My life has been filled with emotional struggles. So have a lot of people’s. Life is hard. Yet we smile and insist we’re fine.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not attacking the common courtesy of not dumping a cartload of crap-packed baggage on the first moment of an encounter. (However, a trusting pause and reassuring “hanging in there” might be a better automatic answer to the question of how we’re doing.)
The choice is ours. We can either share honestly or pretend. When we hide our real experiences, we isolate ourselves and fail to activate any cascades of candid sharing, ensuring that no one will walk away feeling less alone. We reinforce the idea that our struggles are embarrassing weaknesses that need to remain hidden.
Conversely, courageously sharing our truth is one of the most generous, inviting, and connective things we can do. So, why don’t we?
Maybe it’s because we are trapped under a cloak of shame. And locked in a preposterous and reflexive competition to prove who is the most “together.”
The truth is, no one is totally okay, even if some of us do seem annoyingly graced and lucky (as I outline here). Not being okay is our natural state. It sucks, but we don’t need to like it. Nor do we need to slap some New Age smiley face on it as we spin it into a spiritual advantage (even though it kind of is). We just need to tolerate it — and quit acting like it ain’t so.
I do get it. We all wanna be good. Faking it seems stronger and more attractive. Being vulnerable appears weak and messy. But that’s just how it seems if you don’t give it much thought. It actually takes radical bravery to expose our vulnerabilities. It’s one of the hardest things we do. The truth is that it’s impressively strong to show weakness.
Shining a light on the reality of life’s struggles normalizes them. For us and everyone else. It lets us all know we are not alone, which is, perhaps, the most important thing we can ever know.