As we discussed last week, in order to know someone’s story, you must simply let them tell it. That is, you must listen. Great. Now that we’ve all made a pact with ourselves and our inner obsessive worrier that next time, we’ll shut up and listen to the people in our lives in an open and loving way, I want to ask the (possibly) even more important question: Will there be anything worth listening to? When we’re told that the solution to stunted communication is merely to listen, we’re operating under the assumption that everything valuable is already being shared, if only we were to put on our listening caps. And as much as I’d like that to be true, I’ve found that usually isn’t the case.
My rejection of this assumption comes from personal experience – when I’m communicating with friends, family, and loved ones, even those that I am closest with, I’ve found the act of sharing to be just as daunting of an obstacle as the act of listening. Perhaps even more so.
A prime example: when I am presented with the opportunity to share what’s going on in my life, a million thoughts run through my mind:
Do I word vomit all of the worries and concerns I’m obsessing over constantly, just to give them some fresh air and perspective?
It might be nice to have a little support or advice, some encouragement that I’m doing the right thing and making the right choices.
BUT if I do that, that would mean that so-and-so will know that everything in my life, like my romantic relationship, isn’t all hearts and flowers and perfection.
Can’t have that.
Admitting that, even in the most round-about of ways, would mean that I’m a fraud. That the facade that I’ve so meticulously curated on social media of us as the laidback, super happy, adventurous couple that we so aspire to be is simply not true.
I don’t want to admit even to just myself that that’s the case, and I’m even more opposed to acknowledging it verbally.
Do I share it anyways? I need to get these thoughts the f*ck out of my own head.
But then they’ll think that I’m insecure and needy.
Or that I’m just a huge Debbie Downer.
Why would they want to hear about my problems when everything on social media attests to their blissful happiness and perfect life?
Would they have anything valuable to contribute anyways? I don’t want their pity.
Will they even care? I’ll probably just bore the shit out of them.
CONCLUSION: Better to reiterate what all of my Facebook updates so *subtly* imply – “Things are amazing and I’m loving the chaotic unpredictability of my LyFeE #blessed.”
Although I know it’s unfair to be so hard on myself, and that dialogue follows a pretty “normal” trajectory for plenty of people, all I can think is that it seems obvious to me that I’ve got a heck of a long way to go before I’m the confident, articulate, and 100% authentic person that I aspire to be. I’m embarrassed by the turmoil that I’m experiencing.
AND YET, when I take the time to really think about it, I also realize that on a deeper level, these thoughts don’t really make me weak or needy or insecure or inauthentic at all. In fact, being self-aware enough to identify those qualities in my thought processes is probably a step in the right direction.
By failing to share something that’s bothering us – and I’m talking specifically about relatively significant stuff, not random shit that happens to everyone like being late for work – we’re preventing the people we care about from getting to know us on a real level. We’re stopping the growth of our relationships in their tracks. Not only that, but we’re feeding the monster in our heads that tells us that no one cares about us and that our problems are insignificant and not worth anyone’s time or concern.
Furthermore, openly sharing our problems/experiences/feelings with others is a great way to permanently end the inadequacy phenomenon created by social media browsing. If we’re willing and able to be honest with the important people in our life about what’s really happening with us, we can stop the shitty feelings that come from comparing others’ social media highlight reels with the good, bad, and the ugly in our behind-the-scenes footage.
And wouldn’t that be fantastic? I, for one, am totally sick of building my conversations around the fear that I’ll be judged for my problems or imperfections, all of which are perfectly normal and HEALTHY to be experiencing.
If you don’t put yourself and your problems out there for your loved ones to respond to, you’re guaranteed to always get the worst reaction – absolutely nothing at all.
As former Muse Cammy Nelson shared with us in her interview, “We have multiple opportunities every day to be brave. It’s all about choosing to step into the unknown a little bit.”
Be brave enough to share your personal story and battles with the ones you care about. Embrace the uncertainty of their response, and most importantly, give them the chance to be there for you! Give love, support, and compassion a chance.
So, the next time that you’re asked the dreaded, “Hey what’s up? How are things going?” take that little leap of faith and be vulnerable…and I bet your friend will be listening.
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