#TruthTellers

Why are we so afraid to tell the truth? Isn’t honesty the key to any successful relationship? It doesn’t have to be romantic relationships, it can be relationships with friends and family members. Instead of being honest, we tend to tell “white lies” and justify them by convincing ourselves we were just looking out for those around us. Half of the time we don’t see white lies as lies at all, so the conscious backlash we feel towards ourselves is minimal at best. Maybe we even start to be honest with those closest to us, but never really give the whole story, out of shame or fear. Again, there’s less guilt attached to this because technically we didn’t lie, we just didn’t tell the whole truth.

But what good does lying or covering up some part of the truth do for us? Trust me, I used to be (or at least I like to think I was) an expert half-ass truth teller. In the moment where your kind of lying but not technically lying, it may seem worth it to keep that arms-length distance. Nobody gets hurt, and your real pain, the shame or the guilt is still protected in this nice little cocoon of deception. Do you want to know what I believe is the number one reason for why we lie to those around us when we’re walking through some hard situations? Ok even if you don’t want to know, you’re here reading this so there’s a 99.99% chance you’re going to hear it anyways.

We don’t want to be vulnerable

That’s really all there is to it. I remember when I was in the depth of my eating disorder and self-injury I would half-ass the truth constantly. Someone would ask me if I was eating (because apparently I was looking like I was losing weight fast, even though I couldn’t see it through the funhouse mirrors that were my eyes), I wouldn’t lie but I wouldn’t tell the entire truth either. I’d tell them “of course I’m eating! I’m just watching what I eat and working out more”. The truth is, what I was eating was more like what I wasn’t eating. I was also working out so that wasn’t a lie either, but the amount I worked out was enough to cancel out the miniscule number of calories I consumed that day. I felt this strange ownership over all of this too; it was mine to have and I’d be damned if someone wanted to take it away from me. To put it simply, it became my entire identity. I was no longer a daughter, a student or a friend; all I was, was that number on the scale that was always too high and the number of calculated calories I consumed and then disposed of. So when I got asked about it, I didn’t want to be vulnerable so I hid behind deception and half-assed truth.

Sooner or later, however, I did start telling the truth and boy was it painful. But I didn’t start being a truth teller until I was on the other side of those things. The “shame about the pain” was too great for me to face when I was plummeting towards rock bottom. I remember the first time I was able to tell the truth and be vulnerable, I was in a room with a bunch of people who were broken just like I was, and man did it suck. The ironic thing is, I had been in therapy for a couple of years before all of this too, but I never once told the honest to god truth. I was 23 and in a residential treatment center, and then again at 24 in an outpatient treatment center (which sucked so much worse than residential! I actually had to deal with real life… ew). Truth telling felt fake at first, because I realized that even I was starting to believe my own crap. The sick part of my mind made up the lies to begin with, but soon they became who I was in a way. But when you’re in a room of broken people who are just like you when you’re being honest and vulnerable, you get a lot of head shakes and “me too” as feedback.

Yet truth telling in treatment is so much different than truth telling when you’re placed back in your life. Like I said, I didn’t start really telling the truth to my family and friends until I was certain I was on the other side of most of my crap. I was ashamed if I was struggling and I was “just wanting to protect them” (another lie my lovely sick mind created). There’s a phrase one of my therapists in outpatient always used to tell us; she’d say that sometimes we just need to sit in it (the “it” being the discomfort and everything else we were avoiding by using our eating disorder). Well, I didn’t want to sit in it, because sitting in it requires facing life and feeling vulnerable. So instead of sitting in it, I’d lie and tell people the half-ass truth so I could continue using the one coping mechanism I found to be most successful in avoiding vulnerability. Yet I realized that not telling the truth to those people in my life when I really should be not only hurts me, but it hurts them as well. I like to think of keeping up those walls and giving the half-assed truth as a nonverbal middle-finger.

A lot of it too has to do with how we feel society wants us to be. Go on Facebook or Instagram and people have their lives displayed like it’s a freakin’ Hallmark movie where everything is just peachy. I’m pretty sure we all know that that is a load of B.S, but that’s how we feel like we should act and portray ourselves even offline. Everyone has their crap, but we put our stage lives out there to hide the behind the curtain reality of what’s really going on with us. We get this feeling that people don’t want to hear about our struggles so we bottle it up and say nothing, only revealing the scars after the wounds have healed. Is that fair to those who love us unconditionally? Nope. Is it fair to us, who deserve to be loved unconditionally, supported and valued for being who we are? Nope. So here’s what I’m learning lately:

  • Being vulnerable sucks
  • Hiding behind shame and fear is easy
  • Being a truth teller is hard
  • Covering up the truth with lies is easy
  • Shame only amplifies the pain
  • People closest to you in your life won’t judge you for being honest, and if they do they’re not the people you need walking the path with you
  • It’s better to be vulnerable with others when you’re going through hell than to be vulnerable alone
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When You Have Nothing to Say

I was never really that good at writing, but it was always something I found to be therapeutic. For me, and I’m sure a lot of you reading this as well, being vulnerable was never something I was really good at either. But whenever I would journal I was able to let down the mask of “I’m fine” and expose the “for the love of God please somebody help me” side that was shameful for me to verbally express.

Now it’s been a while since I’ve written anything, and it’s because I always feel as if I have nothing of importance to say. Even writing this, all I can think is, “Ok Jess, where the hell are you going here?” So without trying to do linguistic acrobatics and paint a nice pretty picture for you all, I’ll just get right down to it.

It’s not that we never have anything to say, I think it’s that small little voice of insecurity that makes us believe what we have to say isn’t worth saying. I’ve been listening to a ton of podcasts by one of my heroes, Glennon Doyle Melton, lately. She always talks about being vulnerable, authentic and being a truth teller. If you haven’t heard her speak before I really encourage you to go find her TEDx Talk she did. Writing for me was always my way of being vulnerable. If you’ve read this blog for some time now you know this is the place where I can lay it all out there and say “here is my pile of garbage I carried around for years, I hope you like it”.

So lately, being in one of the most vulnerable states I’ve been in in my entire life (I guess living in a foreign country does that to you), I’ve been really struggling to find anything to write here. But really what it is, it’s that stupid little voice in my head saying “what you have to say doesn’t matter or isn’t important”. Ok so here’s where I get all knowledgeable and preachy. You can stop reading now if you wish….

Still here? Ok brace yourselves……..

We were all born with a voice, an opinion, a personality, and insurmountable value. We all have things that stir us up, get us excited, anger us, make us question things, and so on. So going back to being vulnerable, when we feel these things and they don’t fit in with what is “normal” to those around us, what do we do? We shut up. We don’t say a word, and we walk around making ourselves believe that we don’t have anything to say. But we do have so much to say, it’s just one of two things. Either we’re too scared to be vulnerable out of fear of being judged, or it’s because we know what we have to say isn’t something others want to hear. It boils down to those two factors.

Some of the greatest movements started and changed the lives of so many because someone took that chance to be vulnerable. If MLK never spoke out against civil rights, who knows where our country would be today. Imagine what voting rights for woman would look like if people like Susan B. Anthony never spoke up. Mental health awareness movements would be nonexistent if people let vulnerability hold them back.

Ok so I feel like I’m running out of steam here for this so I’ll wrap this up and you may continue on with your days. I probably could have just used the next sentence as my entire post:

It’s not that we don’t have anything to say, we just have that small voice we listen to that is scared of being vulnerable and authentic.