Vulnerability vs. Oversharing – Part 1

NOTE:  This was originally published in July 2013. In reviewing it, it’s ridiculously long, so I’m re-doing it in two parts…
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Recently, I’ve been watching videos by psychologist Brené Brown on the topic of vulnerability. She has done extensive research on the advantages and disadvantages of making yourself vulnerable and allowing yourself to be authentic as a person.

What I love that Dr. Brown says about vulnerability is that it is “the core of shame and fear and our struggle for worthiness, but it appears that it’s also the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, [and] of love.” And also thinking about how people “surrender and walk into it.”

Most of the times when we think about not being vulnerable in a performance, we think of being stiff and unexpressive. But there’s another way that’s even more egregious (in my opinion). And that is oversharing in performance.

I’ve been accused of oversharing – in my Facebook posts, in my personal interactions with people – and sometimes, my accusers are right. I  have given out too much information (hereafter TMI), thinking that I had nothing to hide (but in retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have told the world a few things).

And sometimes, I’m just being honest and it’s their problem that they can’t handle my honesty. I hope.

So what’s the difference? When do you cross the line from opening up to others and being vulnerable into oversharing? I’ve been thinking about this as far as how it relates to performing. I strive to be an authentic performer, and to teach my students to find authenticity in their performances.

I think the difference is intent. Vulnerability is a real expression of your feelings, telling a story, telling the truth.  It is an attempt to connect with your listener or your viewer and evoke a response that is also genuine. It is not an attempt to impress but to express. It is an attempt to resonate with your listener or viewer.

Oversharing is selfish. It is an attempt to evoke a response – of admiration, of pity, of concern, of outrage. You are putting something out there that is one-sided, not really looking for a dialogue or gaining an understanding, but just spewing it out to the world and damn the consequences. It may be truthful, but it’s not authentic. It is projecting rather than resonating. And as singers, we want to think about resonating, both in terms of tone quality and in terms of our performances.

Perhaps oversharing is the other side of the coin of being afraid to be vulnerable. It’s a way of overcompensating.

In Part 2 of this blog, I’ll give examples of how this applies in performances that I have seen. 

 

Published by Mezzoid Voice Studio

Christine Thomas-O'Meally, a mezzo soprano and voice teacher currently based in the Baltimore-DC area, has performed everything from the motets of J.S. Bach to the melodies of Irving Berlin to the minimalism of Philip Glass. As an opera singer and actress, she has appeared with companies such as Charm City Players, Spotlighters Theatre, Chicago Opera Theater, Opera Theater of Northern Virginia, Opera North, the Washington Savoyards, In Tandem Theatre, Windfall Theater, The Young Victorian Theater of Baltimore, and Skylight Opera Theatre. She created the role of The Woman in Red in Dominick Argento’s Dream of Valentino in its world premiere with the Washington Opera and Mary Pickersgill in O'er the Ramparts at its world premiere during the Bicentennial of Battle of Baltimore at the Community College of Baltimore County. Other roles include Mrs. Paroo in Music Man, Mother Abbess in Sound of Music, Dorabella in Cosi Fan Tutte, Marcellina in Le Nozze di Figaro, both Hansel and the Witch in Hansel & Gretel, and many roles in Gilbert & Sullivan operettas. Her performance as the Housekeeper in Man of La Mancha was honored with a WATCH award nomination. Ms. Thomas-O'Meally received an M.M. in vocal performance from the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore. She regularly attends master classes and workshops in both performance and vocal pedagogy, and is certified in all three Levels of Somatic Voicework™ The LoVetri Method. Her students have performed on national and international tours of Broadway productions, at prestigious conservatories, and in regional theater throughout the country.

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