The Overshare: Learning to Protect my Heart

It happens so regularly, like the tendency to eat a little too much and then cut back, that at first it was hard to recognize this in myself: I overshare. I say just a little too much, cover just a few too many topics, get vulnerable — oftentimes more vulnerable than the person I am with. Afterwards, I feel embarrassed, exposed, and needy.

I’m not sure exactly why I do this, but I think it comes from a place of loss. When I feel the possibility of a safe person, I test the waters. Tell me now: Can I trust you? What about now? What if I tell you the worst mistake I made while parenting this week? What about the problems I’m having with my husband? What if I talk too much? Will you be vulnerable, too?

My method of testing is not the same as a borderline’s or a narcissist’s. I don’t get angry and push people away. I tend to dive in and then withdraw a little, returning (most of the time) with better boundaries and self-regulation than before. I wish that I didn’t have to go through this process though. I’d like to be a person who protects my heart rather than one who wears my heart on my sleeve. I wish I could start with self-regulation and healthy boundaries and slowly dive deeper as the relationship deepens. This would obviously be a safer way and more comfortable for all involved.

I think I learned this pattern of relating with my borderline narcissistic mother. My mom would tell me so many things (she did not have much of a filter, if any). She would often elicit deep sharing from me but then prove herself to be untrustworthy. So, it is comfortable for me to get vulnerable and then feel shame. Maybe I have trouble separating this familiar feeling from what is actually happening in real time. I’m not sure.

What I do know is that I feel more comfortable when I guard myself a little. It’s a form of self-care I’m always afraid to take and not very good at implementing. I think it would feel amazing to feel safe in my own skin, instead of feeling like I might throw myself under the bus at any time, so to speak. I truly believe in healthy vulnerability, but it needs to be with the right person and preferably at the right time. Brené Brown writes, “If we share our shame story with the wrong person, they can easily become one more piece of flying debris in an already dangerous storm.”

I think that part of my tendency to overshare comes from me wanting my mom… a mom who can actually listen to the whole of me — the good, the bad, the ugly — and be there for me, for as long as I need her to be. My mom cannot do this because she is not healthy. It’s not even about me… not really. She can’t be there for me because she cannot maintain relationships. There is no room for me to lean on her because she is too angry with me about a trivial detail from last year (or a decade ago). And so, I’m learning that I need to be my own “mom” in this way. I can’t wait for her any longer, and I cannot be her mom when I still need to learn how to be my own.

Moving forward, I am going to try to listen a little more and speak a little less. Baring all of my thoughts and feelings can be cathartic, but it can also be anxiety-producing, especially when I’m uncertain of the thoughts and feelings to begin with. (I find this to be especially true in a public format such as social media.) Silence can be uncomfortable, too, but that is okay. I’m going to wait for comfortable moments instead of trying to squeeze in all the depth I can out of one conversation or interaction. There will be more time… everyone is not leaving, even if it feels like important people are gone forever.

What are your thoughts on oversharing?  Do you struggle with this from time to time?  Do you crave intense (particularly female) relationships when estranged from your mother? How did your parents teach (or neglect to teach) you how to protect your heart?  

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