I’m trying to get better about being transparent with others even when I’m feeling like I’ve lost my shine. I’ve been practicing in small ways:
- Admitting I’m sad instead of pretending to be tired.
- Revealing that my partner and I had a fight earlier instead of giving some vague reference to stress.
- Disclosing a relevant but vulnerable detail in an interview instead of finding a way around the question.
- Telling someone I’m not coming to something because of anxiety instead of pretending I have homework.
For the most part, it hasn’t gone badly, but it’s been hard. I have to actively fight against the habit of downplaying or evading what I’m really experiencing. There are so many stories I’ve learned around struggling.
About how you shouldn’t air your dirty laundry in front of others.
About how showing you’re vulnerable is dangerous.
They’re bullshit, I know. But knowing they’re bullshit doesn’t make them easier to unlearn. I still can’t bring myself to be transparent in some of the situations that I probably need to most, but I try to view the little steps as victories leading towards bigger moments of transparency.
It’s a skill, not a switch.
It requires a strong sense of self and the ability to validate my own feelings even if others respond less than ideally.
Because others will eventually respond less than ideally. As a society, we’re not great with handling emotions. People get pretty damn uncomfortable—and in their discomfort, they can say some awful things.
But being transparent isn’t about getting the exact validation I hope to get (though that is nice), but about freeing myself of the burden of fake smiles. It’s exhausting keeping up an appearance for others.
Being transparent also requires a strong sense of it being comfortable with my own imperfection. Showing what I consider my weaknesses to others is a terrifying act. Even the simple phrase, “I’m struggling” can feel like an heroic feat to say.
The first time I told someone my partner and I had fought, I felt as though I might as well have admitted that we were getting a divorce. There was this sense that if I spoke about it, I was showing that our marriage was flawed and that we were flawed…which somehow meant that everything was destroyed.
I can’t quite tell how much of the backlash is tied into my upbringing vs. societal rules. Certainly in the cult it was unwise to reveal weakness, admit flaws, or be too open about what was going on in life, but I can’t exactly say mainstream society is free of that either.
The good news is that I’m learning that it’s possible to be strong in my sense of self and that I’m capable of showing my flaws to others without the world ending. It’s deepened friendships and increased my connection to others. For all the catastrophe I thought would happen with transparency, I’ve mostly only seen an increase in the mutuality of my relationships and the relief of being able to be authentic even when it feels like crap.