There’s a saying that goes something like, “3 things to keep private are your love life, income and next move,” but life is undeniably more complicated than that.
Being private about certain things is important for reasons that go deeper than maintaining a sense of mystery around you and having people say you always keep them guessing. Being private doesn’t mean hiding things. That’s a whole different story altogether.
What privacy is really about is protecting your boundaries and values. It’s about keeping the things that are nobody’s business but yours to yourself. Keeping your private life private is how you avoid falling into the trap of having to explain and justify things that matter to you to other people.
Aside from personal things to keep private, there’s another topic that you shouldn’t discuss with other people, and that’s things that have nothing to do with you. It’s the other side of being private – showing others the same courtesy.
Let’s see what you should view as classified information, what it is that leads to oversharing and how to stop yourself when the temptation strikes.
3 Things To Keep Private
Keeping your personal life private isn’t the same as keeping it a secret. If something comes up in a meaningful context, sharing it with your closest friends or someone you trust with this kind of information is perfectly fine.
But when you feel like some things in your life need explanation to have others understand you, you might feel tempted to justify yourself. If you regret it after telling someone a detail that you added without being asked about, you’re oversharing.
You’re aware that some fact or simply the amount you shared was excessive, even though at the moment it seemed like it was a way to connect to the other person.
If you share too much online, using social media as your personal diary, it’s even worse. Too many people have access to what you post and not all of them have good intentions. The small amount of pleasure you gain from likes, comments and engagement with your post isn’t worth the consequences you might face.
These are the 3 things to keep private: the things you don’t have to justify to anyone and that aren’t anyone’s business but yours.
1. Your beliefs
Being authentic and open is the path to connecting with others. This is well known, but some people confuse being authentic with divulging every personal detail to anyone who will listen. To be authentic, your beliefs and actions should match – you should live in line with your values instead of trying to please anyone.
This is why oversharing about all aspects of life is the opposite from being authentic. Using vulnerability to gain acceptance, sympathy, connection or anything else isn’t the same as actually being vulnerable.
Before you share with others, you must consider why you’re doing it. If you’re trying to gain something, you’re not being authentic. If you’re trying to build intimacy without laying a foundation first, you’re oversharing.
• Your religious views
Religion is considered a private topic by most people. Respect for other people’s views, their faith or lack thereof is the only thing that should concern you when it comes to religious beliefs that aren’t your own, and you should expect the same.
• Your choices
Your life choices might be objectively awful and still no one is entitled to criticize you about them. As an adult, your choices are your prerogative and your responsibility and you don’t need to discuss them with anyone.
• Your political views
Some people enjoy debating politics, but no discussion will change anyone’s mind. People have intense feelings about politics, so in certain situations your political views can cost you. It doesn’t mean that your political beliefs must be a secret, but make sure you choose who you share them with.
• Your acts of kindness
Be kind to make other people’s lives easier instead of using it as a tool to get ahead or get brownie points. Good deeds enrich the person who does them as much as they help the person who’s on the receiving end. No one needs to know about your charitable and noble actions, and bragging about them will make people dislike you.
2. Your lifestyle
Your personal life is nobody’s business, no matter how convincing those who want to know it might be. If you feel the need to defend your choices, it’s either because you’re unsure of them yourself or someone else is judging you.
People who disapprove of everything that’s different from the way they live usually do it out of envy and unhappiness. Requests to share are usually invitations to explain and justify because they’re different.
Sharing personal details should be seen as a privilege – you don’t owe it to anyone to know anything about you, let alone to try to make them understand why.
• Your finances
You might be broke or loaded, it doesn’t matter. Volunteering your financial status, especially to your extended family, will get you unwanted attention. If you have a lot in the bank, you might be expected to step up whenever someone needs it, and if you don’t, people you thought cared for you might magically disappear.
• Your problems
Your mistakes, resentments, conflicts, annoyances, everyday issues and long-term problems – unless you know for certain that the other person has your best interest in mind and is eager to help you, keep your worries to yourself.
The exceptions to this are your partner, your parents or other close family members or friends who love you and want to see you happy.
• Your appearance
Some people believe that they’re entitled to comment on someone’s appearance, but the way you look outside is as private as what’s on the inside. No one has the right to an opinion on how you choose to present yourself or to decide what your appearance implies.
