: out in the public domain for anyone to surf by and read it.
The fact of the matter is this: not everyone reading those posts has earned the right to hear each story.
These are public posts, my friend! Is every single person that follows you across social media people you trust inherently with your vulnerable stories?
If there’s one deep truth I’ve learned in my years of coaching and advising folks is that your most vulnerable stories deserve protecting and only shared with people you can trust. A person you can trust to not belittle you. Someone that you can trust not to twist your story around. A friend who respects your privacy and you can trust them not to share your story with others. A person you know will not use your story as fodder for gossip.
I share a fair number of vulnerable stories with you here in this space and in my newsletter as teaching points, and I am happy to do so. I am comfortable doing that, though, my dear, because these are stories I have worked through. Pieces of my life that have been examined ad nauseum by myself, with my therapist, with my coach.
Each story I share here and there in any kind of public way are stories I am on the other side of.
Social media? It’s kind of forever. Even if you delete a blog post, a tweet, a Facebook post, a photo on Instagram, it has already been seen. And, it’s possible that anyone could have taken a screen shot of what you’ve shared, so that even after it’s “gone”, it still lives out there.
I think we do need to talk about the hard stuff: mental illness, sexuality, and sexual harassment. We need to share stories about death, and grief, and love. We need to have more honest conversations about relationships, the hard seasons, and more. However, we need to do so in a way that still protects us at our core.
It’s easy to get caught up wanting to join the bandwagon. It can be so freeing to realize that other humans on this planet have had similar experiences and felt the same things – we all need that sense of connection and belonging. The comfort of knowing we aren’t alone.
But when you connect, ensure that you do that in a way that protects your heart. Be willing to stand up and share when you’ve worked through a challenge – or horrifying experience – when you’ve worked with an expert – a therapist, a counselor, a coach. Be open to supporting others, too. I’m all about that.
I would never tell you that your stories don’t matter. In fact, I believe that your story matters tremendously.
Once you’ve healed your wounds, not just growing scabs over tender places, but feel as if you won’t shatter or have nightmares or breakdown over a story. Then, sure, share how you want.
Well, even then, there’s always the thing to remember that not everyone in circle of acquaintances is trustworthy. Not everyone, even some that you trust, are open to hearing some of those stories. (And you know what, that’s OK. How do you know it’s not going to trigger bad memories for them?)
Remember this: not everyone should hear all the dirty details of your life. And frankly, not everyone should hear all the fabulous details of your life either. It doesn’t negate the fact that you matter, what it indicates is that you have healthy boundaries and a profound respect for yourself.
If you’re worried that you aren’t being authentic, know that you can be authentic and sincere in pretty much every situation without sharing every vulnerable detail of your life. You create boundaries around your story because not everyone has earned the RIGHT to hear your story. Those details of your life, especially when you are in the midst of crisis, should be protected from those that might draw unkind opinions of you based on your vulnerabilities. Boundaries and a sense of propriety mean that you share with your best friend but not your co-worker.
Discernment, my dear, will always be your friend. Never doubt that your story matters; just know that where you share it – and who you share it with – is more important that joining the crowd.
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