We all want to be our whole, authentic selves, online and off. We want to put down the masks, we want to be seen and heard and known, and we want to share what we’ve learned.
But we’ve also all had the unpleasant experience of reading or hearing something that felt like just a little bit too much, too soon.
How open should we really be on the internet?
This is something we talk about a lot behind the scenes — how much of our personal struggles should we share? Do readers want to hear about the messes and the things we haven’t resolved? Does anyone want our unfiltered opinions and the occasional rant, or should we stick to bullet points and action plans?
If you blog, post Facebook updates, meet up for coffee with friends, or have relatives who enjoy conversation, you’ve probably wondered something similar. Which of your stories do you share, and which do you keep quiet? When is it the right time to be your whole self, and when do you share just one angle?
I want to be the same person on the page as in the rest of life. I don’t want my writing to build up walls to shield the real me. I don’t want to keep anyone out or make anyone feel disconnected, even when life is far from perfect.
Some of us are more vibrant in person than we are online. Others of us are more bold in writing than we are live. Some of us have stories or struggles we’re still working through, and aren’t ready to share. So how do we know when it’s time to open up, and when to shut things down?
Think about what your purpose is in sharing, and if now is the right time.
- Have you had a chance to process your feelings and to come to your own conclusions?
- Do you have a safe space where you can open up?
- Are you ready to hear other people’s responses?
- If you’re holding back, is it because you’re still working through things? Is it because you’ll have to move out of your comfort zone? Or is it out of fear for how others will react?
Consider what you have to offer.
- Will you give hope, help, or guidance?
- Will you let others know they’re not alone?
- Have you found meaning in your difficulties, that you can now share?
- Will being open shine a light into someone else’s darkness?
- Could your words help to bring about needed change?
1. Experience simplicity.
The more open you are, the less you have to remember which filters go where. If your habit is simply to tell your truth, there aren’t as many divisions between who you are and what you share. You’re just yourself, everywhere you go.
2. Establish connection.
Sharing our messes helps us feel connected. That’s because, while the details are different in each of our lives, we share the same underlying emotional experience. We all struggle, we all have pain and difficulty, we all have to find healthy ways to cope. Talking about those things can be a gift to both the speaker and the audience.
3. Achieve wholeness.
You have a limited amount of mental, physical, and emotional energy every day. Acting like someone or something you’re not saps that energy fast. You can spend your days pretending to have it all together, or you can work toward living in wholeness, but you can’t do both at once.
4. Own your story.
Speaking truth and claiming your identity are powerful things. When you know who you are, and when you shape your history into a coherent narrative, you put your life into clearer perspective. You might even feel more confident moving forward. Maybe online is the right place for you to be your whole self, and maybe it isn’t. But somewhere in your life, make space to set down the masks and be unfiltered.