As I sit to write what has begun to stew in my mind all morning, I feel a genuine dread. It’s interesting to me that this comes up because I generally feel like I know who I am and speak with confidence. When it comes to the written word, I feel a sense of permanence that makes me question a little harder if I’m willing to stick by my thoughts and feelings for eternity. (Not that you can’t change your mind, but even being able to own an opinion at any point in time is just as scary for me) and that’s what I’m here to talk about. The courage of Honesty.
I’ve always thought simply that honesty was the absence of lies, but as I’ve grown older it has become far more complicated. Truth has become an ideal rather than a fact, beginning to understand that perspectives may align but there is no way to truly understand a larger “TRUTH” (that doesn’t rely on some context/relativity.) So instead I’ve begun to think of it as a spectrum that on one end holds self-awareness, accountability, and communication; the other end holds “lies” that have slivers of truth engrained in them, or “lies” that are simply flaws in logic, attributing correlation and causation, and yes sometimes they have malice intended but more often than not I believe it’s the prior. I have and do move from both ends of the spectrum throughout each day of my life, whether I intend to or not. And that’s hard to own up to.
For me, honesty is a challenging tension between genuinely wanting to be aware of my limitations and having deeply ingrained beliefs about how my limitations will eventually lead to my own demise. It may sound dramatic, but after a series of important people in my life have disappointed me, rejected me, and eventually removed me from their lives; I had to rationalize somehow and it translated into the simplest belief that if I can be good enough, people won’t leave me.
If I can be good enough, people won’t leave me. = when people leave, it was my fault for not being “better”
and then here comes the trick about honesty. It feels like each time I am honest about my shortcomings, I feel the terror of wondering if that will be the final piece that leads to a relationship being dissolved. Even as I’ve begun to understand the workings of how this thought process came to be, it feels like just another trap. I can become deeply aware of my own process, but am still lacking when it comes to seeing how this process interacts with those around me and thus my behaviors still often reinforce this process.
I want understanding of why constructive feedback would lead to defensiveness, fear, and sometimes breakdowns. I need space to experience the cycle of fear
“I’m not perfect” > “How could I have thought I was perfect”> “What if I can’t change?” > “Will they leave me?” > “They haven’t left yet, so maybe there’s hope” . . . and it goes on and on.
What I’m not making space for though in that process, is the need of that other person delivering the feedback. The bravery it took to offer the vulnerability of sharing feedback is lost when I immediately break down and position myself in a place of wanting reassurance. I don’t want to do it, but it’s my learned behavior and it’s a struggle to learn new reactions.
I have a hard time of wholly accepting that no one is perfect, in no way better than anyone else, and that not everyone is compatible.
I can talk about it constantly. That we need to be more compassionate to people around their addictions, mental health, coping (sometimes negative) strategies, choices in relationships, etc. But in my heart and personal life, I have had a difficult time seeing it through this lens. I take it personally that I can’t do “better” and that those I care about “aren’t interested” in or “don’t care enough to” make changes I need. I forget immediately that as complex and overwhelming my experience might be, that those around me have the same alternate universe in their mind and heart that they are having to experience. I struggle with letting my fear down long enough to remember that they are scared too. I forget that the same vulnerability that can be painful can also be healing and restorative when genuinely shared.
So I’m trying to own things; truly believe in my being and actions.
Sometimes things don’t work out, and though it’s painful, there is not necessarily fault. (Conflicting needs can lead to compromise, dissatisfaction, or the end of the relationship. No outcome is better than the next, just which is possible/chosen by the parties involved)
My actions and behaviors can and do overwhelm those around me. It may lead to them leaving. No one is “bad” because of this.
Relationships don’t work out just because they are supposed to. Courageous honesty means acknowledging when it’s no longer beneficial.
Even though a relationship may end, it does not mean that it wasn’t a beautiful, genuine, important experience in your life.
Just because someone can’t be around you, doesn’t mean they don’t like, love, or admire you.
I make mistakes, hurt people, and can’t always show up for them in the ways they want me to.
And so does everyone else. Sometimes I’m the one that’s being hurt, or being told my needs are too much for them.
Saying these things out loud doesn’t necessarily make them easier to believe, or less painful to sit with. My hope is that I continue to challenge myself to reflect on my shortcomings and that I soften to myself as well as all those around me. I hope to reach a place of understanding where I can love both the bright and shining parts of myself as well as the shadows.
It takes courage to be honest. To whatever degree, appreciate the steps you are taking to be an active participant in your life and relationships. Be forgiving to those who you feel aren’t being honest to you- perhaps they don’t know yet themselves, or perhaps the truth you are looking for is too painful for them to face in that moment. Love what honest pieces are shown to you and eventually we will all feel comfortable to open up to the world around us and ourselves.