Oversharing vs. Healthy Vulnerability

We all know that feeling… You’ve just spilled your guts to someone, and you’re wondering if you shared too much. Brené Brown calls this a “vulnerability hangover,” and YES to this perfect description of what it feels like to leave it all on the table.

You know that feeling…

A vulnerability hangover occurs when we feel shame about our experiences, and/or when, where, and with whom we shared them.

Did we just hijack a conversation with our own “stuff?”

Did we just provide way more information than necessary to make our point?

Did we just put ourselves at risk of criticism or attack?

Does my audience now think I’m crazy?

What made me think anyone would be interested in my boring story?!

What qualifies as oversharing?

I think it’s helpful to start with what oversharing is not… 

You can’t be too honest. Telling the truth is never wrong. It’s all in the delivery, which we’ll discuss a bit later in this post. But the truth, in and of itself, is always a good thing.

You can’t be too real. This is actually one of my favorite phrases. It’s so descriptive, and people who get it really GET. IT. “I was a bit too real for them.” Meaning my Sara-ness can be A LOT and they weren’t quite ready for it.

But just because someone couldn’t quite handle the truth doesn’t necessarily mean it was a bad thing! It simply means that we all grow at our own pace, and in our own directions, and perhaps these aren’t your people!

That being said, there is such a thing as oversharing…

It all comes down to motive.

Your truth isn’t oversharing if it makes the world a better place. Sharing stories and experiences and feelings can be profoundly healing for ourselves and others. It’s useful to consider the reason for sharing. What’s your why?

Are you hoping to ease someone else’s pain?

Is there a deep connection with this person that you want to enhance?

Does your story contain a lesson?

Is it relatable to the audience?

Does it teach a lesson or have a relevant point to the discussion?

Is your audience eager to support you?

Are you eager to support someone else?

Does your audience deserve an explanation?

If you are sharing with the goal of improving your relationship or the quality of life for the listener, then by all means, share away!

Radio host Bernard Meltzer is accredited with saying, “Before you speak, ask yourself if what you are going to say is true, is kind, is necessary, is helpful. If the answer is no, maybe what you are about to say should be left unsaid.”

I’ve also seen similar statements attributed to Socrates, Buddha, and the Rotarians. Whoever said it, it’s excellent advice.

Here are some not-so-good reasons to share:

Sharing the personal struggles of someone else is always a tricky area, and almost always lands in the category of “gossip.” There are instances where it’s appropriate, but when considering sharing other people’s private struggles, make sure you are closely examining your motive and your audience. Will other people benefit from hearing this information?

It’s also important to consider with whom you are sharing the information. Sharing someone’s divorce news with close friends with the goal of offering support is entirely different from whispering it behind your hand in line at the local hardware store.

Ugh, guys, the revenge share is never a good thing. Nothing good comes from a desire to get even. If someone has wronged you, process it with trusted people who can empathize and also ask hard questions about how you’re feeling and how you can be the best version of yourself in the midst of struggle.

It may feel good on the surface when people feel sorry for you. But it’s not empowering or healthy. Instead, seek out people who celebrate your gifts and see beyond your hurts and shortcomings.

This one is closely related to pity. When we share our vulnerabilities to get noticed we aren’t being true to ourselves or others. When we live our best, most authentic life and lean into our gifts we attract notice from people worthy of relationship. Sharing for the sake of attention is simply a distraction from all the good things we have to share with the world.

My first thought on this is yuck. Sharing our stories in order to achieve a desired outcome is gross and toxic.

My next thought is that people rarely do this consciously. Manipulative people don’t wake up in the morning and think, “How can I screw people over today?” It’s usually a tactic they learned from generational trauma, and they don’t even realize they’re doing it.

When I think about it this way, I am reminded of just how important it is to approach every interaction with intentionality and accountability. When we deeply consider our motives, it becomes difficult to ignore our own toxicity.

GREAT reasons to vulnerably share your story:

There’s nothing quite like realizing that someone else has shared experiences similar to your own. At the core of all loneliness is the idea that nobody else understands what you’re going through. And maybe they don’t, because you haven’t shared your struggle with anyone. There is no shame in sharing your hurts and failures. I guarantee, there are others out there ready to support you if you’re willing to get vulnerable.

