I am also full of lurgy (like everybody in the world, it seems) which means that I don’t quite have the brain power to introduce The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment, but I hope I’ll be feeling sharp enough to do tomorrow. It’s bizarre how much I like reading it, though, it’s like a new age comfort blanket. It makes me feel calm and content every time I open the page. Promising.
Anyway, today’s post is just a little one about something that’s been knocking around in my head for a while. It’s about honesty.
Since I started the blog there are two words that people generally say about it. First of all they’ll say, ‘It’s very honest‘. Often they say it in that way that people say ‘You’re very brave’, when actually, they mean ‘stupid, you’re very stupid’.
The other word that gets used is ‘raw’… which makes me think of meat.
I guess it is raw (and it’s definitely honest) but I can’t see it objectively, I can’t see it the way other people do. I just wanted to articulate what’s in my head and how I feel, and the further I got into the project the less point there seemed in watering that down or putting a shiny gloss on it. That would have felt like a lie.
My question is, I guess, why we aren’t all more honest about who we are and the thoughts and insecurities we have?
It’s a question that a colleague posed at a work Christmas party. I’ve only met her a couple of times before (we’re all freelance writers, who dwell in our kitchens, typing in pyjamas) but she reads the blog and we’re in email contact. And she’s lovely.
Anyway, at the Christmas party we had a very honest conversation about families, drinking and depression. Sounds miserable, I know, but it was actually really funny and most importantly it was REAL.
At one point, while I was wiping sauce from the hoisin duck canapé off my top, she said, ‘You know, we’d have never had this conversation before; usually at Christmas parties we’d be talking about work and where we got our dresses… We’d have both been pretending that our lives were great,’
‘Ha, well, the whole world now knows what a mess I am,’ I joked.
‘Yeah, but you’re just saying what is in most of our heads,’ she said. ‘Why aren’t we all more honest? Why do we all feel like we have to pretend most of the time?’
Shortly after that party I went to visit an old university friend, who has three children under the age of five. Her husband works all hours trying to pay the mortgage of their lovely house and most of her wages go on childcare. She is broke, strung out and exhausted.
I asked her if she’s able to talk to any of her other friends who are mums, ones who live locally and might be able to help out, practically speaking.
‘Oh no, they all think we’re living the dream.’
I asked her why she didn’t tell them she’s struggling and she said it was a classic case of ‘pride’ and ‘keeping up appearances’. And she does it very well.
But really, why is this so important to us?
I guess this instinct to pretend everything is OK, must be deeply engrained. We live in a competitive and a status driven world and we don’t want to be seen to be struggling. We fear other people’s judgement both personally and professionally.
There’s also the sense that somethings are private and nobody wants to hear about your problems (which is what I used to think) but I think a lot of it goes back to that thing that Brene Brown calls ‘shame’ – that feeling that we are not good enough and that if people knew what we were really like, they’d run a mile…
Before starting the blog, I was the master ‘I’m fine, all well, nothing to report…’ even if inside I was dying. Well, not dying, but you know, miserable, worried, lonely etc.. I would have thought that I was a loser for feeling the way I did, so I just put a smile on it, had another drink and pretended everything was A-OK.
So it’s quite weird that I now spill my guts about just about everything. And possibly undignified – but sod it. All I know is that facing up to my gremlins, by writing and talking about them, has been liberating. Really, I’ve got to the F**K It stage, where I think, well, what have I got to hide? Why not be honest? And the more I share, the more I hear from people that they feel exactly the same way. It’s a huge relief.
For years I’ve carried around this belief that everyone else is doing it better than me, that other people don’t have these worries, these weaknesses…
I’m now really seeing that EVERYBODY has stuff going on behind the facade. Literally everybody. It doesn’t matter how blonde and skinny they are, how nice the house, how great the job, how handsome the husband/boyfriend.
We are all human. We all have good bits and bad bits, strengths and weaknesses, insecurities and worries. We are all trying our best but we all mess up all the time. So be it.
In fact, I’m beginning to realise that this blog is about self-acceptance more than it is about self-improvement.
So I guess I’d just like to encourage people to stop pretending, at least some of the time. Next time you’re at a work do, or an school reunion, or anything really… instead of trying to impress or be polite, why not try having an honest conversation with someone? Admit something about yourself that you wouldn’t usually, something that shows some kind of vulnerability.
And that doesn’t mean you have to be a moaning misery guts or get into Too Much Information territory (a territory I’m no stranger too). It is possible to be honest and real, while staying light-hearted. The fact is that most of us humans are very funny in our madness (it’s what comedians make their living on), so lets own up to our quirks and have a giggle. Go on, admit to the fact that you can’t sleep if the cutlery isn’t lined up in the drawer, or that you spent last night Facebook stalking your ex. I bet whatever you admit to, you won’t be the only one… and at very least the conversation will be more interesting than ‘Hasn’t it been cold…?’
Love to you all,