“It’s a relief to speak the truth. I don’t have to pretend.” ~ Karen Maezen Miller
My thoughts about truth-telling are supported by two bookends. One the one side is my deep and inviolate belief that you already know your truth. It’s that know-that-you-know-that-you-know voice within that cannot and will not be silenced; it never leaves you. On the other side is the acknowledgement that your truth-telling often comes with risk, cost, and consequence – which is the very reason you, me, most women, often forego it, tone it down, keep ourselves safe, all of the above.
What’s missing though, is what Karen Maezen Miller (above) offers in naming truth-telling as relief.
Without rest as promised-reward, truth-telling often remains too daunting and not worth either the effort or the exhaustion. Pretending then, becomes our default.
We are conditioned to pretend from a very early age. We learn how to be what others expect, what others need, what others demand. And confusingly, our ability to do and be exactly this, is what earns us affirmation, praise, and belonging. (No wonder we’re exhausted.)
“In the fullness of time, we become dizzy from swirling; our lives ache from being twisted out of shape; and our spirits become depleted from servicing others with our energy and attention.” ~ Patricia Lynn Reilly, A Deeper Wisdom: The 12 Steps from a Woman’s Perspective
To tell the truth, to NOT pretend, feels far more like labor than rest, far more like risk than reward because pretending is what we’re used to, what we know best, what we become best at. But to keep pretending, even though potentially “easier” (deceivingly so), chips away at our true self, our wholeness, our groundedness, our very experience of who we are as a woman in this world.
In thinking a lot about this in the past few days, I decided to compile a cursory inventory of my own pretending:
- I learned early that being smart, witty, and a “thinker” would get me the most attention from my dad. I wasn’t pretending to be smart, witty, and a thinker but I DID know, somewhere within, that it was required to feel loved. Being who he wanted and needed me to be allowed me to feel seen, heard, and valued.
- As a teenager and through my 20s, I pretended in ways designed to summon male approval. It didn’t work a lot of the time, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t committed to trying. If I pretended to be what they wanted, surely I would be wanted.
- During five years of infertility, I pretended to trust in God’s will by (trying to) believe in some higher plan for my life. The truth—what I really felt—was too dark, too hopeless, too devoid of the faith I had learned to display, no matter what.
- During way too much of my marriage, I pretended that I was OK with what was happening around and within me. The truth would be too disruptive, misunderstood, the beginning of the end. Pretending felt like self-preservation, relationship-preservation.
- In a later relationship, post-divorce, I pretended to be fine with his distance, his cutting sarcasm, his utter disappearance emotionally. Pretending meant I didn’t have to be alone.
- In more than one corporate position, I pretended that feeling like I was the crazy one was normal; that it was “just the way things are” as a woman in leadership. Pretending meant that I could stay, that I had a seat at the table, that I belonged.
Now I know better.
- The truth is that I am worthy of being seen, heard, and valued because of who I am – not because of what I do or how I act, even how smart I might sound.
- The truth is that I am worthy of being wanted, period.
- The truth is that the heartache of infertility was hardly a divestiture of my faith, but a fierce (and faithful) clinging to any faith at all.
- The truth is that my marriage was pretend as long as I was pretending; what I was working so hard to preserve was not honest or real.
- The truth is that being in relationship with someone who couldn’t stay, couldn’t express emotion, and wouldn’t honor me is not worth being in at all.
- The truth is that I am not the crazy one; my seat at the table is deserved – even if not given or allowed.
The truth is that typing every one of the sentences above IS a relief, even now. Though some were a long time in coming, each were a relief then, as well.
“It is a relief to speak the truth. I don’t have to pretend.”
Where have you felt the exhaustion of being someone other than yourself? What stories come to mind? What “inventory of pretending” might you compile? What blessed relief might you know if you did speak the truth, your truth?
These are not easy questions. Answering them with intentional choice and bold action IS risky, costly, and full of consequence. But so is pretending.
You deserve to be yourself. You deserve to experience every moment of every day fully and completely yourself no matter what. You deserve to speak your truth. You deserve to never pretend at all. You deserve to know that who you are is beautiful, worthy, and wise no matter what. And that IS a relief.