Mentorship August 10, 2016
Have you ever had anyone tell you that you are posting too much about your life online? If you have, then you already know that in the “real world,” oversharing is severely discouraged. You’re often advised to keep your 50 selfies, personal wish list for designer heels and the drama with your friends to a minimum. Not only is this annoying to some people, future employers can also easily look through your social media and get the wrong idea about the kind of person you are.
But, has anyone ever told you that oversharing might actually be a good thing?
Ash Beckham is a fan of emotionally oversharing. She is a proud lesbian who is in favor of sharing the struggles of “coming out of the closet.” To her, coming out of the closet means more than just admitting to the world that you are gay. Coming out of the closet is on a par with telling your child you are getting a divorce, declaring bankruptcy or telling your significant other that you cheated on him or her. According to Beckham, “all a closet is, is a hard conversation.”
As humans, we want to try to understand what’s going on in our lives and in other people’s lives. Because of this desire to understand, so many strides have been made in science, psychology and sociology to understand our physical and mental health. But despite the accomplishments in these fields, many of us are still living in Beckham’s definition of a closet.
We are avoiding difficult conversations with others and confrontations with ourselves. This contributes to the prejudice and disparity between minority Americans and majority Americans. It fuels the tensions between the LGBTQ community and the cisgender community. It also magnifies the strain between men and women. Basically, there is an overall lack of understanding and authenticity between people, cultures and communities.
Beckham also talks about the fear of asking politically correct questions. The second step to opening up and “coming out of the closet” is knowing how to empathize with people. Since there is a lack of overall understanding and knowledge, empathy is essential. There has to be some give and take before any form of understanding occurs. Beckham gives the example of trying to empathize with someone who referred to Beckham’s girlfriend as her “lover.” She says:
I had an older friend who always referred to my girlfriend as my “lover.” I cringed every time. It was so 1970s gay porn. It seemed like it oversexualized our relationship. But in this woman’s frame of reference, that was the appropriate word. And in her head other options such as “friend” or maybe “special friend” would have minimized our relationship. By talking it through, she finally got it, and was able to say “girlfriend.” But first I had to be willing to tell her why I felt uncomfortable with what she said, to explain the negative historical connotations I felt when she spoke that way. This wasn’t about what was politically correct; this was personal.
Oversharing needed to happen in this case in order for Beckham’s friend to be educated on how to talk to her without stumbling or offending her.
To Beckham, people should aim to achieve the “three pancake girl principles“: be authentic, be direct and be unapologetic.
Whatever barriers you feel are separating you from the people around you, simply remember: “A closet is no place for a person to live.”
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