I read a wonderfully honest and touching blog today titled “The disease called Perfection”by Single Dad Laughing which surprisingly is not about being a perfectionist. I’s about being fake, dishonest, disconnected with yourself, pretending everything is fine when it’s not. I have talked about authenticity here before. And the topic haunts me. There is something beautifully disarming about one’s ability to admit they are falling apart, they need help, they are human, they are imperfect.
Maybe I’m just over-analyzing.
Maybe I expect too much of myself and others.
Regardless, I think a lot of people fake life. And they fake it well.
I grew up in a culture that puts other people’s opinion first, above everything else. When something went wrong we would ask “What will people say?” What a shame! How will we deal with the shame? How will we possibly face the gossip? When I was 10, my best friend told me in passing that my parents were divorced. I lived with both of them, everything was FINE. You can imagine my shock. My friend had to be crazy! I confronted my mother who had no choice but to admit to me that it was true. My parents divorced when I was 2 and got back together a year later. I never knew. Most likely, I would have never found out. I never got the real reason for their divorce either. Not until a LOT later. My parents lived together all my life but they were legally divorced. We rarely talked about it. Everything was fine. We were NOT, under any circumstances, to disclose the hardship our family went through to the world. We WERE to PRETEND that everything was fine.
Everything is fine. Until it’s not.
My parents thought I was fine when I was falling apart inside. I learned very early on that putting on a happy face for the world was crucial to survival. That and lying. I never asked for help. I was fiercely independent yet painfully lonely. Underneath the school smarts, the apparent popularity, the sarcasm, the tough, quiet exterior, the relentless smartass attitude, there was a scared, perpetually depressed, lonely, tormented little girl. But we don’t talk about that in my family. Everything is fine. It just HAS to be. So I don’t say what I want to say. And I don’t mean what I say.
“You can’t handle the truth.” is one of my favorite movie quotes. Ever.
Is the truth overrated? I don’t believe so. Also, truth is subjective to one’s perception. So let’s not get caught up in it. But there is something to be said about the power of one’s ability and freedom to truly, fully, courageously, shamelessly be their true self and be accepted and loved for it, unconditionally. I wrote a paper on unconditional love in college and used my own upbringing as an example. My professor was visibly uncomfortable with my over sharing. I’m sure some of my classmates were as well. I learned it was best to NEVER, ever do that again.
If unconditional love were the norm, we would have very little mental illness. I believe that if love were the norm we would have very little judgment and shaming. And I would probably go out of business. Love is a powerful force. The selfless one is very hard to find. I was blessed AND cursed with the ability to love unconditionally people who have ended up hurting me. People, whom by other people’s standards, are unworthy of love or MY love specifically. But I would not have it any other way. And I love them all. Still. Always.
The truth is, I’m not perfect.
Even when everything is OK, I still have that stubborn, subtle, cellular level memory of things going terribly wrong. Of me being completely turned inside out.
I know what it’s like to wake up in the morning and not want to get out of bed.
I know what it feels like to be so scared you can hardly breathe.
I know what loss feels like.
I know what it’s like to start over. From nothing.
I know what it’s like to miss someone terribly, endlessly, hopelessly.
I know loneliness.
I know what it’s like to be painfully shy. Or lost.
I know how much courage it takes to ask for help.
I know what it’s like to feel homeless.
I know regret. And irreversible damage.
I know what addiction does to families.
I know death. And trauma.
I know failure.
The truth is, we all do. On some level. Whether we like to admit it or not. Talk about it or keep quiet.
The truth is, I also know incredible love, joy, happiness, enlightenment, success, human kindness, friendship, authenticity, true connection, inspiration, spirituality, generosity, health, wealth, privilege, luck, gratitude.
It’s part of being alive.
The truth is, we connect via our humanity. So let your true self shine. Be real. Be honest. At least with yourself. It’s OK. Don’t live your life for other people. Ultimately we are alone in our pain and joy equally. No matter the faking. All we can do is try and let people in and share our humanity with them.