Skeletons & Closets – On Blogging & Vulnerability

On a panel about spirituality for Black women, Dr. Renita Weems talked about the benefits of vulnerability and transparency. I immediately thought about my work as a blogger and contributing writer, where I am always thinking about that fine line between powerful sharing ( vulnerability) and sharing too much information. Opinions vary within the writing community regarding how much sharing is too much sharing. An old writing mentor once told me, “If something isn’t at stake for you, then you aren’t finished with that piece”. Still others warn that when your words, thoughts, and ideas are up for critique, it pays dividends to think critically about what you are sharing.

Dr. Weems had paused for a moment, which allowed time for my mind to meander on these thoughts. Suddenly, the sound of her voice brought me back to the present moment: “Vulnerability, in my opinion, is sharing something that you have processed. It is saying ‘I have already looked through that closet and I am on speaking terms with those demons”. Many bloggers use their page as a space to do some of that processing: to look through those closets, and to see if those skeletons can be transformed.

Telling our authentic stories, sharing insights / information, can be extremely powerful for us as individuals and for those who follow our writing (our extended community). However, when we do not think about the impact of the things we share beforehand, processing through it carefully, it can make things complicated for us (and this I know from experience)!

Since we all use our blogs differently, this is not an article that definitively outlines how much you can or should share. That is your choice to make. This is simply an extension of the conversations I have with other bloggers and writers about how we make decisions about transparency and vulnerability in public, online spaces. Here are a few things to consider as you work through that balance:

Who has the right to hear this information?

Dr. Brene Brown, shame / vulnerability researcher, author, (and just overall voice of reason) says, “Vulnerability is based on mutuality and requires boundaries and trust. It’s not oversharing, it’s not purging, it’s not indiscriminate disclosure, and it’s not celebrity-style social media information dumps. Vulnerability is about sharing our feelings and our experiences with people who have earned the right to hear them (p. 45)”. Of course, it is easy to say that our immediate audience or longtime followers have the right to hear our authentic stories. However, it is also important to remember that when we blog on a public, online space, we should be able to reflect on whether the general public also has the right to hear a particular story or information we choose to share in a blog post. If we feel comfortable with that, then posting can be a powerful thing! If not, then we can think about whether we want to press publish at all or perhaps, set up a password protected post for the people we feel have earned the right to hear this information. There are some that would say, “It’s not that deep, Jade! You shouldn’t post something at all if you don’t feel like everyone can read it!” I won’t say that’s not true, but I will point out that each blogger has different ways of thinking about the work that they do, and so, using password protected posts might be a sensible option for some. At the end of the day, no matter what your choice is, please remember that you really do have sole ownership of your story and you also have the right to establish healthy boundaries offline and online, too!

Have I been strategic with my story?

I try to be as strategic as possible when I am thinking about the content that I’d like to post. The following questions help me to do that:

  • Do I know why I’m telling this story in the first place?
    Before I post, I always think about the reason why I’m telling the story. What helps me to do this is my blogging mission (if you haven’t created one yet, it is super helpful). If there’s ever a question about why I am writing a particular blog post, I re-read my mission to see if it naturally fits there.
  • Are there any conflicts of interest that I need to be aware of and avoid completely?
    If it does fit within my mission, I think about the conflicts of interest that may arise. For example, there are some topics for me that are just off the table: details about my full time gig, specific details about my family life, etc. These things are off the table because they are the key components to having a robust life offline, for me! I want to nurture those connections separately than the ones I am nurturing for my blog.
  • Have I kept the main thing, the main thing?
    After I write the post, I edit it with this in mind: have I kept the main point in tact? I will admit, I am the Queen of Tangents and Sidebars. I want to give the details, the colors, the scents, the emotions, and how I interpreted those emotions at 9 am, 9:05 am, and 9:10 am after I had my cup of tea. Detail is good because they make good writing and interesting content! However, it is particularly easy to get lost in them. So as I edit, I always recall the main point of my post. Is it essential to the main point if they know her government name, or can I change the name and leave the integrity of the story? Is it important that people know this post is based on my time in Los Angeles or can I give other details about the city without naming it directly? I do not mind sacrificing facts to get to the truth of the story and at times, I find that is most appropriate as I try to find the balance between true vulnerability and sharing T.M.I.

Have I spoken with the skeletons?

One last quote from Dr. Brene Brown before we go (I love her work ya’ll, bear with me)! She says, “Vulnerability is bankrupt on its own terms when people move from being vulnerable to using vulnerability to deal with unmet needs, get attention, or engage in the shock-and-awe behaviors that are so commonplace in today’s culture (p. 46).” It is important for me as a blogger and holistic individual to make sure that before I press publish, I am being honest with myself about what I want from the process. Am I sharing in an authentic way without expecting my followers, views, and page statistics to validate me or to fulfill unmet needs? If there are any skeletons, than am I, as Dr. Renita Weems says, “on speaking terms” with them? Am I processing through my story in safe spaces offline, as well? Answering these questions help me to feel balanced when I’m making decisions about blog content.

I understand that for some, these questions might seem restricting. However, I find that reflecting on my audience, boundaries, strategy, and “skeletons” actually can lead to authentic and personalized content! Many of us have our own ways to strike this balance because we know there is power in telling our stories and sharing our work!

How do you make decisions about sharing transparent content in online spaces?

Author: Jade Perry

  • Melody I’m the same – a private person offline and I keep a lot to myself so I often struggle two get a balance between sharing authentic without feeling too vulnerable. I’m also conscious that once my words are published they’re potentially public forever, even if my views, feelings or values change over time. I guess just like everything in life, it’s a journey and we learn and grow along the way.

  • This was a thought-provoking post! I recently encountered this process myself and man it was tough. Sometimes I want to share the nitty gritty details but, like you said, I have to ask the right questions about the purpose of doing that. What I’ve learned is that if the motive isn’t right when writing vulnerably then it shouldn’t be shared. However, if you can share a lesson and principle with dignity, then it is worth it! Because sometimes you can’t help how people perceive something.

    Great post!

  • Thanks for writing this – such an important message for so many bloggers! I’ve found that when I’m still in the process of going through the closet and dealing with the skeletons, I end up sharing poetry instead of blogs because it helps me communicate the day-to-day feelings and emotions without sharing too many specific details. But this is a question I wrestle with so often – thanks for taking the time to share it!
    – Spud //

  • Jade Perry

    Melody, I’m so happy that this resonated with you! I understand being a private person and then having a public blog kind of just remixing your life. LOL! But I’m proud that we have found the benefits in blogging and putting our intellectual ideas out there. It’s so important! Will definitely check out your blog soon.

  • This line got me, “Many bloggers use their page as a space to do some of that processing: to look through those closets, and to see if those skeletons can be transformed.” I couldn’t agree more oe be moved any more by a sentence. I think that sentence accurately explains why I blog and why I love reading people’s blogs. For me, I keep certain aspects of my life open but speak of them vaguely. I’m a private person by nature, which is why me having a lifestyle/ inspiration blog is kind of ironic (ha!) but so far, this approach has been working.

    — Mel //