I didn’t know she was coming. I wiped tears from my face and waved my hands a few times in front of my eyes to help dry them. Then I opened the door.
All around me, I hear people hint at the difficult things they’re going through. They’re tired of moving at a pace they can’t maintain; they feel lonely in their marriages; they were blindsided by how hard a certain stage of parenthood is; they’ve forgotten how to chase life like they once did; they’ve let their self-worth get tangled up with their productivity.
But when they talk about what they’re going through, they start by framing it with how lucky they know they are, or they finish by trying to put a finger on a lesson they’ve learned in the process. They almost always acknowledge that it could be worse.
I do it, too. I hesitate to lay it all out there and just. leave it.
Maybe we do it because it’s embarrassing to admit we’re not ready to think about the situation productively—that we just want to feel whatever we’re feeling.
Maybe it’s a side effect of how small our world is. We know about the tragedy that just happened to a friend of a friend because a news story popped up in our Facebook feed. Knowing about a world of heartache makes our own seem less important.
Maybe we’re afraid of getting called out on how blessed we really are. So we hedge off criticism before we can even be criticized.
We edit our speech. We step carefully, even when we’re in pain, even when we’re speaking to someone we trust.
A Risk for Authenticity
I could have taken a chance that day, risked sharing myself for the sake of transparency and friendship. For the sake of stepping into my feelings and being true to my own story.
I lied and said I was fine. Downplayed it. Broadened my fake smile when my friend hugged me (even though it actually made me want to cry more).
The Value—and Danger—of Perspective
There is value in perspective. It helps us remember that we can come out on the other side.
But I wonder if all this caution—this care that we take take to put things in perspective when we think of or speak of our pain—is keeping us from feeling what we were designed to feel.
It’s one thing if perspective keeps you from sharing your story (although I still think that’s a loss, both for you and for others); it’s another thing if it keeps you from feeling your story.
I recently shared a part of my journey with a friend, but—true-to-form—I hedged it with perspective. I prefaced with how small I knew this problem was in comparison to others.
After I told my story, my friend and mentor paused and said, “I’m going to push back on the notion that how you felt was small by comparison. Your heartache is still yours. It’s okay to feel it.”
It’s okay to not be okay.
5 Quotes to Help You Step into Your Story
When I find myself resisting my feelings—hedging them with perspective or sweeping them haphazardly under the rug—I turn to the words of people I admire for a reminder that there is power in living and feeling my story.
I hope some of these quotes resonate with you like they do me.
1. “Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” — Brené Brown
2. “Safety is just the mirage of the living dead. Do you really want to live or not?” — Ann Voskamp
3. “When we try to suppress what makes us who we are, we risk losing the gifts that come with our temperaments.” — Daisy Gumin
4. “We are all inextricably connected—we all have strength and we all have struggle. We all need and we all give.” — Brené Brown
5. “We get to the beauty through the brutal. Not over or around or under but straight through. We do not ignore each other’s pain—we help carry it.” — Glennon Doyle Melton
I’ll say it one more time because I think it bears repeating: It’s okay to not be okay.