If you were to ask me to describe myself here is what I’d tell you:
I’m enthusiastic and emotional. I laugh and cry openly. I can be argumentative. I have heart. I’m empathetic. I’m willing to listen. I take everything personal, and I over-analyze every conversation. I’m easily convinced. And I’m a people pleaser.
I like to talk, but more than that, I like to communicate and connect. I’m honest and open. I’m willing to be vulnerable.
I believe I am all of these things. Of these, I would argue that my willingness to be honest, open and vulnerable are my most strongly routed qualities, or so I’ve always believed of myself. That is, until recently when I learned something very important about myself. It was eye-opening and somewhat humbling and was completely unexpected. I AM this person, but I’m not very good at BEING this person.
In this space, this ironically very public space, I do a very good job of living this honestly. Here, I share openly.
But when I step away, I’m actually very different. I am tremendously intimated by myself. I lack confidence. I’m willing to be honest, but to a point. If I feel strongly about something, I’ll tell you, but I won’t push it.
In real life, I can be very guarded. And if I let down my protective barriers, if I put myself into a situation where I feel vulnerable or I’m losing control, I quickly surrender. It a self-protection mechanism that I’ve perfected to the point that I failed to recognize it in myself. Deep down I know myself to be someone different, rightly believed myself to be that person that I had actually convinced myself that I was that person.
Here’s what I mean.
When my thoughts, feelings, perceptions and assumptions (the very things that make our emotional psyche) are rolling around in my head they make sense. They are weighty and important. I believe them, I trust them, I live by them. And when I write them here, they feel okay. I’m comfortable with sharing, secure in their black and white absoluteness. I can speculate on the many reasons that may be. Perhaps it’s because I ultimately don’t have to hit publish. Even as my fingers clickety clack across the keys, the words are still anonymous, exist only on the screen, in a draft only I can see, and thus, arguably are still very much safe in my head. As they roll off my fingertips, offering comfort and self-understanding, I’m still protected, protected until I release them into the universe, or the Internet as it were. Or maybe it’s because I know that even when you, my dear friends, read them they still, in a way maintain their silence. I’m not there with you. I don’t need to witness, see or hear your reaction. It’s safe. When I hit publish there is still silence.
But when I say them, articulate them out loud, it feels prickly. When I talk with friends, colleagues, mentors, family and even my husband, the words just never seem good enough. They feel cheap, almost fake. I worry there will be consequences. And that sensation makes me believe my thoughts aren’t important. It makes me feel silly, even provincial.
My husband reads my blog pretty faithfully. I appreciate his support, and feel blessed by his encouragement and interest. But he’s the kind of person who likes to read out loud. When he reads these words, my words out loud it makes me profoundly uncomfortable. It’s prickly. For some reason hearing them feels like a judgment.
Extend this to the rest of my life and you see the struggle I’m facing. It’s unpleasant. Well it’s more than unpleasant, it’s downright debilitating.
I need to find a way to get comfortable with my own discomfort. And to further complicate it, I need to do it so that I can be myself. Twisted in a way. But our subconscious has a funny way of protecting us.
I took some early steps recently but talking about all of this with my husband. Explaining it as honestly and openly as I could. You might think it would be easy, but it isn’t. It took me almost a month to muster the courage, to describe why this is, what is has meant, and what I must do now. It all makes sense in my head, but as soon as I say it, it makes it real, and the reality is very hard for me to accept.
So this blog post is step two. It’s me coming clean so to speak. I’m practicing for the harder parts I still have to face, the more difficult discussions that will need to be had, and the person I need to learn to be.