A blog reader, and friend IRL, posed a question to my self-assessment as part of Rule #1: Be Yourself. I made a bold statement, which I believed to be true, and still do, that when you pretend to be someone with one person, you tend to be that other someone with everyone else too. And I implied that the friends that I had at that time were getting a fake version of me. So, this begs the question whether I am still friends with any of those people, who knew me before and after, and how do they perceive the change(s) in me, if any.
I am so humbled and feel so loved by the amazing responses that I got. True friends, they say, will love and support you through thick and thin, and love you just as you are, at any time in your life, and the new add: at any level of authenticity or depth. So, while I may not have been able to put 100% of myself out there at the time, they loved me no matter. Girls, you know who you are- I love and respect you so much – you have seen me through one of the hardest times in my life and for that I will be eternally grateful. sniffff
What I was so happy to find out is that I have grown, but I’m not an entirely different person from who I was before. I am essentially the same person in terms of personality and interests. This really helps me feel grounded because from my perspective, as everything around me changes, and I continue to make decisions that take me away from my previous life, I feel like I am moving away from my previous self. I feel like a different person because I am experiencing life in a totally different way. A totally real way. So, I feel like I’ve become real. And that other person? She must have been fake.
What has actually changed?
I took down the wall.
It became acceptable (encouraged actually) to be emotional and to feel things deeply. I owe a lot of thanks to my G for being the first person in my life to give me safe harbor to experience this part of life. This alone differentiated her among anyone that I had ever met before. And it was such a compelling part of my unfolding that my feelings and my heart reached out to her and became entangled with hers. And for many many reasons, this included, I fell in love with her. The amazing consequence of becoming vulnerable is the heart’s ability to be empathetic. Every girlfriend I asked commented that this was an area that they had always wished I was better at. That, they knew me and what my limitations were, and tried not to take my lack of empathy personally, but at times it hurt their feelings, and they are so happy that our relationships are enhanced by our ability to share things openly, without judgment, and with an open heart. And with my current open heart, it pains me to even think that any of these amazing women would ever feel negatively because of something I said. Or didn’t say.
I’m considerate and sensitive with my honesty.
I was never one to be dishonest or lie. But there were many times when it was important to me for someone to know something, regardless of whether it was important to them. And I wasn’t always careful about my approach in these deliveries, solicited or not. This ties in closely to the empathy thing- being able to put myself in someone else’s shoes and determine how my actions or statements would make the other person feel. Just as important would be evaluating whether my opinion needed to be out in the world in the first place. How I feel about something is my business and should only be made known to others under two circumstances. (1) When expressing my thoughts sets boundaries for the way I want other people to treat me and (2) when my thoughts are solicited. There really aren’t too many exceptions to this.
I let go of the illusion of perfection.
I grew up expecting to be perfect, and that perpetuated by assimilating myself and marrying into a family that expected a high degree of excellence and sophistication. There is some good that comes with that, but the pressure to be perfect forces you to put up a façade. Because, in reality, perfection is a myth, trying to be perfect is not achievable most of the time, and striving for it is not sustainable. It was more important to me to show people on the outside that I was With It. Strong. Capable. Unbreakable. When the wall comes down, and your vulnerabilities flood out of the gates, the only way to live with yourself and be accepting is to let go of being perfect. My friends were able to take the mess that is me, the real me, and help me sort myself out without making me feel judged. So, I was a closeted mess and now I’m an unapologetic mess. It is liberating.
I redefined what is important to me.
One unanimous observation that I received was that before I was very focused on material things – designer clothing and accessories, brand names, expensive labels, high end… everything. And now, that has really fallen away. I think I still have an appreciation for those things and have a decent sense of style. But, I have realized during the last few years of having the freedom to choose from a world of goods, not just the upper echelon, that I trend very closely to simple. My style is not really Saks Fifth Avenue. It’s Lululemon. More than a simple personal preference, I have found that my increased satisfaction and contentment in life has reduced my need for things. I don’t get itchy to spend tons of money on frivolous things like I did before. My source of happiness isn’t in what I own, it’s in all of the intangibles. I would rather spend a couple grand taking an amazing vacation with G and a bunch of friends than buy a Chanel bag. Why? Because I crave the quality time and connection with people in my life.
Thanks for the awesome question, EB. You can check out her lifestyle and fitness blog here – a journey with an amazing person who is attempting to totally own my Rule #2, zero negativity with herself.
Rule #3: Say I Love You
Happy Valentine’s Day!!! #spreadthelove
There is this really obscure movie that I loved when I was in my 20’s called Love & Sex. The main characters, played by Famke Janssen <hot> and Jon Favreau <not> have a very tumultuous relationship, and at one point in the movie Jon says to Famke “I wonder if you say I love you too much it just becomes like saying cheese sandwich in old age.” And throughout the movie they say “I cheese sandwich you” as part of their inside joke. I used to feel this way about saying I love you. That saying it too much would diminish its weight and then become meaningless, like a cheese sandwich. My ex-husband felt the same way. And so, we very rarely, if ever, said it to one another.
That makes me really sad.
I definitely think that if you say something meaningless a lot, it will remain meaningless. But, if you mean it, no matter how much you say it, it is still true and valid. And validating. Of course, every time G and I exit a phone conversation we naturally glide into okloveyabye! That’s not really what I’m referring to. I mean, at least once a day, I take the feelings that stir in my heart when I look at her or think about her, look her in the eye, sometimes take her hand or her shoulder and say I love you. It’s not flip or part of a conversation exodus. It’s an expression of how I feel. And I want her to know every day and never question it, because at any moment any person in your life can be taken from you. She does the same for me. In fact, she taught me.
In its most elementary expression, verbally saying I love you, can go a long way. But, do you know the love language of the people in your life? Particularly your partner, but also your friends and your family? You can take the test here. And read my personal recommendation for the book here. It is definitely something that you should know about yourself. Once you discover your own love language you become very aware of the needs of the people around you. I love you as a verbal declaration accompanied by a corresponding love language gesture deepens its meaning and authenticity. If you say I Love You but your actions don’t back it up, you’re treading dangerously close to meaningless territory.
All of this to say, if it isn’t enough knowing that every chance you have to say I Love You might be the last chance you get (we don’t go through life morbidly anticipating this, after all), then think about telling the people in your life that you love them because they deserve to know and benefit from the openness and sincerity of your heart. That they are not only worthy of your love, but are worthy of being secure and certain of it. Nothing bad can come from more I Love Yous.