How Much Are You Willing to Reveal?:Daring to Be Vulnerable

I’m a memoirist. All I know how to do is reveal. — Elizabeth Gilbert

My creativity lies in my revealing, my sharing, my telling of personal stories. For a very long time, I only shared personal stories with my best girlfriends and even then they were mostly about boys/men, and not about myself.Telling a secret girls

As a child, I only told my family the private issues I had to. I didn’t tell them anything beyond what they needed to know. If I mentioned my problem skin or embarrassment over a chipped tooth my sister then had endless fodder for teasing and tormenting. If I revealed how much I wanted my dad to see something special in me, I left myself open to almost unbearable vulnerability and disappointment. Feelings and self-doubts swirled and surfaced mainly at night as I lay alone in my corner bedroom. My stellar inward focus already in full swing. Occasionally, my tender dreams and worries found refuge in a rare special visit with my Grandma Knowles.

Looking back, I see that all of my parents (I’ve had an involved stepmother for 35 years) would have listened if I would have asked, but they were busy, tired or working on their own issues and I wasn’t strong enough to demand attention.

Safety first

After I married, I didn’t tell my husband my deepest worries, yearnings or personal dreams either. He was always so confident and in charge. Voicing my faults and fears would only emphasize my lack of ‘having it all together’. To be honest, while I was intimately aware of my downfalls, my strengths and gifts were still in the development phase (which is a stage most introverts don’t like to reveal). Instead I mostly played the roles of wife and mother. The only dreams or worries I dared to reveal and even recognize were those involving all of us — the whole family. Voicing my personal dreams or ideas seemed silly, selfish and not practical and like I said, they were still in the formulating phase anyway. Family and house first. Brenda’s aspirations and thoughts on writing, relationships and helping humanity, later after the kids are gone.

safe and wildI didn’t feel safe enough in my family’s company. I didn’t feel I could reveal my weaknesses. My status in the pecking order of power and admiration could only be lowered by revealing soft spots, right? I chose to ‘fix’ myself by remaining perpetually on the defensive, exhibiting strength rather than doubt, and spending time doing rather feeling or being. I chose to keep quiet and let others lead. I didn’t share and I believe we all missed out.

A little too revealing

Now I can’t seem to stop revealing. To the point where I fear oversharing. Two months ago I attended a meeting for a professional Myers Briggs group. It’s a small group with around 15 members attending each month’s presentation. We were talking about how individuals can often exhibit traits opposite to their type. I had a story to tell about how I demonstrated extroverted characteristics at a football party. If you want the whole story I wrote about it here. During the discussion I got everyone’s attention and like most of my experiences talking extemporaneously in front of a group, the perfectly formed points in my head spilled out in non-cohesive, word-magnets-scrambled-on-the-refrigerator-door, fashion. I meandered through the details managing to reveal: I am divorced; I was insecure about hanging out with my ex-husband and his girlfriend Wonder_Womanand I resorted to Wonder Woman and marathon winning poses in the bathroom to boost my confidence. I even acted out the poses in front of the group (revealing my bare stomach a little as I lifted my arms in V formation for the marathon winning motion, tsk, tsk). Mind you, this is a PROFESSIONAL organization. Most members are 10+ years older than me and at the start of the meeting the majority of them didn’t know me from Adam. Sometimes this kind of openness works but this time there was a mumbling of comments and a general floor-gazing awkwardness when I finished. I felt instant regret for my gregariousness. A woman whom I admire and look to as a mentor was there. I felt her disapproval most of all. To add insult to injury, the goofiest old woman in the crowd — the one who wasn’t quite tracking with the rest of the group and shouted out What!? at random times — came up to me after the meeting and said, I loved your story!

A couple of days later, another member of the group reached out to me via twitter. He didn’t seem  phased by my overly personal story. He seemed to appreciate my style, enough to look up my website and comment positively on my writing.

Perhaps, I can show my face there again.:)

What I’ve learned about revealing

My favorite writer and personal hero, Brenda Ueland, said that anyone can be creative if they are willing to recklessly make mistakes and honestly share the details of their life. All stories are interesting and imaginative if they are real.

