If you search for tenderness it isn’t hard to find.
You can have the love you need to live.
But if you look for truthfulness
You might just as well be blind.
It always seems to be so hard to give.
Honesty is such a lonely word.
Everyone is so untrue.
Honesty is hardly ever heard.
And mostly what I need from you.
Billy Joel, Honesty
My honey and I have been having some pretty intense discussions recently. We do that regularly, but this week we have hit on some new and interesting ideas that had not occurred to me previously.
I have always thought of myself as having a real problem with self confidence. Unusually so – I see other people with their various personality matrices and I don’t see where they would have any similar issues. Gregariousness, intellectualism, sometimes arrogance or self gratification. But not lack of self esteem. I have gotten a whole lot better recently – I feel like I am finally coming into my own and starting to see myself for who and what I am – but I will always be at least partially defined by that characteristic, even if I manage to move beyond it. And I am okay with that.
However, when we were talking the other night a couple of different threads of discussion came together in a new way. My honey told me that he had always had poor self esteem, that some of the problems we have faced over the years have been due to various bits and pieces that he hid away from me out of shame, or fear, or instinctive self-preservation. Of course, as these things have come to light, we have found them to be, really, not a big deal – at least from the perspective of how I see him.
While talking about a friend of mine, I pointed out that the ‘arrogance’ that my honey sees in him is really just his way of dealing with his own self esteem issues. This did not go over very well with my honey, but it stuck in my mind.
I’ve also been thinking (and we’ve been talking) a whole lot about relationships in general. How I approach relationship, how I interact with the people I love. Over the past six months, my honey and I have worked hard on developing a new and improved, ‘authentic’ relationship. We have pushed ourselves to explore our feelings and ideas openly, and as we have done so, the fear of exposing ourselves has diminished. (although there are certainly some parts of ourselves that we have not yet found a way to freely explore).
It has occurred to me that at this point in my life, I no longer have any interest in relationships that are not open and honest. I cannot have the depth of relationship with everyone, as I have with my honey, but the general principles are applicable. Where I have always been afraid to admit my true feelings, my wants and desires and even, sometimes, my opinions for fear of rejection, I am now coming to recognize this a s a prison we create for ourselves. When this hit me, I saw that when we hold these things back from our loved ones, it creates an environment where we spend a lot of our time trying to ‘read between the lines’: what did he really mean when he said that?; what is she thinking about now?; can I accept this or that at face value, or are they really playing me?
Excuse my language, but talk about a crock of shit.
I don’t feel like I have time for that anymore. I don’t want to spend my time wondering and fearing and projecting. I want to lay out who I am for all to see. Those that appreciate who I am, that want to have a relationship with me, step forward. If not, how does that in any way diminish me? All of a sudden, I realize that where before, I was afraid to say too much, to relinquish my power to someone (anyone) else I now realize that by opening up I am empowering myself. And I like it.
So as I pull all those disparate thoughts together, it occurs to me that, contrary to my prior assumptions, poor self esteem – lack of confidence in ourselves – is probably one of the most common mental states in our culture. We each have different ways of expressing that fear, but at a fundamental level, it is the same. More, that our culture reinforces this fear and separateness. By encouraging the stereo-types as real things, by telling us that we cannot trust one another, by exaggerating the pain of betrayal over the fulfillment of friendship.
Thing is, I don’t think there is any way to get past these cultural barriers aside from forsaking your parachute and jumping. Worse, there will still be times when the trust fails, when the object of our openness is not ready to accept it – or reciprocate, when the person we truly are is not what the other wants to find. So not only do we need to will ourselves to jump, we need to be lucky enough – or wise enough – to successfully reach ground under our own power.
So how lucky am I? Not only to have been pushed this way, but to have found people that are equally ready to embrace this new paradigm. I’m sure that I will face failures, but I didn’t start with failure, so my confidence grows, my empowerment grows and my surety grows.
(Originally Posted November 10, 2006)