What happened when I admitted the truth
As we walked into my grandparents house, my mom was ranting about something. Or telling a funny story. I can’t really remember the details. All I know is that my grandpa was horrified. “Heather!” he said. “Why do you have to swear like that?”
My mom laughed and replied: “Dad. Can you imagine how much easier it would be for people to relate to you if you just admitted you’ve got four perfect daughters. And one who says ‘fuck’.”
This story still makes me laugh. Really laugh. Out loud. Like that little sideways emoji we used to use on our Blackberries.
Yup. My mom’s a real card.
But it’s not just a funny story.
It contains a lot of wisdom. And it’s truth is something I’ve carried with me ever since.
We spend our lives behind a veneer of perfection, pretending to be capable and polite. We are taught to put our “best foot forward” and to show manners at all times. We learn that being honest about who we really are and how we’re really feeling isn’t entirely appropriate and that it’s best not to make others uncomfortable.
Except that they’re uncomfortable anyway.
They’re uncomfortable because they’re feeling the same way. Confused, messed up and imperfect. They’re also feeling insecure and full of doubt.
But because we don’t talk about it, we all walk around feeling like we’re the only ones. The only ones who fall apart, who feel with more intensity than anyone else, who worry that maybe this time, it actually won’t be ok.
Brene Brown talks about this very topic in her book Daring Greatly. Her twelve years of research reveals a maybe not so surprising truth: we all feel shame. We all feel vulnerability. But what keeps it festering is less the emotion itself but our inability to express it. Brene’s research shows, in fact, that shame can’t survive when it’s shared. When we talk about it, it loses its tight hold. And it connects us to each other in the deepest way possible.
I experienced this myself many years ago when navigating a rather prickly relationship. My boyfriend at the time had a somewhat aloof friend with whom any kind of connectivity felt impossible. But because she mattered to him, I made the effort to get to know her.
I tried everything. Friendly chitchat, light humour, my very best of “I’m interested in you” curiosity.
Nothing. Niks. Nada.
Boy, was she icy.
I’m not sure why I persisted. But I did.
And then the connection happened.
I remember the moment clearly. I remember where we were sitting (green couch) and what we were drinking (green tea). And I remember the moment I was able to break through:
I showed her my most vulnerable side.
I admitted to her how I was feeling about something going on in my life.
It was a single moment and yet everything changed. She cracked open. Wide open. And the icy person I had almost given up on transformed into someone else.
It was as if my own ability to admit that I wasn’t perfect gave her permission to do the same. By sharing my own flaws she was able to be ok with hers. And in that opening up, we both became human: messy, fragile, imperfect humans.
She and I have been friends for about 15 years now. Real friends. We share the feelings and the filth. We hold space for each other. We provide an empathetic ear.
All because of some green tea and a moment of emotional truth.
We all have 4 perfect sides and one that says fuck.
And when we can know that side and embrace that side and share that side, that’s when the illusion of perfection drops.