Oversharing: The Hidden Shame of Advocacy

Brina Williams, BSW and Foster Care Advocate, explores the shame response related to oversharing. This blog was highlighted nationally by The Imprint and Fostering Media Connections as part of Foster Youth Voice Month in 2022. 

Oversharing: The Hidden Shame of Advocacy

Shame: we’ve all felt it. It’s a common side effect of advocacy that no one really talks about, otherwise known as oversharing. What is oversharing and what does it look like? Oversharing is the unwanted disclosure of information or details that leave us feeling raw, anxious, and distressed; it’s often a signal to us of unhealed trauma. 
I’ll share with you a lived example. I recently was a guest speaker on a podcast that a colleague of mine produces centered around child welfare and shared a detail of my story that I verbally regretted. This overshare left my nerves raw, and when I heard that my fumble made the final cut and was posted for the world to hear, I felt sick to my stomach. I was so eager to share my experiences and expertise that I hadn’t protected my wellbeing, and it brought up trauma that I had yet to work through.
You might be asking yourself, “why does this matter?” It’s simple really: we cannot heal the world if we haven’t yet healed ourselves. Advocacy is hard work and much of it is internal. Often times young people will feel pressured, either by themselves, the space, or by others, to sacrifice their wellbeing to the cause in the name of creating change. Shame and trauma are real, boundaries are necessary.

So what can you do about it? As a young person, learn to hold space for yourself and create healthy boundaries. Sit with your story and truly digest what your experiences mean to you. What message do you want your story to say to the world? What parts of it are still too hard to look at? This is where selfcare comes in; I can’t reiterate how important it is to take care of yourself. Know that even if you’ve shared something that felt okay in the moment but later it does not, it’s okay to reach out to someone and let them know that’s something you don’t want shared or made public. As a professional, learn how to hold space for young people who have a story to share. Cultivate safe, brave spaces. Make it a standard practice to verbalize your emotions after you’ve said something heavy and take the time to check in and debrief.

Young people with experience in foster care are pervious to the sense of relatedness and connection that sharing their story can bring, and often end up in situations where they feel the need to overshare harsh details that they themselves are not ready to and have yet to work through. Young people with experience in foster care naturally desire close, nurturing, and fulfilling relationships in which they might feel the need to overshare and people please in order to cultivate. You are never obligated to give more of yourself to anyone than you are willing to give, and that doesn’t make you any less worthy of all the good in the world.

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Fostering Success Michigan is a program of Educate Tomorrow that aims to increase access and success in higher education and post-college careers for youth with experience in foster care. Learn how you can contribute to building a holistic network that insulates (i.e., strengthens protective factors and reduces risks) the education to career "pipeline." 

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