Three Ways to Overcome a Vulnerability Hangover

A Vulnerability Hangover (800 × 400 px)

Three Steps to Nursing a Vulnerability Hangover

Do you know what the number one thing I hear from people who write a story but then don’t turn it into a book is?

I am scared to put my story out there.

I get it. When I found out Hay House was going to publish my memoir, I was beyond excited. Being an author has been a dream of mine since the age I watched She-Ra (the original) and wore funky hats like Mayim Bialik as Blossom. I quickly started to build my platform, including sharing my story on TikTok and starting a blog.

It. Was. Awesome.

I connected with so many people and heard so many heart-fuzzying stories of how my words helped someone else feel a little bit braver or a little bit more seen. I was over the moon that my overthinking and flair for oddly-structured sentences could reach people in a way that was making a difference.

And then… it wasn’t so awesome.

White woman with brown hair holding a black book in front of her face that says "me" with colorful post-it notes filled with emotion words around her.

How the Heck Did I Overdo It?

There’s not anything specifically or tragically that happened. Of course, I got the occasional MAGA commentary and misdirected religious fear sent my way. Not once did it outnumber the love. Of course, I got people whom I am close to using my words as tools for gossip. And that never outnumbered the love received from other people close to me.

So what caused me to retreat to the dark cave that is my bedroom and hide under a weighted blanket for a period of months, only emerging every so often to record a podcast episode or make a weak sauce TikTok?

I was having a vulnerability hangover.

The Hangover—Author Edition

Coined by the brilliant Dr. Brene Brown, a vulnerability hangover is that gut-wrenching feeling of fear and shame that comes from taking an emotional risk. And while I love sharing my stories, each story I share is ALWAYS a risk. What if people didn’t like it? What if it made someone mad? What if my recollection of an event was different from the other person involved? What if I embarrassed or upset my new community?

I started overthinking my posts for days. And then weeks. And then couldn’t bring myself to hit the “Publish” button at all.

Now I am just 10 weeks away from sharing my most vulnerable piece yet, my story Perfectly Queer. I knew I had to figure out how to overcome the larger-than-life vulnerability hangover looming in my future so that I could show up and come back strong.

vulnerability hangover

Addressing the Headaches of a Vulnerability Hangover

I realized first that I had to get back to my “Why.” Fortunately for me, before I even had a book deal, Hay House walked me (and the other authors in their Writers Community) through the exercise of defining why I was telling this story in the first place. And the truth was, almost none of my WHY had anything to do with me.

Dr. Brene Brown famously said, “One day you will tell your story of how you overcame what you went through and it will be someone else’s survival guide.” That is a line that I carried into my book proposal when I submitted it to Hay House because it is EXACTLY my why. Even though I was surrounded by connection and community during my coming out, I still felt incredibly alone. I was supported, but also unique in my circle for what I was experiencing. Friends could empathize, but few could say, “Those feelings are normal and this is all part of the process.” I felt alone. And I didn’t want anyone on this road to feel the same way.

My second step was to untangle my feelings of fear—both my internalized fear of success and external fears of how people could react. My life coach, Jeanna Giraldi, was artful in the way she helped me identify was were actual fears (things that could and had a solid chance of happening) and my created fears (the Worst Case Scenario handbook I had written in my head for all of the ways being a published author could go horrible and catastrophically wrong even though the likelihood of any of them happening was about as good as Ron DeSantis showing up in drag as Rhonda Santis at the next Pride event).

Showing Up for Social Media… Again

My last step was to find the path of least resistance to putting myself back out there. In what ways did I enjoy connecting? For me, that is primarily through writing or my podcast. Photos with a caption also felt safer. But my days of producing 3+ TikToks per day was a place I could no longer return to. It brought me a lot of community, but it also brought out some of the worst in human behavior.

Following the sage advice of social media guru and fellow Hay House author Rachel Pedersen, I decided to go for the one-post-per-day approach on my platforms. Keep it simple. Keep it short. Stay connected but without feeling over-exposed. It’s not ideal for the algorithms (which my perfectionist self always tries to push me toward), but it is enough to show up consistently in a way that feels good. And I’ve realized that I would rather like myself than just gather a lot of likes on an app.

facing a vulnerability hangover

Nursing a Vulnerability Hangover

So here I am. Nursing my hangover with a light-weight blog, a mug of hot black coffee, and a greasy breakfast that only surpasses Waffle House in that my silverware doesn’t have the last user’s food crusted to it.

Perfectly Queer is a story that deserves to be told for those people who need to hear it. (It’s not for everyone). I am reminded of the power of sharing our stories every single time someone sends me a private message and shares their thoughts on my work.

Perfectly Queer is a story for questioning adults to feel seen. It’s a guide for allies and not-yet-allies to understand more of the complexity that comes with coming out (and being a perfectionist). And it’s a love letter to the LGBTQ+ community who paved the road for me to even have the safe opportunity to share these words.

It’s also a reminder to myself that doing anything great doesn’t come without some fears. Like my preschool self that wanted to be a trapeze lady when I grew up, it’s when we leave the safety of the platform that we really have a chance to soar.

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