Not everyone is your ideal audience. I don’t think my kind of sharing is best suited to highly formal or professional types. I’m a more informal gal. I relate best to open-minded, warm spirits interested in people, love, relationships, creativity, etc. but you never know who is in your corner until you find the courage to reveal your self.

Being real gives others permission to be real. Revealing connects. I can say that since I found the courage to be daringly forthright I have encountered the most gratifying and other-worldly connections. My mind and heart have been unbelievably nourished to the point where they feel like they may burst.

I’ve landed in circles of friends who, like me, have a passion for going intimate. They don’t want to talk about baseball scores or the news. They want to get down to personal stories and revelations.whispering They want to know you on the deepest level. Because of them, I am the expressive, intimacy loving, often too revealing person, I am today. Thank God.

I now often share my trials and triumphs with my family (parents, siblings). I let lovers in to my private thoughts. I trust you, my lovely readers, with my heart’s desires and frequent failures.

I’ve learned letting my guard down, allows others to feel safe. There is no better feeling than giving someone that space to reveal and making the most magical connections in the process.

I reveal. It turns out it’s one of my strengths. It’s what I know and love to do.

 

Introverts tend to be private. How much do you reveal? Do you ever ruminate later about something you said while openly sharing? 

If this post spoke to you, you may also love:

Emotional Intimacy: An Introvert’s Ultimate Turn On?

Introverted Not Incompetent:Validating Softer Life Skills

Go Lightly Even If You Feel Deeply

Wealthy People and Intellectuals Used to Intimidate Me

All Day Long Wearing a Mask of False Bravado: Stop Hiding Your Sensitive Nature and Thrive

 

 

 

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25 Comments

  1. Communicating As an Introvert: The Intimacy of Written Words and Inner Worlds | space2live
    June 6, 2014

    […] How Much Are You Willing to Reveal?:Daring to Be Vulnerable […]

    Reply
  2. mylongdalliance
    May 15, 2014

    Thank you for this post! It was a helpful read for me. I often struggle with the little inner voice in my head that encourages me to share…and then criticises me for over sharing! Sometimes I find it really is a balance. 🙂

    Reply
    • Brenda Knowles
      May 16, 2014

      How is it that we can hesitate to share and then overshare? It never used to happen to me because I so rarely opened up to people/groups in the past. Now that I’ve had some mild success being vulnerable I struggle to rein in my honesty.;) Crazy! I think it’s best to error on the side of personal expression. Go for it! Most of the time others benefit from our stories.:)

      Reply
  3. Jayne
    May 12, 2014

    This is exactly where I am at the moment, where you used to be. And also why my last relationship ended. My inability to share, to be vulnerable, and to open up. It’s so good to read that many people are the same. I do need to learn how to open up though. Is there any resources you would recommend? I know I need to be more open but I really struggle. I just want to be brave.

    Reply
    • Brenda Knowles
      May 13, 2014

      Brenda Ueland’s book, If You Want to Write, opened me up. Even if you’re not a writer, her words will resonate. She gave me courage. I also suggest striking out and experiencing as much as possible. The places where you feel most at home, they are where you will find your tribe of encouraging kindred spirits. Do something new that you’ve always wanted to. I took guitar lessons and it changed my world. Not because I became a master guitar player (not at all, I was horrible!;), but the people I met through the experience, wow oh wow!!

      Reply
  4. www.laurensapala.com
    May 12, 2014

    And that’s why I love your blog Brenda. You are so honest, and so YOU. Your story about doing marathon-winning poses actually sounds completely awesome, and if I had been there I would have thought, “Who is this woman? She’s fantastic!”

    Thank you so much for revealing and being vulnerable. You’ve taught me so much!

    Reply
    • Brenda Knowles
      May 13, 2014

      Aww thank you Lauren! Vulnerability leads to the most meaningful connections. If only it weren’t so darn scary and difficult.;) I’ve learned so much from your writing as well. Blessed to have connected with you!

      Reply
    • Sydney Woman
      May 15, 2014

      I agree. She’s fantastic.

