Vulnerability Is NOT A Secret-Sharing-Free-For-All
As yoga teachers and spiritual leaders, it can be tricky in our social media-obsessed, Miley Cyrus-twerking, exhibitionist culture to figure out how to use social media and storytelling to promote yoga events and build community.
What's appropriate to share? What boundaries are important to set between our public and private selves? Are boundaries even necessary? Should we put it all out there? Or, are some things meant to be personal and shared only with our closest friends?
Recently, I came across vulnerability and shame researcher Brene Brown’s newest book, Daring Greatly, which prompted me to ask these questions. She states clearly and unequivocally that based on her years of research, “vulnerability without boundaries leads to disconection, distrust and disengagement.”
Some yoga teachers expose their worst habits, most shameful moments, and hardest memories all over social media and in their classes. It’s both inspiring and shocking. In some cases, we see this as a true act of bravery, and a source of connection in an otherwise disconnected world. And yet other times these disclosures inadvertently alienate the people they're meant to serve.
So what's the answer? Is there a right way to use social media so it builds community without being a secret-sharing-free-for-all?
Here are a few strategies I’ve considered to walk the tricky line between being vulnerable and over-sharing:
1. Share it once you’ve overcome it.
In yoga, we know our teachers are flawed—we love that, we relate to that, and we accept that. They became teachers by first being students and learning from their own devils and demons.
As teachers, it’s wonderful to share experiences once you’ve overcome them and can demonstrate successful strategies for moving forward. If stories are shared too early and the challenge has not yet been overcome, you risk placing your baggage on your students. While it can feel humanizing to disclose something personal, you cross a boundary between the student/teacher relationship. The studio is a place for students to feel safe, protected, and at a certain distance from the craziness of life. To place your drama on your students is unfair to everyone, including yourself.
2. You don’t have to share every detail to tell the truth with honesty and integrity.
Sharing the major lesson of a situation you conquered offers a longer-lasting impact than over-sharing every little detail of your shame story. Treat it like a first date, because once you go too far, you can’t take it back. Leaving a little intrigue can be very positive.
3. Don’t do it if you feel like you have to hide it.
In teacher trainings, we remind everyone that students, studio owners, and influential figures in the yoga community will connect with them via social media. If you ever feel like you have to hide something, consider why you’re doing it in the first place. (This could be anything: excessive drinking and smoking come to mind.)
If it’s something you don't want others to see, or something you're afraid others will judge you for doing, maybe it’s an opportunity to practice yoga, ask questions, and figure out why you're doing it, or why you're afraid of being judged for it. Everything you put out there is an opportunity to reflect the messages you share both as a teacher and as a student—and this can encompass the good and the bad.
4. Sit with it for 24 hours.
If you decide to share something deeply personal, consider sitting with it for 24 hours. In the same way you might wait to send an emotional email, try giving yourself space to be with it. Have faith that if you decide to share it, you'll be supported by the universe because you’ve come from a thoughtful, grounded place rather than a place of desperation or reactivity.
5. As with all things yoga, take time, proceed with breath, and mindfully transition.
True vulnerability is an act of courage, and the bravery you show in honoring yourself will be embraced by your community. Together let’s lift the veil off the myth that vulnerability occurs when you share every deep, dark secret in the hopes of gaining approval, removing blame, or holding yourself up higher than others.