July 11, 2017

The First Step toward Talking About the Things we Don’t Talk About.

I sat there: typing and deleting, typing and deleting. 

I wanted to post a window into my soul, but every word on the screen felt like a lie—too shiny, too contrived. The more I thought about what to say, the more artificial it all sounded, so I just quit and never posted a thing.

I do this all the time. I try to be raw and honest, but I can’t.

We don’t know what goes on behind the closed doors of someone’s mind. We think we do. We sit and have lunch with people. We chit chat. We read what they post; we watch and we listen. We delve into seeming depth with friends and partners, but even there, complete transparency doesn’t exist.

I think we know this, but refuse to believe it. We want bottom-line truths. We want the entire story because it helps us feel connected. By organizing the details others share with us into a perfect little narration of someone else’s life, we are able to explain things. We feel close to those people, knowing that they trust us enough to let us into their private lives. Details shared build little bridges of empathy and understanding, and that feels good; it feels like camaraderie and best of all, it helps anchor and justify our own behaviors.

If someone else does that too, then I’m not alone.

But in order to get to that place, we have to show up wearing a mask, smiling and shaking hands, answering questions, playing the role. Because we judge—oh my, do we judge. It’s a basic human defense mechanism. We condemn the things we don’t understand.

We shut other people down because we can’t tolerate admitting that we do similar things, so when it comes down to really divulging ourselves (even with ourselves) we stop short and we lie our asses off. We hide ourselves from ourselves for the same reason we hide ourselves from the world: We don’t want to face the judgement; it’s too painful to see ourselves as bad.

Since we’re not showing what doesn’t feel good or look pretty, we act out our glorious imperfections in private. We comfort eat, stalk people online, feel like victims, slip up, and say cruel things to the people we love. We obsess and we pick and we scratch. We do it all in secret because being open about our shadow is out of the question. Instead we shove the icky parts under the rug, strap on our social masks, and hit the road.

Why do we put so much effort into superficiality? Even as I write this in a coffee shop, I overhear the people at the next table talking. They’re both wearing their masks, laughing a little too hard at each others’ jokes, trying to make sure there aren’t any gaps in the conversation.

They are business colleagues and both are making such an effort to be bright and shiny that it’s exhausting them. I know this because I can feel the headaches throbbing in the centers of their foreheads, right in between their eyes. I can feel their restlessness. I can feel their energy draining.

What if we didn’t have to meet everyone with big, fake smiles on our faces and spew a bunch of platitudes and bullsh*t? It’s not easy to give other people access to our inadequacies, but we can start with ourselves.

Can I admit to myself that I’m imperfect? Can you? It takes a certain kind of dauntlessness to see ourselves clearly.

So I’ve started the process of looking into my own dark recesses. I’m exploring what’s there and practicing not judging myself for it. This is where it starts.

The next time you feel like sh*t or bust yourself faking it or lying about something, take a deep breath, pause, and just notice it. That’s all you have to do—notice and get curious. Why am I being phony? Why am I embellishing? I’ve found that if I ask those questions, I usually get answers.

I’ve begun to develop an understanding, see my patterns, and best of all, I’m getting space from my compulsive need for perfection. Not judging myself all the time feels good. Easing up on the negative evaluations has relaxed my judgement of the world and helped me be more open with who I really am.

That’s the whole point I think—at least it is for me.


Author: Natha Perkins
Image: Allef Vinicius/Unsplash
Editor: Nicole Cameron
Copy Editor: Travis May
Social Editor: Yoli Ramazzina

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