The Turning Point: From Professional to Personal
In 2014, I stood before an audience, my heart pounding in my chest as I prepared to share the personal story of my life’s journey, filled with ups and downs, failures and triumphs. This was the first time I opened the door to my past publicly, a moment that sparked a thriving public speaking and publishing career that has touched millions of lives. 3 million people watched that TED talk and I’ve received thousands of messages from people who thanked me for sharing my story as it so closely resembled theirs.
What Was Missing: The Essence of Me
Looking back, there was a time when I hid behind my medical degree. I was the consummate professional, always doling out facts and figures, statistics and medical jargon. My talks were a perfect academic blend, but something crucial was missing – they lacked the essence of me…
They had no insight into my personal journey, my struggles, my victories. They were devoid of the essence that made me human, that made me relatable. But as I began to open up and let my personal journey seep into my conversations, I realized that my audience didn’t just want the knowledge I had to share. They wanted to connect with the person behind the knowledge. They wanted authenticity, and that’s what I started to give them. And in doing so, I saw my professional life transform in unimaginable ways.
The Power of Self-Disclosure
The concept of self-disclosure, or the act of revealing personal information about oneself, has long been considered a powerful communication tool. Psychologists have noted its importance in relationship-building for decades, emphasizing its role in increasing connection and understanding between individuals (Jourard, 1971). But self-disclosure is not merely confined to the personal domain; it holds immense potential in the professional sphere, particularly in fostering professional growth.
Research Insights: Self-Disclosure in the Workplace
Research has shown that self-disclosure in the workplace can lead to improved team dynamics, increased trust, and enhanced leadership. According to a study published in the Journal of Business Ethics (2019), leaders who engage in appropriate self-disclosure can foster a work environment where employees feel more connected and committed. They become more approachable, and the trust established through disclosure can lead to a more harmonious and productive work environment.
Personal Branding and Self-Disclosure
Furthermore, self-disclosure can be instrumental in personal branding. By sharing your personal journey, you allow others to understand your motivations, values, and the unique path that has shaped your professional identity. In my case, sharing my story allowed me to connect with my audience and my clients on a more profound level. They saw me not just as a mentor or speaker, but as a person who had faced similar challenges, worked through them, and emerged stronger. My vulnerability didn’t weaken my professional image; instead, it strengthened it. It made my successes all the more relatable and my insights all the more valuable.
The Challenges of Self-Disclosure
However, self-disclosure is not without its challenges. The key lies in finding the right balance. Disclosing too little can hinder connection, while disclosing too much may compromise professionalism. The “Goldilocks Principle” of self-disclosure (Derlega et al., 1993) suggests finding a balance that is ‘just right’ – sharing enough to connect authentically, but not so much that it overwhelms or detracts from the professional context.
It’s also important to remember that self-disclosure is not about seeking validation or sympathy. Rather, it’s about humanizing yourself, allowing others to understand the journey that has led you to where you are today. It’s about showing that it’s okay to make mistakes, face challenges, and to keep striving towards personal and professional growth.
When I shared more of my journey in the 2019 TED talk, I was more vulnerable as I sang one of my original songs!
Conclusion: The Transformative Power of Self-Disclosure
I see self-disclosure is a powerful tool for professional growth. As I’ve discovered in my own journey, it can transform careers, build stronger relationships, and create meaningful connections that enrich your professional life. In a world where authenticity is increasingly valued, self-disclosure paves the way for meaningful interactions and genuine growth.
Ready to Dig Deep?
If you are ready to dig deep and share your story in a way that could positively impact your clients and skyrocket your career, just like it did mine, then send me a private message because I’ve got something for you, a simple framework for telling stories using the Hero’s Journey.
Self-disclosure by doctors and therapists has been a topic of ongoing discussion and research in the field of psychology and therapy. Here are a few references and resources that shed light on this:
- “Psychotherapist Self-Disclosure and the Therapeutic Relationship: A Phenomenological Study From the Client Perspective” by Knox et al., 2011
- “On Becoming a Person: A Therapist’s View of Psychotherapy” by Carl R. Rogers
- “The Use of Therapist Self-Disclosure and Interactive Guidance in a Brief Skills-Based Parenting Intervention” by Nock & Kazdin, 2005
- “The Handbook of Psychotherapy” by John Norcross
- “Ethics in Psychotherapy and Counseling: A Practical Guide” by Kenneth S. Pope and Melba J.T. Vasquez
- “Therapist self-disclosure in cognitive-behavioral therapy” by Eric A. Storch, Ana J. Cobia & Jami M. Furer, 2004
- “The Use of Self-Disclosure in a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Class” by Veronika Tait, 2019
- Jourard, S. M. (1971). Self-disclosure: An Experimental Analysis of the Transparent Self. Wiley-Interscience.
- Derlega, V. J., Metts, S., Petronio, S., & Margulis, S. T. (1993). Self-Disclosure. Sage Publications, Inc.
- Men, L. R., & Bowler, W. M. (2017). The Role of Authentic Leadership in Fostering Employee Voice, Team Creativity, and Organizational Commitment. Journal of Business Ethics, 169, 1–16. doi: 10.1007/s10551-019-04180-1.