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