People often think that their input regarding any unusual features, things they consider unattractive, tattoos or your weight is welcome, so make sure to assert your boundaries when they bother you.
• Your time
How you spend your day or your future plans doesn’t matter – you don’t need to explain how you use your time to other people. This doesn’t mean refusing to answer when someone asks you what you did over the weekend, it means not having to justify it.
3. Your relationships
Details of your relationships are only between you and the other person involved. Telling people details only raises the drama level and invites people to meddle. For example, your family and loved ones might have your best interests at heart, but their involvement can still cause nothing but problems with your significant other.
Relationships are also prime material for gossip, so giving others access to yours is giving them something to spread further. Even if you’re sharing to get help solving problems, no one who isn’t part of the relationship can ever have the full picture.
• Your sexual preferences
Your sexual orientation, practices, choice of partner and your sex life in general is something you should always keep private. When you talk about it to people who aren’t involved in it, you’re either opening yourself to gossip or making the conversation awkward because it’s too much information.
• Your romantic relationships
Keep meddling friends and families out and work on your relationship only with your significant other because no one else can understand. Keep your relationship private.
The only exception here is if you have relationship problems that need to be addressed through therapy. Then, of course, your couples counselor must get involved.
• Your parenting choices
How you raise your children is nobody’s business but yours and your children’s other parent’s. If you two agree, no one else’s opinions matter. Extended families protesting because of your kids’ bedtime or nutrition and telling you it’s okay if they watch another cartoon this once is meddling you should stop before it escalates.
• Your family relationships
Families argue, families love each other, sometimes families aren’t real families, and sometimes families break apart. The details of how you and family members function are known only to you, and people who aren’t a part of it shouldn’t get involved.
3 Things To Keep To Yourself
In addition to personal matters to keep private, there’s another category of topics you shouldn’t discuss with anyone: things that concern other people. It includes both gossip about someone not involved in the conversation and comments about your conversation partner they didn’t ask for.
Talking about things that aren’t related to you is another form of oversharing and done out of the same motives, usually trying to connect to the person you’re talking to. The connection might happen – but it won’t last a very long time.
Instead, you’ll regret it because it will make your relationship with the person you gossip about unpleasant, even if they never find out. When it comes to the person you give an opinion they didn’t ask for, they’ll always view you as someone who looks down on them even if your opinion changes.
1. Other people’s business
Your conversation partner isn’t entitled to know any personal details about yourself and even less about other people. Gossiping and sharing things about others is an attempt to establish some kind of connection or feel superior compared to the subject of your gossip, but nothing good will come out of it.
Sharing juicy details you know about others won’t help you make friends. Mentioning something about another person because you don’t know what to talk about doesn’t lead to connection. You’ll be known as a gossip and become a magnet for busybodies who don’t really care about you and you’ll hurt whoever you’re talking about.
2. Your judgment
Sharing your judgment and opinions about other people will make others dislike you, unless they’re judgmental themselves. Even then, those people will only be around you because of what they get from you.
Keep your opinions about the person across the room private. Don’t talk about how wrong your friend is about their decision to another one of your friends. If you have negative personal feelings about someone, keep them to yourself.
Rude opinions and mean-spirited remarks about someone you don’t like doesn’t show them in a bad light, but you. Jokes at others’ expense and mocking them will only attract people who enjoy such things and want to share their toxic habits with you.
3. Unsolicited advice
Your private musings about how someone should act, look, dress, talk, etc. should stay inside your head. Feeling entitled to tell people what to do if they haven’t asked you for advice makes it seem like you believe that you’re better than them: you have it all figured out and you can now bestow your knowledge on them.
Be careful even when the other person does ask you for your opinion. People sometimes really only want someone to listen to them because they already know what to do. If you’re dispensing advice, look at the other person’s body language to check if they’re eagerly listening or if they’re done after they told you about their problem.
Show respect to others you want to receive yourself and don’t underestimate their judgment by implying you know what’s good for them better than they do themselves.
Reasons why people overshare are usually related to boundaries. The importance of healthy boundaries to living a happy life can’t be overstated. Oversharing is also related to insecurity and competing with other people. This is futile and it will never give you the satisfaction you’re aiming for.
Try to understand why you overshare because once you know what you’re trying to achieve, it will be easier to stop.
1. Lack of boundaries
Knowing and asserting your personal limits protects you and other people. Oversharing violates both your own and the other person’s boundaries. The importance of having boundaries between you and other people is that they help you decide what you should or shouldn’t say.
