How to find courage to tell the truth
The older I get and the more I contemplate what happiness is, it seems to me that happiness is closely related to the courage to be disliked. To openly be able to express oneself and tell the truth regardless of what others may think. This is probably THE HARDEST thing I will ever have to do in life. I have realized how many of my decisions in life have been made based on whether I will be liked and accepted, or by what has been ‘the norm’. This is total bullshit. At the end of the day, none of these people who will ‘approve’ my decisions will have to live my life. I will ultimately have to face myself. Whenever my compass has been the opinions of other people or doing things that cause the least amount of ‘disruption’ to others, it has come back to bite me in the ass at a later time.
Being honest is not easy. It is also not something that we have been encouraged to do, as we have been conditioned to care more about fitting in and not hurting other people’s feelings. Our Ego wants to protect our identity and stay in the comfort zone. Honesty is often met with resistance and backlash from other people, especially if they are not ready to hear our truth. But being authentic is the only way to stay committed to yourself. If we went through life walking on eggshells and constantly worrying about offending others, then we give our power away to them.
Communication learned in our childhood
As with anything that makes us feel uneasy, the first place I looked for more insights is where it all began - my childhood.
How did my parents and caregivers communicate with me and with each other? Was I allowed to express my true feelings? Did those on the receiving end overreact and not make it OK for me to express how I feel? Did I end up having to suppress my feelings in order to not create chaos? These questions are worth asking. All I remember is throwing tantrums in public places in order to be heard, and in order to get attention. If I had to resort to that, it is likely that it was not OK for me to express my feelings in a healthy way that felt safe or accepted, which is why I let it bottle up until I could no longer hold it in. As an adult, it has been a challenge to express feelings to my parents even nowadays. So far I have resorted to email in order to communicate more serious (read: vulnerable) matters to them. I’m still working on the ‘in person’ part.
It all comes out when we are angry
People tend to speak with honesty through hurt and pain. This is why when people get triggered and get angry, they are finally able to express how they feel. They let it all out. But that’s not a healthy way to express one’s emotions. It’s also not the right way to be heard. When did you ever shout and scream at somebody, and that person said “oh, now I finally understand you!” The authenticity and the underlying needs that the person is trying to communicate get lost in the could of anger and conflict. The other person will likely be on the defence and won’t be able to hear you out.
So how do we find a way to say how we feel without making other person feel attacked or angry?
People get defensive when they feel under attack. If you know that to be true, then how can you make them feel safe, while you are expressing your truth? It’s not always about what you say, it is how you say it. If I go into the conversation feeling empathetic towards that person, I am already more open and inviting. I am more likely to lean into the person, open up my body, and if appropriate, touch their hand or shoulder. I’ve come to understand that I need to validate the person and show that I understand their perspective.
Once I establish trust, and they are able to let their guard down, I would probably try to ask them if they can see the situation from a different perspective: in this case - mine. Non-violent communication states that we should say our needs without attacking. Clearly communicate what needs of yours have not been met or what boundaries have been violated. Unfortunately, we don’t always have the language to communicate this way. It has never been taught to us. Many of us live to tiptoe around others in order to keep ourselves safe. How many people do you know who are truly honest, and are able to express themselves, regardless of how it may be received by the other person?
Not taking things personally
From my work with Christina, I know that internal struggles show up in our reality through difficult people or situations in order to be healed. When someone feels attacked, and we take it personally, this indicates a lack of confidence and lack of sense of self. Those who stand in their truth and speak in their truth are not concerned with the other person’s reaction.
It’s not our responsibility to take on other people’s trauma. This is where we need to find separation. You can say the same thing to five different people and they will have a different reaction based on their trauma. Everyone makes choices based on their own trauma, and their unhealed aspect of self.
Another great question to ask is - what do I stand for? If I am not certain about what I am trying to communicate, then somewhere deep inside I don’t fully believe it. In silence and meditation, I can get connected to what is true to me. Once I fully get there, I won’t waver and won’t feel uncertain about the message I need to communicate. I have only been able to exercise this in some areas of my life, not all. But practice makes perfect. It’s also about recognizing that feeling of truth - my truth - and what it feels like in my body. I am trying to get to know it better so that I can more easily recognize it when it shows up again.
Everything is true
At the end of the day, everyone’s perspective is correct. People’s feelings are valid from their point of view and their own trauma. With this in mind, be the wiser one. See the bigger picture. If they aren’t ready to hear what you have to say, that’s ok. They are unable to see that you are not attacking them, but that you are simply showing them something they are not aware of. It takes chaos to create change. Maybe they will grow from that experience, and maybe they won’t. You can’t take responsibility for that. You can only take responsibility for triggering them, but not for their reaction.
So if the only thing you can govern of is your own experience, why waste time worrying about others’ reaction. You can influence your message in terms of how you say it, and you can create a safe space for the message to be received. You can hope for the outcome to be a positive one. And if that doesn’t happen, it’s ok, because it’s out of your control anyway.