It makes you more attractive than you realize
".... I know that if I share my story, especially the nitty-gritty details and emotions, you’ll see yourself in my words...." "Stories laced with deep emotions are the ones that stick with us and prompt us to share them with others." Lyle, my friend, this beautifully written essay could not have been more timely. I posted a very personal short memoir this morning, a piece that is specifically about me and obviously shows my vulnerability. I wavered a lot before hitting the "post" button. You, in this excellent piece, have affirmed for me that, though readers may not have had the same experience, they can relate on the emotional level and the feelings expressed may resonate for a while longer than the silly cat stories do. Thank you for helping me see that the writing path I have chosen is a valid one. PS Your life and mine could not be more different, but I relate to everything you write.
This qualification needs a little more airtime, IMO: "Sharing more vulnerably can be risky business, though. It’s not always possible to share all the intimate details of your experiences—sometimes there are bosses or spouses involved, or legal grey areas and the like."
Writing vulnerable personal stories was fraught for me even when I was writing for literary magazines and when I published a memoir that had a small, but successful, circulation. I think there is a particular ethical nuance here that is often glossed over on platforms like Substack, which is just how much one is willing to minimize others' concerns in order to be rewarded by readers. When you add the numbers game to the mix -- the notion that being vulnerable is a way to attract more followers, and potentially make more money -- I think it's even more fraught. I struggle with this when I share interviews, even if I have my guest's permission to paywall, etc.
My own standard is that there has to be a larger public good to airing my private experience, especially if it includes others. I felt that way about my fundamentalist upbringing. Writing about unsavory family experiences, even if uncomfortable for my parents and others, potentially served a larger purpose in helping other people from similarly cloistered backgrounds know that they were not alone. I feel that way now about my fatherhood essays and about my higher ed pieces.
But I think there is also a time to *not* write about sensitive topics, especially if it means trading on others' vulnerability at the same time. Or at least to tread lightly and think about the larger "why."
I just ordered “The Psychology of Money” on Amazon. You should get a commission, Lyle! 😊 There is so much to think about in your post. I was thinking about how years ago, I joined an online forum about racism, where the people posting there were followers of a philosophy that all white people are racist. They were all people of color and I was the only white person posting. Everything I posted about my true feelings - (such as how, as a little girl in the 1950s, my mother had made a profound impact on me by talking about the inequality of racism... and how I grew up deeply wanting to repair race relations) - got derided and doubted. It was painful. I made myself vulnerable, and got doubted and derided... but partly out of that vulnerability, I met a future mentor of mine online there, an older black man who, in some ways reparented me in deeply sensitive conversations. (Obviously this is something that would take longer in-depth writing to truly explain very well) But the bottom line is, the pain that came from my being vulnerable and derided, as painful as it was, was much less than the depth and joy of the reward that that one man gave to me in my vulnerability.
I'm all-in being honest to the point of pain. So I agree with your advice.
My post this morning was all about My Personal Myth.
Lyle, feel free to check it out.
Very well said.
It is indeed important to write from a place of genuine experience and feeling......as that does make our writings in turn more genuine and relatable to the reader.
Amen. As Brene Brown says, “Vulnerability is the currency of human connection.”
I’m all for sharing personal and emotional stories. It’s my way of working through these things. And if I can be relatable to people that’s the main goal; I want someone to read my stuff and say, “Wow, I totally get that.”
Lyle, I love these lines and 100% agree: "...there’s a difference between the stories we tell others and the stories we tell ourselves. When those stories collide into one and we bravely tell the singular truth that others would keep to themselves, that’s when our most relatable stories are created, forming our deepest connections with others. Because they’ve felt the same way before." I'm upgrading to paid so I can read more of your vulnerable truth gems!
Awesome Lyle, all great advice for me, hoping to share my story about coaching golf but finding myself reluctant to do so. Thank you!
Last paragraph is the best. Love.
All I can say is WOW and well done Lyle. A great piece.
You’ve helped me uncover more emotional depth while in season 4 of Foster. Begin in recovery, I already plumb the depths a bit when talking about my own character defects. But--two topics I’m frightened to death to write about: love and money. I think I might just tackle those two beasts very soon. 💪🏻
Curious if you've read Untamed because I liked Love Warrior but LOVE Untamed. And I don't know (m)any men who have read it.
Great thoughts here on all of this ...
I challenge you to post your responses to the Narcissistic Personality Inventory 😁😁😁😁