Oversharing pushes people away. You’ll be seen as a narcissist, inappropriate, awkward or fake instead of authentic and genuine. Working on understanding boundaries is an important part of self-development that can change your personal relationships entirely.
Setting boundaries in communication will make you a better listener and more attentive. Your first instinct shouldn’t be to respond to whatever other people say with details about yourself. Having self-control, being more thoughtful and stopping yourself from immediately responding will improve your communication and your connections with others.
If you don’t have anyone to talk to or people who understand you that you can truly bond with, trying to take a shortcut and force a connection can happen. Every individual needs to be heard and seen. When you don’t have anyone who can give you that, it’s not unexpected to sometimes feel a little desperate.
Oversharing can come from the need to say “This is who I am and this is my story,” but it’s a misguided attempt to have anyone listen to you and give you attention. Doing it with the wrong people or at the wrong point in your relationship will make sure that you’re not really heard. When you share too soon, people get the wrong picture of you.
Knowing your life details, hopes and fears without having context about what you’re like as a person is more likely to lead to judgment than connection. You might feel connected for a moment, but it can’t last. Build relationships slowly: be honest and open without being needy.
Anxiety and low self-esteem are common reasons for oversharing. Everyone wants their life to be a good one, so we look around to see what happy lives look like. If you’re comparing yourself with others instead of thinking what it is that makes you personally happy, you’ll be tempted to try to be like them.
Things you do reveal your insecurities. They create a desire to make your own life seem full and exciting, so you share details that you believe will make you seem interesting. What you’re forgetting is that a lot of people want to achieve the same thing, so they paint a picture by choosing what to share.
This is especially common online. People who appear to share their whole lives on social media are deceiving you. They’re not sharing their personal details, they’re manufacturing an illusion of a perfect life. A blogger talking about their experiences might be doing it for the hits and an influencer is selling you an image.
Don’t succumb to the need to prove yourself by sharing personal information, because other people are only making you think they’re doing the same thing. Instead, look for things that genuinely fulfill you and make you happy.
3 Tips To Stop Oversharing
If you tend to overshare, it might be difficult to stop because usually it happens on the fly.
You’re talking to a co-worker about something work-related and it slips in that you’re on a diet. It doesn’t seem like it’s a big deal, but it opens you up to follow-up questions, judgment and opinions from someone who has nothing to do with you.
Learning to choose what to tell whom takes some practice, but it gets easier as you do it. Try these tips to stop yourself from oversharing:
1. Practice mindfulness
The only way to stop oversharing is to be mindful of your words. Think before you speak and don’t volunteer any information that wasn’t requested. If it was, carefully consider whether the other person should know it at all.
Is it someone you’re close to and is it something they should know about you? Unloading your problems on acquaintances will make things awkward and make them not want to build a deeper relationship with you.
2. Consider the relevance
Don’t underestimate the importance of any private information. People can abuse and judge you over the smallest, seemingly irrelevant details.
Telling your co-worker in the example above that you’re trying to lose weight can lead to comments about whether or not you should do it, advice you don’t need, jealousy because you’re doing something they want to but aren’t, and even sabotage.
3. Think about the boundaries
Carefully consider both your own and the other person’s boundaries and what the consequences of oversharing might be. Do you really want your co-worker commenting on your lunch every day because they know you’re watching your weight?
Having boundaries you’re able to assert relies on having healthy self-esteem. Oversharing will become less of a problem when you learn to trust yourself instead of having to rely on others for validation. Learn to accept your own decisions without needing anyone else’s input and advice.
Keep Your Business To Yourself
The 3 things to keep private are your beliefs, your lifestyle and your relationship matters. Having people know too much about these issues will lead to self-doubt, questioning your decisions and giving power to others over your life. Reclaim it by carefully choosing what they can be privy to and what’s your business only.
You should also refrain from talking about things that aren’t about you – gossiping about someone not present and giving others opinions they never asked for. Those remarks and conversations can make you feel good for a moment, but eventually it will only make you disconnected or at the mercy of people who want to abuse that information.
Keeping things private doesn’t mean you can never talk about your values and feelings – it means carefully picking who you share your precious privacy with, when and in what amount. You can connect with people by opening up, but you have to know when it’s time to share and when to stop yourself from trying to overshare.