Last week in the Redefining Love Community we talked about how secrets can only control you when they are kept. There is something powerful about sharing your truth!

The writer Anne Lamott says, “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” Don’t hold in your truth to protect others. Be real, and give yourself and others the opportunity to grow from your experiences.

My absolute favorite books are memoires. There’s something so powerful about reading about other people’s lived experiences. Think of how different the world would be if we didn’t know the stories of our heroes! How many lessons would go unlearned?

Receiving love and support
Maybe you’re not comfortable sharing your story with the whole world. Just as you have a right to share your story if you so choose, you have a right to hold your story close. Maybe your story is also the story of others you love deeply who aren’t ready to share, or maybe you aren’t ready to share yourself. That’s okay!

But please, please don’t deny your friends and loved ones the opportunity to help you! You don’t have to carry the weight of your story all alone. Let the world love on you, at whatever level you’re comfortable sharing.


There are few things more vulnerable than setting healthy boundaries. You put yourself all on the line and show who you really are when you decide to draw a line around the space you take up in the world. And pay attention! How other people receive your boundaries is a great indicator whether or not they are a safe person to be in close relationship with.

Think before you share.

If it feels weird to share, ask yourself why you’d be sharing. Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? Is it helpful? If the answer is no, then don’t share. If the answer is yes, but… consider the consequences of that “but.”

But it could really shake things up! Maybe it’s worth it! Maybe things need a good shaking! Or maybe not. The more that is at stake, the more you must be aware of what you’re saying, and craft your words carefully. And then bravely, boldly, with a pure heart, speak your truth if that’s what you believe is best.

Always choose gentleness.

Especially for particularly difficult truths, choose gentle words. Not only is gentleness a kinder way of doing life, but your words will carry more power. You are more likely to be heard. So think carefully prior to sharing hard truths, and always keep your “why” in mind.

Think after you share.

When you are sinking into the pits of that vulnerability hangover, ask yourself, was it true? Was it kind? Was it necessary? Was it helpful? If the answer is yes, then it was worth it, and it’s okay to breathe through the discomfort and release it.

If the answer is no, then it’s time to roll around in that discomfort until you find the why… Why did you share? What amends need to be made, if any? How can you do better next time? Once you’ve reflected, and made things right (if possible), then it is time to breathe through it and release it.

You’ve overshared. Now what?

After careful reflection, you’ve decided that your motives weren’t entirely authentic or healthy. That’s a bummer. But it can’t be undone, and you’ve (hopefully) learned from the experience.

Start from a place of grace. You’re not a terrible person. You made a mistake, and we’ve all done it. You can’t think clearly when you’re busy flogging yourself, so before you do anything else, give that wounded self of yours a hug.

We can’t change what is, but we can change what happens next. If you can make things right, then do! Say you’re sorry! Be humble! Be brave and have that hard conversation.

Or perhaps it’s better left where it is. Every situation is different, and maybe in this particular instance bringing it up will only make it worse, cause more pain for the other person, or just be a waste of both party’s valuable time.

Some helpful questions to ask yourself before diving back into the conversation:

What is my motive for bringing this up again?

Will it bring comfort or peace-of-mind to the other person?

Am I trying to release my own shame, or remedy a problem I created?

Is this person a safe person to continue with in relationship?

Did you actually overshare?...

Remember that just because someone doesn’t like what you have to say doesn’t mean you were wrong to share it. Make sure that you’re not beating yourself up for something that sheds light on secrets that were keeping people trapped.

Seek out the counsel of healthy, safe people, and only make amends where they are truly warranted. The truth might hold people accountable who had silenced others for too long. It may be that person is you. Or someone else.

It takes courage to be honest. You are brave. You are worthy of an authentic life. We all are. Share valiantly, my friends!

Learn more…

To learn more about the Redefining Love Way, I encourage you to browse the site. Have questions? Feel free to email me at sara@sarabethwald.com, or schedule a free discovery call. 

For more information on how to join the Redefining Love Community, please visit redefine-love.com/coaching.

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