I hate getting personal.
One would think that I‘d be very comfortable getting personal being a psychologist. But that’s only if someone else is getting personal, not me.
I’m always urging others to share their experiences and talk about their feelings. Us psychologists know how powerful this can be, because we get to hear stories every day. Openness and vulnerability is life changing.
But it doesn’t come naturally to most of us. Including myself. In fact, I’ve got conversation diversion down to a fine art when people get too personal with me, about me.
Understandably, no one wants psychologists talking about themselves. But perhaps their personal story can help, in the right setting. In fact, all of us have the potential to help others, and help ourselves by sharing our story. Every one of us is a story, and we often deny it and keep it hidden. We are our childhoods and adult life experiences.
We are all a complete package of high and lows, successes and failures, bravery and fear.
Most of us rarely share our full story, and many people get just as uncomfortable as I do when talking about it. Vulnerability is hard. But we are at our most powerful to connect with the people in our lives, when we are truly ourselves.
We are all a walking story, but we only show half of it. We reveal the easy and the light whilst missing the hard and dark bits. We often physically and mentally show up in our roles in society, but leave the emotion at home.
Sharing it all is only for the brave.
But whether we are up to sharing our story, our story comes out in us, whether we like it or not. It plays out in everything we do. How we interact with our partner, how we talk to our kids, how we treat our colleagues at work and how we treat ourselves.
Not revealing our entire story does a disservice to not only us, but also the people around us.
We see the effect that celebrities, politicians, artists and our favourite sports stars have when they share their life experiences. It’s the full stories, not just the success stories that have a powerful effect on us. We want to hear about their journey through adversity, the grit needed to get through it, and the rise at the end.
What if when I give presentations, instead of teaching people what the evidence-based tools and techniques are in regard to living as psychologically healthy as possible, that I talk about how I apply all of this knowledge in my own life when times get difficult.
I could be light hearted about my life, and tell people that I have a career I adore, that I have a family, that I have two beautiful kids, run a household and that life can get a little hectic sometimes but I juggle all of my roles easily.
I could dig deep and share that my career can sometimes be a little stressful, that I have experienced grief, that I’ve had difficult relationship breakdowns, that I’m a busy single parent and at times I feel a little overwhelmed.
I could also dig a little deeper, and tell people that my career is my own business and at times, can be really hard. I could talk about how more than a handful of significant people in my life that I was close to have passed away in only the last couple of years. I could share that I’m actually a sole parent now, that I raise two children alone, and in recent years have had more than a fair share of anxiety.
But I could also share that although the last five years of my life have been more than tough at times, that I have coped, and do feel stronger and more resilient than ever.
But I don’t tend to share any of this, but I know I should.
Like most people, getting personal is extremely uncomfortable. But it’s often the missing link.
Wouldn’t it be better for all of us if we knew why our boss is so irritable, why our colleague is such a bully, why our partner is so angry, why our father is so distant or why our teenager is so withdrawn?
It’s only in our stories where we will find the explanations for the way we feel, the way we think and the way we behave. But it’s also our stories that can help teach and guide others in what they are going through.
That’s where connection happens.
I hate getting personal, but we all need to be doing this in our lives. If I can be brave, so can you.