      I only found your blog yesterday and I felt ALIVE for the first time in years. If I was in that meeting I would have wanted to be a close friend of yours afterwards.

      What I would do to make our meetings more intimate!!! I would likely enjoying being at work. There’s enough Robots at work and in my personal life and I’m bored beyond belief and desire some excitement. I spend most of my life at work, why can’t it be deep and exciting.

      You sounds so strong.

      Reply
      • Brenda Knowles
        May 16, 2014

        Oh my gosh!! I’m all for people coming alive!! Is there any way you can be the introducer of intimacy to your work circle? Perhaps others are dying for a bit of honesty and connecting too?
        I would love to be your friend!! Thanks for sharing.:)

        Reply
  5. November
    May 12, 2014

    Vulnerability is a huge hurdle of mine, but not just because I’m an introvert. I also have a narcissistic mother who wouldn’t be caught dead agreeing with me and refuses to support me emotionally. I learned from a very young age, that everything I said/did was “wrong” and that her way and her answers are infinitely better. I have unconsciously deified her (and my extremely introverted father–I’m not sure yet, if he’s a narcissist…he doesn’t speak enough for me to make a guess) for the past 34 years. I’ve discovered this mental illness in her within the last 6 months. She has made me into what I am today–a scared, vulnerable, always-eager-to-please, depressed person who is easily convinced that I’m worthless. Retreating into myself and saying as little as possible has been my ONLY escape, my ONLY safe place. Unfortunately, this can really isolate a person.

    If I “leave her out of the equation”, I really like the person I am, and everyone else seems to like me too (just she doesn’t). I have a LOT to offer. Unfortunately her disapproving voice always pops up into my head, no matter if it’s questioning whether I like the outfit I’m wearing, or questioning myself what I should do with my life. Since this is now ingrained in me, her actions have proven her narcissism: it’s always about her.

    I constantly beat myself up for offering up too much information to the wrong people (“OMG did I really say that?? What will they think of me??”). But I’ve learned that this is a common trait for INFJ’s. I’ve also realized I constantly search for affirmation and agreement….I am so eager to tell my stories because I just want SOMEone to agree with me, to give me a positive response, to support me, to tell me I’m NOT making a BAD choice…….all things my mother has never been able to offer to me. (“What do you want me to do? Tell you ‘you’re great’??”)

    Oh, what a tangled web… But I have your blog, which DOES give me affirmation that I’m ok just the way I am, and now I need to find people who compliment me (instead of go against me, like my mom). I think this every time I read it. 🙂

    Reply
    • November
      May 12, 2014

      Whoops….I’m an INFP, not J!

      Reply
    • Brenda Knowles
      May 12, 2014

      I hope you surround yourself with an encouraging tribe. Your mother is an isolated individual that you should limit your time around (in my honest opinion).
      I think I am a lot like you in that I want to tell my stories in order to feel some sort of validation and support. I am careful to not solely look for that in a relationship as well. It is so affirming to have someone agree with you. I have to remember it is more valuable in the long run to have someone truly know you and accept you as you are.
      Thanks for sharing. I’m so happy Space2live offers a safe haven for you.:)

      Reply
    • Janet
      August 23, 2014

      Not sure if we are to add our own comments here, but here goes : This story resonates with me. After breaking away from my mother, I
      Have a tendency now to reveal maybe too much as a way of liberation. I have also discovered this does not always work in your favor and can be used against you. Lesson here : discovering who really should be in your life, taking chances may force you to move forward and make more positive life changes. Self acceptance 🙂

      Reply
  6. Ming
    May 10, 2014

    I really connected with this article and your thoughts. I feel like I’m a judgmental person, especially about myself, and become overly concerned with how the thoughts I share may not be received well by others. So what I share and whom I share it with is very limited. It may be ‘safe’, but it also has an isolating effect.

    Reply
    • Brenda Knowles
      May 11, 2014

      It is an introverted thing to deeply contemplate what we will say or reveal before we put it out into the world. We also are very careful about who knows our private thoughts. Our inner world is so rich and honest and vulnerable we don’t trust just anyone with its contents. Often this leads to only a few intimate relationships, which can feel isolating, but the depth of those relationships is incredible. Be gentle with yourself dear Ming. I’m sure you have beautiful ideas, feelings and knowledge. Choose wisely where and with whom you share it but do share it. You’ll be amazed at what/whom authenticity attracts.

