I have realized that when it comes to open-ness, vulnerability and sharing, I have one foot in the idea that sharing and being vulnerable is healing and overall a positive thing and one foot in an old belief that perhaps comes from my culture, maybe parents or older relatives that “you shouldn’t be so open”, “some things are to be kept private”
My friend who has a podcast called “Sustainable Medicine” recorded a conversation of us for a podcast episode, asking me about my recent decision to quit my job, take a break from full time medicine and the time in my life when I felt very burnt out. As he would ask me the questions, the vulnerable answers would come to my mind and I would think “should I share this or share a less vulnerable version of it?”…. a part of me wanted to be as real as possible…. I wanted to tell any person who is listening and might be feeling the same anxiety and burn out that they are are not alone in all their thoughts and emotions and yet as soon as the words would come out of my mouth, I’d think about how my words can be judged by some people.
After we had finished recording the podcast, I found myself not wanting to listen to it. It was hard to hear myself being vulnerable. I was wondering why am I having a hard time with this whole sharing and how much or how little to share. Why do I get a vulnerability hangover when I share? I write this blog and it makes it seem like sharing is easy for me. But the truth is, it is and it isn’t. Being open generally comes easy to me. But usually after I share something somewhat vulnerable, I get what I heard Brene Brown call “the vulnerability hangover”, which is when this judge in me wakes up and starts telling me how I shouldn’t have shared. This is probably the reason I stopped writing in my blog for over a year.
I sat in inquiry (using Byron Katie’s method called the work) trying to figure out where I get this duality from. Wondering why I have a judgement about open-ness which is something that a part of me feels strongly about and frankly comes so naturally to me.
Why do I judge something that is so me?
I realized that I had gotten criticized by parents or elders as a kid or a teenager when I had shared what they thought should not have been shared “why did you tell so and so about this?” Or I’d hear in Farsi “you are so sadeh” which literally means simple but actually means gullible and in this context meaning not savvy enough to know what not to share with someone… mainly not to ruin your image. I guess the goal being to always give and maintain a good image.
And come to think of it, the judge in me is also worried about image or what others will think of me after I share what I share and in general about being an open person. Will they think; whoa…. that’s too much sharing or will they feel uncomfortable hearing someone sharing about her insecurity? Will they like me less or think less of me?
When I do the work of Byron Katie, the forth and last question is “Who would you be without this thought?” And in this case the judging thought is that somehow sharing is “bad.” Whenever I do the inquiry, I find so much freedom in question number 4. Who would I be without a thought that causes me grief? The answer is always a relaxed, pure me, just being me. When I did this exercise, asking myself this question, who would I be without the thought that sharing is (bad, stupid, unwise, approval-seeking, uncool, etc), I did find the same freedom. I’d be me. But then immediately came a fear… shit, what if without this thought, without this judgmental thought, I’d share too much. I’d somehow be really uninhibited and it would be unacceptable.
And at the moment that this fear crept up is when I realized that I just hit the edge of my freedom at this moment and point in my life.
I remember I was in a meditation class of my favorite teacher and she always started the class with a personal story of some challenge she was facing and how meditation/mindfulness had given her insight in to the challenge. She’d share really vulnerable things like how she was getting older and had the fear of not being able to have children and had chosen to freeze her eggs or how she had gotten really irritated at her boyfriend earlier that day and had then had a moment of awareness which helped her not react.
Her honest sharing was the reason I went to class. It was the reason I loved her class. I wonder if she ever experienced vulnerability hangover? If she did, I am glad she didn’t let it stop her from sharing. Her stories are still with me. They made me feel close to her and they made me feel less alone in my struggles.