I am a classic oversharer. I have been known to have in-depth conversations about childbirth with strangers in the grocery store checkout line and divulge personal information about myself very early in friendships.
Not surprisingly, this quality has not always served me well. There have been times when casual social encounters became uncomfortable. Other times, when people I thought were my friends turned out not to be, I was left deeply wishing I hadn’t bared my soul to them.
And let’s just say my husband doesn’t get a huge kick out of it. While attending an event at our daughters’ school recently, someone walked up to him and said, “I hear you have a lot of socks.”
“What do you tell people, Anne?” he said to me later that night. “Talk about literally sharing our dirty laundry.”
The biggest backlash, though, is a “vulnerability hangover.” Author and researcher Brené Brown coined this phrase to perfectly describe the shame and embarrassment that can follow oversharing. Just like the real ones, they are nothing short of painful.
When the aftereffects of oversharing leave my head pounding, I vow to change my ways. Next time I will be more discreet. Next time I will get to know someone before I share that I accidentally gave my daughter a bloody nose while attempting to potty train her. Really, I will.
But then I realized something. As awful as vulnerability hangovers can feel, I don’t regret oversharing as much as I regret what I didn’t say.
I regret not telling my cousin how proud I was of her when I saw her at my brother’s wedding. She died in a car accident two months later.
I regret not telling former students how each and every one of them changed my life, how they taught me so much more than I taught them. I have no idea where most of them are now.
And, especially now that I have a child entering middle school, I regret not standing up for the boy everyone was picking on in seventh grade.
So maybe the next time someone strikes up a conversation with me in the hair-care aisle at Target, I won’t share how hard it is to make my hair look nice these days or how challenging it has been making my professional dreams a reality.
Or maybe I will.
And maybe that person will give me a weird look and swiftly move on in search of laundry detergent.
Or maybe that person will smile. And maybe that person will go home and tell a loved one, “I was chatting with a woman today who’s facing the same issues I am. What a comfort it is to know I am not the only one.”
Because every once in a while, a hangover is worth it.