      Reply
      • Ming
        May 16, 2014

        Thanks for the reply, Brenda. I am blessed with a select few long and fulfilling friendships and relationships. I saw my introverted tendencies as personality flaws until very recently, and you and the thoughts you share here have been big contributors to my change in self-perception. 🙂

        Reply
  7. Kimber
    May 10, 2014

    I remember the day I began to express myself despite concern of what people would think. It was like an experiement. What would the reactions be? Would they change what I would say in the future? Would I be mortified and crawl back behind my walls? Surprisingly, someone’s reaction to my stories became a way for me to determine who would make suitable friend material for me. It was how I discovered other brave souls willing and wanting to be bravely authentic. In the end, I discovered I found freedom in expression and compassion and kindness for myself. Thanks for sharing friend. You are a delight in many ways.

    Reply
    • Brenda Knowles
      May 11, 2014

      I agree, living vividly and vulnerably is the best way to attract the deepest and most meaningful friendships/relationships. It took me decades to figure this out.You are living proof of its veracity. So grateful we met as we dare(d) to live openly and honestly. Big hug to you my authentic and insightful friend. 🙂

      Reply
  8. charlestolman
    May 10, 2014

    Brenda,
    A lovely lovely post this one. Thank you. There is such courage inherent in revealing. I know how you feel – I always worry if my boundaries are too loose when I do such a thing?

    One aspect that really touched me was your point about doubt – for I have worked at this one for a while. How we handle doubt is important. In my humble opinion there are 3 things I can do with doubt:
    1:Classic Cartesian:
    Deny it and impose my seemingly confident will on everybody. There is no growth in this.
    2:’Nice’ Nirvana: Run away from it and stay in my comfort zone. No growth there either.
    3:Embracing: Live with it – hold it – stay in the gap until it resolves itself – though it may not do so fully. This is where the growth is and it needs me to be strong enough to do it compared with 1 & 2. Needless to say I may need to revert to 1 or 2 – I am not perfect after all.

    Thanks for your sharing – please believe that such authenticity is THE way forward regardless of what anyone says. (“The opening soul – authentic; Not now so egocentric.” as I said in a poem once.)
    Thank you again.
    Charles

    Reply
    • Brenda Knowles
      May 11, 2014

      Thank you for such a thoughtful response Charles. I am gingerly embracing doubt. Some days I feel like I am in the gap gasping for breath, looking back at the nice comfort zone but knowing I can’t return to there. This growth thing takes longer than I expected/hoped.;) I do notice the positives of living authentically — attraction of authentic companions, insatiable desire to keep learning, excitement to see what’s next,growing strength and belief in my own decision making, growing feeling of peace. Some days I feel like I’m out in left field, so different from others and overly sensitive but other days I feel so at home in my own skin and with my tribe of cherished individuals. It’s all good.

      Reply
  9. Ruth Rainwater
    May 9, 2014

    Oh, you could have been talking about me. I am still a very private person and only share with others what I think they can handle. And that’s different things for different people.

    Reply
    • Brenda Knowles
      May 10, 2014

      Interesting that you consider what they can handle. Do you mean what you are comfortable sharing (for fear of their rejection or judgement) or what they can take in and process? I know a lot of people like to keep their information intake very surface. They don’t like to go deep. I’m not one of those people.;)

      Reply
  10. J Forest
    May 9, 2014

    Each paragraph of this post could give me hours and hours of material to chew on. So, many things you’ve said mirror my own life. It’s helpful to see this expressed in an organized manner these varied but interconnected parts of life – and the opportunities for growth and the pitfalls for self-pity.

    Reply
    • Brenda Knowles
      May 10, 2014

      You brought up a good point – We often have a choice. Are we going to steep in self pity or are we going to break out and grow? Sharing vulnerably is soooo hard but it is a fast track to growth. That’s why intimate relationships are the perfect vessels for transformation.
      Thanks J.

      Reply
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