IT HAPPENED TO ME: I Over-Shared Until I Felt Like I Had No Secrets Left

I told the story. Hours later, I lay in bed wide awake, my heart pounding and my palms sweating.
Publish date:
November 20, 2014
lies, over-sharing, Podcasts, sara schaefer

I’m a huge slut when it comes to telling you my life story.

If you meet me, get ready, because we’re totally doing it on the first date. Over-sharing is my not-so-strange addiction. I’ve left many a “new friend” coffee date kicking myself for telling the poop story...again. I’ve had to remind myself that a wedding is not the place to tell strangers about your divorce. Oh and hey, how about we not tell a group of TV execs in a conference room about that time you got punched during sex?

I think it probably started in middle school, when I joined my church youth group, and our activities often involved sitting in a circle sharing our raw teenage emotions.

To me, it felt like a drug.

A warm blanket of closeness and trust. I could talk about how much Wilson Phillips’ “Hold On” meant to me, and it was important. Looking back, it makes total sense. Not only was I one of four siblings, all clamoring to feel important, but at the time, my father had just confessed to some shady business dealings, and my home life was in chaos. When my parents first sat us down to tell us what was going on, they told us not to talk about it, that it was a family matter. I obeyed, and silently yoked my father’s troubles to my existence. Maybe that’s part of why I sought and savored opportunities to unload.

Over the next 20 years, I learned to turn these confessions into stories and jokes. In my creative life, I keep being rewarded for this chronic over-sharing. Those TV executives that heard my punching story immediately offered me a development deal. Right now, over-sharing is most definitely on trend. In the past decade, confessional-style podcasting and blogging has become an entire industry. Over-sharers, this is OUR time!

Back when the podcast boom began, I started one with fellow comedian Nikki Glaser: "You Had To Be There."

Nikki and I didn’t know each other previously. We met at a party, and instantly had a connection. But since we are weirdo comedian-types, instead of becoming friends the normal way by getting brunch, we decided to start a podcast.

It was an over-sharing field day, and I was in heaven. It was different from stand up --- my stand up is very personal, but it’s edited and structured for laughs. But on the podcast, it was just straight up talking. Every week, we unveiled the gory details of our lives in front of a small audience of friends in my Brooklyn apartment (it’s no accident it felt like a Bible study).

We put it out into the world, and people liked it. Our audience grew, and before long, we were turning the chemistry we’d found into a television show.

By episode 80, Nikki and I had started joking about how we felt like we had no stories left.

We felt pressured to dig deeper, to reveal more. It’s as if we had to increase the dosage week to week. At one recording, I was feeling particularly desperate to reveal something, and I decided to tell a story that few people in my life have heard. (Surprisingly, I had established a few boundaries for the podcast: I wouldn’t talk about my sex life with my current boyfriend, the specifics of my previous marriage, certain things about my family, and a handful of other stuff. Many of these boundaries were set up to protect people I love, not myself.)

But this night, I convinced myself that this was a story worth sharing. That it was my duty, that I was “ready.” I told the story. Hours later, I lay in bed wide awake, my heart pounding and my palms sweating. A brick of regret had crashed into my gut. I texted Nikki to ask if she’d be okay with us not posting the episode. I realized in that moment, some stories are just not meant to be told. I’d betrayed myself, and for what?

Another time, I told a story about an ex who had hurt me by speaking about our relationship on stage. I didn’t mention his name on the podcast, but someone (sadly, someone who I probably over-shared to once about that relationship) told him about it, and I found out through the grapevine that he was really mad about what I had said. Believe me, the matrix of irony at play here is not lost on me.

I learned, hard, that whatever you say about someone in public, will get back to them. And though some people told me it was a perfect revenge, I didn’t want that. I wasn’t trying to hurt anybody. I was just trying to entertain -- and in doing so, I made myself sound bitter and angry.

In reality, I was over it -- but hey, gotta make this story interesting you guys! Let’s get dramatic! Aaaaand now I’m the crazy ex-girlfriend who can’t get over it. I gave the story way too much power, and messed the bed in the process.

One day about a year ago, I was listening to someone else’s podcast -- and heard a comedian telling the same harrowing story he had told on "You Had To Be There." I laughed. We’re all just on a compulsive over-sharing tour. When does it end? I suddenly wondered, wouldn’t it be fun to do a podcast where the point is to reveal nothing? What if it was just a bunch of lying? Thus was born the idea for my new podcast, "Lies."

Meanwhile, MTV canceled our TV show, and I moved to Los Angeles. "You Had To Be There" isn’t dead but dormant. We’ll still do episodes once in a while. Getting some distance from it, though, has been really good for me. At times, I’ve missed the soapbox it gave me, and I definitely miss my friend.

But I don’t miss the over-sharing.

It’s been great to curl up into myself this year. I have always been jealous of people who keep their secrets. People who have some walls up. Comedians who have a persona. Though I know they are probably running around just as scared shitless as I am, there is great power in withholding parts of yourself. Maybe I’m not brave at all, but just desperate for intimacy? And how arrogant am I for thinking anyone would want to listen in the first place?

I’ve come to this conclusion: Ultimately, I think my over-sharing comes from a fierce desire to be understood. I was mistaken, however, in thinking that being understood means telling everyone everything about me. Because it will never be enough. No amount of podcasts and blog posts will give someone the complete picture of who I am. It’s time to ease up and realize that it’s fucking hard to truly know someone -- and that’s okay.