“How are you?” It’s the cliche phrase we use to greet everyone from the mail carrier to our very own mothers. We’ve come to expect the rote, “I’m great,” or “Doing well” in response. What would happen if we told the truth about how we were doing? If we said things like, “My job is unstable and so I’ve begun eating Oreos at midnight.” Or, “My teen has more mouth than Steven Tyler, minus the vocal talent.”
While that my be too much truth for your postal worker to handle, it would NOT be inappropriate to share with our more intimate friends or family members. So why aren’t we honest about what’s on our plates? Are we ashamed of having real-world problems, or being viewed in an unfavorable light? With so many hot selfies and life’s-perfect posts popping up in our news feeds, maybe we forget that social media is completely one-sided. That explains why that couple you just saw sucking face on Instagram is on the verge of separation, and why your morbidly obese cousin seems to have shed a solid 50 since you saw her last week.
We see what people want to expose, and nothing more. That’s fine, but don’t you dare think for a moment that those pretty little lives on the social media screen are any better than your own. Life is amazing, but it also sucks a little too. Let’s be honest about that.
If we commit to telling at least a few of the people we trust exactly what we’re dealing with. I believe, a few things will happen
1. We’ll develop stronger bonds. Truth does that. Seeing someone’s scars typically prompts me to feel compassion, empathy, and respect for that person. I feel closer to those who share the intimate sides of themselves with me. It’s flattering to be let in to their dark spaces, and it shows me they trust me enough to be honest about their flaws.
2. We’ll learn we’re not alone. In the years when I bounced babies on my hip, I felt a tremendous amount of pressure to be the perfect mom. I panicked when my boys bruised a knee, sucked on a penny, or woke up with a flushed face. I studied the moms around me and saw them pulling bandages from their packed bags, wiping faces while they worked, and solving problems with their “easy” buttons. What I didn’t know was that these women were as insecure as I was. They consulted their parenting books in secret and swiped concealer under their eyes after sleepless nights. They too were afraid, annoyed, overwhelmed, and desperately struggling to keep it all together. What a comfort it was when I finally realized I was not alone on that roller coaster ride.
3. We’ll find comfort and relief. See my last point.
4. We’ll find solutions. Whether through the advice of our peers, or the process of talking it out, we can often find ways to turn our unhappiness around. Even if we’re unable to fully solve our dilemmas, we may find the strength to move in a more positive direction.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for the attitude of gratitude, but burying your problems is never productive. When life stinks, just saying so might help you get over the hurdle and find the strength and support you need.
Do your best to put on your big girl/boy pants every day — nobody likes a whiner. But remember to be real.
Mantra: My tears can be tools.