Your clothes are being aired out to dry but here’s the catch. Those clothes aren’t clean, and it’s been ages since they were last washed. So, every time the wind blows, your neighbors get a whiff of your week-old socks and sweat soaked shirts. If people look hard enough, they can spot a coffee stain or two as your skanky garments are swaying in the wind with the glare of the afternoon sun highlighting specks of dirt crusting on your threads.
‘Don’t wash your dirty laundry in public’ is a popular idiom which means that personal matters should be discussed privately. It originated from the French proverb: “Il fault laver son linge sale en famille” which translates to: “One should wash one’s dirty laundry at home”. Napoleon quoted this when he escaped from his exile in Elba in 1815.
Spanning all the way back from the 1800’s, it is age old wisdom that it’s important to keep private things private. However, every once in a while there’s this tendency to overshare.
So why do we do it?
It is rooted in the desire to connect.
Reality TV shows are popular.
In The Voice, you root for your favorite contestant to win and your heart skips a beat when you learn that your favorite housemate in Pinoy Big Brother is in danger of being evicted.
By watching an individual’s journey towards fame, we develop a bond with them.
At the beginning of every season, we get to know the contestants. Who they are, where they’re from and what they aspire to be. They share bits and pieces of themselves and before we know it, a complete stranger begins to feel familiar and a bond is formed. You start rooting for the person that you most resonate with to win.
It’s a lot like the process of making a friend. You get to know each other by sharing bits and pieces of yourself. If all goes well, you become buddies.
As part of our desire to connect, we yearn to have meaningful relationships. Therefore, we make efforts to reach out to people and sharing helps to build that foundation.
However, lack of close connections can lead to loneliness. Making individuals yearn for meaningful relationships. As an effort to fast-track relationships, oversharing occurs since it offers a false sense of familiarity.
Unlike realty shows, sharing too much too soon can be detrimental to close relationships. Instead of learning about you as a person, the focus is zoomed on your problems. It can make the listener feel uncomfortable and instead of building bridges, you may end up pushing people away because of TMI- Too much information.
If ever you make new friends or meet someone new, take the time to get to know them and to establish trust. Building trust in any relationship takes time and it can’t be forced, so chill.
When your story still owns you.
Some experiences are extremely painful and difficult to heal from.
As an example, I would like you to recall a time when you weren’t treated fairly or when a relationship ended badly.
Do you remember the painful, raw emotions that you felt?
Do you recall the compulsion to share the story repeatedly that your friends have already memorized it by heart?
When your story still owns you, there is this strong feeling that you must share your story because getting it off your chest provides a relief from the pain of keeping it inside.
During this low point in your life, it is important to surround yourself with people that you trust until you have fully healed. With people who will make you realize that you are not what happened to you.
Owning your story is powerful but you can only do this once you have fully healed.
Oftentimes, oversharing happens unconsciously. You go to a party and before you know it, oops! You shared something you shouldn’t have and it has left you embarrassed. You don’t even need to leave the house to overshare. A tweet is enough.
Placing personal boundaries sets what we are willing to share and what we would like to keep private. It is a learned skill and having them doesn’t mean that you are not being authentic. It is a form of self-care where you acknowledge your thoughts, feelings along with what aspects of your life you would prefer to keep private.
Having boundaries works both ways. Once you have your own personal boundaries, it is also a sign of respect to recognize other people’s personal boundaries.
Remember, all healthy relationships involves sharing and authenticity but this also needs boundaries to identify between a comfortable level of closeness and oversharing.
Oversharing may also stem from the need to be understood, to gain sympathy or even, to be admired.
However, there are darker reasons for oversharing.
Because we are empathic, we tend to mimic the level of intimacy that is presented to us by others. So when someone tells us something personal, we tell them something personal in return. This can make us vulnerable to people who are deliberately luring out information to manipulate or victimize.
For a manipulator, these forms of manipulations is like a game. If you find yourself in this situation and it feels fishy, then best way to avoid this, is to simply not take part in it.
So when someone reveals inappropriate details, resist the impulse to share something equally inappropriate. Instead, choose to detach yourself from the situation or steer the conversation to safer waters. If they persist in overstepping your boundaries, walk away.
There are many reasons why people overshare. The more aware you are of the reasons for oversharing, the more you can monitor your own behavior.
Lastly, I am not advocating that people should isolate themselves and not open up to others. Sharing is beneficial since it establishes and strengthens relationships but before sharing something private and personal take a step back and think:
Has the relationship earned the level of trust to share this kind of topic or disclosure?