One virtue which has been an ever-elusive scarlet thread in my life is authenticity. I find that putting on a metaphorical outward mask of what I am willing to let the world see is deeply unsatisfying, yet my deeply rooted self-loathing made me believe that it was necessary. “What do you have to say, anyway?” growled my inner judgy voice.
Pretending to be perfect and pious was all I knew how to do, and I was very very good at it. Until babies. The façade started to slip when I had babies. There was no way, when I was suddenly on-call 24/7 that I could keep up the Little Miss Perfect Act any longer.
I discovered that it’s way easier to love myself when I’m not holding myself to the perfection standard. Before, when I was always falling short of my goal of perfection, I was constantly berating myself. Now, when everything falls apart, if I can stand in front of a mirror, look myself in the eye and say, “You did everything you could,” I feel more satisfaction than I ever did from chasing perfection.
Being a frank-talker isn’t given to everyone
I was recently chit-chatting with a lady I barely knew who mentioned that her father-in-law had come to live with her. With authenticity which surprised even me, I said, “That must be awful. I am just too selfish a person to ever open my home like that.” She melted into tears, and naturally I was sure I had said exactly the wrong thing.
As it turned out, her tears weren’t because living with her father-in-law was awful. Her tears, I found out, were because it felt really good for her to actually hear someone else say that it was awful. She was so busy trying to make it work, trying to get along with her husband (against whom she had a grudge) who had insisted on them taking in her father-in-law, trying to get her kids to school…trying to make it look effortless that she had not allowed herself the slip of the mask to say, not even once, “This really sucks.”
The phrases that form who we are
I was raised with the mantra, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” This may make me a good guest in your home, it may make me a great employee who never complains, but I also never learned how to actually speak my mind out loud. Oh, in my mind I can give a grand discourse. But I cannot actually, with my voice, pronounce my dissatisfaction with someone or with something someone has done for me.
The corollary to the above mantra is, “Always look on the bright side.” This is equally disingenuous. For years I was the silver lining gal. Being in a conversation with me meant I would try to solve your problem for you, or want to minimize your problem by telling you to look at the bright side. What I wasn’t doing was actually listening to you. I was uncomfortable with your discomfort. I deflected with positivity.
The discovery that I can speak my mind and address situations I don’t like only came when I had children whose behavior is not always angelic (sometimes downright scalawagish, if I may say so.) I have been forced to learn to not couch requests in language like “If you could (throw that boogery kleenex in the garbage)” and just say, “Please put your kleenex in the garbage.
They may be awkward sometimes, but for the most part, I admire people who speak their minds. They aren’t wearing kid gloves all the time, afraid of hurting someone’s feelings. They aren’t afraid of the discomfort they will create. They don’t take it personally.
To grow in Gravitas means growing in authenticity
I have never, until very recently, spoken out loud about any of the struggles (selfishness, discontent, covetousness, self-loathing…) that I share with you here in this blog. Although I have been chipping away at my struggles quietly, it was still whisper-quiet in my real-life world.
What I have found is that there is great freedom in admitting my imperfection. I find that, by putting the thoughts into words here, I am better equipped for authenticity in real life. More of those positive mental pathways getting created, I guess. I want to be a safe person to admit faults to because I have learned to admit mine first.
For that, I am so very thankful. Yet again, who knew that a blog started to just track my New Years Resolution would help me start cracking the shell on some of the crustier parts of my soul?