Anastasia Christidou
Counseling & Gestalt Therapy

The difficulty of sharing ourselves with others

building walls instead of bridges

I have spent a long period of my life being a lone person. I was so selective with the people I shared myself deeply that at some point it became an obstacle. I also liked to do things on my own (ok sometimes I still do), hesitating to ask for help and support from others. It ‘s not really important why and how did I became like that, the important thing is that I became aware of how I was limiting my life. After all we are social beings, born to connect from birth and to share ourselves, it is in our nature.
Here are some thoughts on why we are so afraid of sharing ourselves aka self disclosure.

Family background. Many of our present attitudes toward self-disclosure were probably learned at home. Whether we are willing to talk about ourselves deeply with the other members of our family, friends or our loving partners, it depends partly on whether our parents talked personally to one another in front of us or talked personally to us.

Fear of knowing yourself. Self-disclosure is one of the principal ways we have of communicating not only with others but with ourselves. It‘s possible, then, that at times we‘re afraid to disclose ourselves to others because we don’t want to get closer to ourselves. Self-disclosure can put us into contact with parts of ourselves that we’d rather ignore. If we are not feeling comfortable being ourselves, how can we share more of ourselves with others?

Fear of closeness. You can’t reveal yourself on a deep level to another person without creating, by the very act of opening-up, some degree of closeness between you and that other person. If you are fearful of self-disclosure, it may be that what you really fear is getting close to others. Getting closer to others, places some demands and responsibilities on you. For some people getting close to others just seems a scary thing. Being open is difficult, it can make us feel vulnerable, scared and anxious. Being open is also inviting and encouraging others to make contact and be involved with us; that kind of opening up and sharing, it needs courage and places responsibilities on both sides.

Fear of change. If you reveal yourself to another in any deep way, if you talk about the way you ‘re living your life, including your interpersonal life, you may discover that you ‘re not living up to the standards that you ‘ve set for yourself. You may discover that some of your values aren’t really values at all but just good intentions or ideas. E.g. you might find that you tend to ignore people that are less intelligent than you, if you bring it up then you commit yourself to do something about it. Either you change your values and say that being open to all people is not a value for you or you change your behaviour.
If you don’t want to do the required work to change a certain area in your life, most likely you won’t reveal that area and keep it to yourself.

Fear of rejection. Often people don’t reveal themselves very deeply to others because they are afraid of being rejected. We often hide our inner thoughts and feelings because we’re afraid that they’ll be not accepted by other people. At the same time, we also shut out other people from knowing us and we skip the opportunity of meaningful contact that is so vital for our emotional health.

The fear of rejection may also be related to our deeper feelings about ourselves, perhaps we fear that others won’t accept us because deep down we don’t approve and accept ourselves. Another reason of not sharing ourselves is being afraid to speak about our vulnerable sides and our weaknesses. We think that “if I share my vulnerable sides I will be seen as a weak person”.

Fear of being ashamed. Although you may think of shame principally as something you experience when others find out that you ‘ve done something wrong, the experience of shame starts at home. Shame isn’t just about being painfully exposed to someone else, it‘s first of all being painfully exposed to oneself. You can feel shame even though nobody else is around and even though nobody realizes what you‘re feeling. But the feeling of shame is more intense if you feel ashamed in front of others and they know that you are ashamed.
Feelings of shame need to be recognized and faced, not avoided, if faced they can throw unexpected light on who you are and point towards using your potential.

Egan,G.(1977)You and Me. Brooks Cole




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