A couple years ago I challenged myself to stop describing my life as “busy”; an answer I felt was superficial and rarely turned into a conversation. We are all pulled in multiple directions at once. We are all stressed and tired at times. I wanted to answer the question “how are you?” or “what’s new?” with more truth: “I’m really happy” or “I’m feeling overwhelmed” or “I’m lonely” or “I’m excited” or “I’m so proud” or “I’m struggling” or “I’d love to talk more”. I discovered that this prompted more honest conversations and connections, first with family and friends where it was easier to be more open, and then professionally and even with strangers. Being transparent invites transparency. It’s so refreshing to discover commonality with others, and to interact in more meaningful ways.
When I started this practice, I was only considering myself. I needed to be more truthful with others about how I was doing during a difficult time in my life, because my default “I’m fine” had become part of my coping mechanism (maybe if I said it enough times it would become true). I thought it would burden others to know the truth, and I wasn’t looking for sympathy. I’m strong. I’m a fighter. I’m a survivor. I can get through anything and come out the other side better because of it. Pretending I was okay when I wasn’t left me feeling lonely and wishing those around me understood what I was going through and what I needed.
I quickly discovered that opening-up my heart and being more authentic greatly improved the nature of my relationships and social interactions. I’ve learned wonderful things about myself and others on this self-discovery journey. I’ve given more time and care to those around me, been more present, and in the process I learned to love myself. We all have light and darkness. We all have happiness and sadness. We are all going through something and could use a hug. We all need more compliments, acceptance, understanding and love. We are all strange and beautiful and wonderful as we were created.
So I have a question for you: what do we gain by guarding our real thoughts and feelings?
I know it seems risky (or maybe downright scary), but I’m confident that if you try this for yourself, it will bless your life and those around you in immeasurable ways. Be authentic, embrace how special you are, and give others a chance to know the real you!