Does Openness Scare You?

I am often asked, and sometimes criticized, about why I share so much personal information and ideas through social media. Today a friend also asked me if I ever felt a fear of rejection or ridicule through sharing what I share. The truth is that I do fear those. Not only do I fear them, I am privy to them. I have been outcasted, rejected, marginalized, de-friended, and laughed out because of what I share. Many people don’t believe in sharing personal experiences so liberally. Many fear it. And many are faced with their own fears as I share my experiences.

So why do I keep doing it? The answer is rather simple. I feel absolutely compelled to do so. The process of reflecting and understanding my own mind, behaviour, thoughts, emotions, and my own brain is deeply therapeutic. I might even say it is my path, a path of jnana yoga perhaps. But why do I share and keep sharing? That answer is even simpler. Because of the rewards I get from others. As I share my experiences others feel compelled to do so as well, whether it be publicly or privately to me. Social media has actually been a tremendous opportunity for me to connect with people that I otherwise would not have. The most unsuspecting people have come forward to share their stories with me, stories of sexual abuse, self-hate, rejection, fear, anger, love, excitement, inspiration, gratitude, and compassion. These experiences are part of the human experience and yet so many of us keep them to ourselves. For what purpose, I wonder. Like money, we cannot take these experiences with us when we die... at least not as far as I can tell.  

The idea of sharing and exposing myself comes quite naturally to me, now, although it wasn’t always the case. When I posted my first Body Monologue note in 2008 I almost had a panic attack. In fact before I posted it I couldn’t even read it allowed to my partner Mike without my heart racing out of control. It felt like it took me an hour to read out loud. Now, some 5 years later, I go on stage and tell this very same story in front of hundreds of people as part of Body Monologues, the organization Lindsey White and I founded as a result of that original writing piece. With 12 other people we share our experiences and as a result people come to Lindsey and I both - and the many other wonderful body monologuers - to share their own stories. They speak with a sense of “I no longer feel alone”. For Lindsey and myself, these open conversations simply have to happen... for global health and wellbeing.

I believe that sharing our experiences is a natural part of being human. Language is a neurological tool that we developed in order to communicate with other human beings, likely for survival purposes in its infancy. But this tool also allows us to communicate our thoughts, our emotions, our selves, our experiences, and the contents of our minds, albeit with varying degree of real representation. Nonetheless, this higher-level neurocognitive and neurolinguistic capability is a gift that has allowed us to transcend our simple need for survival. We are now able to appreciate the greater subtleties of being human - the subtleties that come with sharing our experiences and connecting with other human beings. 

This connecting-with-others is really why I share what I share. And when people respond by sharing their own stories, their experiences, or with gratitude, my actions are affirmed. The most amazing of which are those who I barely know respond having found solace in my exposé. Fear is really a small price that I can pay for this deep reward and for even minute amounts of benefit to others.  

This attempt at openness is how I ended up on stage for Body Monologues and how NeuroPsychoidiology also emerged back in 2003. I coined neuropsychoidiology while reflecting (and studying) my own brain, behaviour, mind, emotions, and thoughts and wrote intensely about experiences with my own brain, mind, behaviours, emotions, and thought patterns. I shared it with a few people back then and feared similarly - judgment, ridicule, and looking stupid were the ones I remember most poignantly. But again, I was compelled to share it. NeuroPsychoidiology is a description of neuroscience and psychology through the lens of oneself and in this way it is meant to inspire people to learn more about themselves, their brains, their minds, their emotions, their behaviours, and their thoughts, by offering myself as an example first. Although reflecting on my experiences IS for my own benefit, the sharing of them goes far beyond me. 

So does openness scare me? Without a doubt, it does, and at times quite significantly. But fortunately, I am more drawn to the possibility that if I open myself up it will inspire others to do the same and, in turn, those openings will inspire even more people to do the same. Because my idealistic hope for us humans is that we walk this world presenting, not our deliberate selves, but rather our authentically-human and flawed selves and that we stop pretending we are not the latter. Because really, who are we fooling?  

It’s no secret that I want to change the world. Many of us do. My method of attempting this ridiculous feat is at least partially through my own attempts of openness and the promotion that we are all one by virtue of our shared experiences. In the process I will continue to sacrifice my own comfortability and control over what people think of me.