Be yourself and speak your truth. Either people will listen and things will get better, or people will leave and things will get better.
(The wisdom of a great friend from his great therapist)
I had some feedback on this blog recently, which got me thinking.
The person who gave the feedback was a bit concerned, asking me in a joking but poignant way, what is this all about??
The feedback was from a person I respect and someone who I also suspect thinks differently than me on a few issues. Potentially, maybe most notably, the use of the word fuck in any public post.
So I got down to thinking, what is this all about? What am I trying to do here?
The real truth of it is, I write to sort out the mess in my own head. My head is a tangle of thoughts, triggers, past experiences and aspirations and on most days, it is a bit like making one’s way through a jungle pass. Writing helps to make the unclear clear, giving me peace and on some days, even sanity.
But there is a considered reason that I choose to put these musings out into a public space. The choice to write publically was a decision to expose a more honest reflection of myself.
I have, for a long time, told stories people want to hear. I think of myself as a recovering perfectionist and a recovering people-pleaser. I say recovering because I think these two things will be with me until the day I die, but one day at a time, I am learning to step into a more honest and authentic version of myself. Vulnerability is scary shit and trying to expose the messy parts of who I am, in an authentic way, has always been hard. I read recently that vulnerability is the first thing we look for in other people and the last thing we want to show someone else. I think this is true somewhere deep in our bones. I want to read authentic and honest stories. I want to hear about the gritty mess, I want to know how people found their way through. And I thought that if I wanted to read these stories, I need to write them.
Because most days, that’s what it is, finding our way through the gritty mess and terrible beauty that make up our lives.
But we all live in a world of social media, and in a world where each one of us are working to put our best foot, photo or status update forward, convincing both ourselves and others that we really do have our shit together, #alliswell. We want to sell a version of ourselves that has the rough stuff cut out, a photoshopped edit that says, It’s okay, I got this.
I have told stories to myself and to others that are untrue. Stories that reflect what I want to be true, rather than what is true.
Circumstantially, I live in a context in my work and geographical location where a lot of assumptions are made about me. I have, until now, allowed those assumptions to stand and chosen not to challenge them. I used to think it didn’t really matter what people thought. But it does.
If you assume something untrue about me or you believe a falsified or polished story that I tell you, you no longer really know me, you only know a version of me that has been created through the weaving together of these false or edited pieces.
The problem is it is incredibly isolating to feel unknown or misunderstood. I have found myself in so many situations, having conversations that made me feel deeply uncomfortable, but finding my voice silenced for fear of offending someone or crushing their view of who they think I am. The deep discomfort of feeling that people don’t really know me has now overcome the fear of vulnerability.
I got tired and that’s really the end of that story. I got tired of keeping quiet. I got tired of not saying what I think, not saying what my experience tells me and of being afraid to stand in my own truth. I got tired of pretending everything is okay when it’s not. I got tired of portraying that I have it figured out, when I definitely don’t.
But the end of that story of silence, assumption and pretense, is the beginning of a new story of honesty and exposure. It is a story that says unapologetically, this is me. You are free to take it or to leave it, and I am equally free to tell it.
So I write to tell my stories, to explore and express my own truth. To understand my values, my passions and myself more clearly; to convey how I see the world without the polishing. I feel deeply committed to telling the truth, to standing in that truth and to doing that in a public space. This space is my learning ground, my authenticity and my voice into the myths of perfectionism so many of us live under.
My hope is that you find something here that strikes a chord with you. There is profound power in understanding that we are not alone. I share these musings to expose my experience, to try to understand it myself but also to say to whoever reads these words, if this resonates with you, you are not alone.
When we struggle, it is often the first place we go, to assume that others don’t feel it like we do. That others haven’t been there, haven’t felt what we feel. But this idea of common humanity, that there is always someone who has been where you stand, is one of the most comforting truths available to us. I am not grandiose or naïve enough to think that I will be that person for you, but I believe that if keep trying to be brave enough to put my most honest thoughts out here, I can remind you that others are struggling too. We may not share the same struggle, but at least we will both know that struggle is a normal part of the human condition. Some of us are in the midst of it, some have passed through to the other side, but we all know it and have felt its weight.
So I write in case today you have forgotten that life is tough for all of us and at the end of the day, according to Ram Das, “we are all just walking each other home”. That’s it, that’s what I’m trying to do here. Thanks for being part of it.