Tuesday, January 15, 2013

say what you mean, mean what you say

It's been nearly a year since the Bettyverse went belly-up.  I'm not going to link to it, but if you google, it still exists as a feed (an active list of links) of the members' blogs, and there is still an active Facebook group (of which I am a member, although my blog is not on the feed).  But the vibrant, funny, enriching community that many of us were a part of for a couple of years is no more.  I miss it, but not enough to continue to follow the woman who was its leader.  I was too disappointed in the way she handled the final episode.

But it was an important part of my life for a couple of years, and some of the topics discussed there changed my life.  The topic of this post--which, simply stated, is authenticity-- is one of those, so this post is dedicated to the group that was, and even its leader.  I greatly admire her, even though I feel too burned to continue to be one of her fans.

Anyway.  When you're a somewhat reserved, quiet person, there is a dilemma to be faced.  It's difficult to get to know you.  I've always understood this, and so I accepted that I just had to put up with the fact that people generally assume that because I'm introverted, I'm also passive and bland.  Since I am unlikely to ever make a public scene, it's just something I have to live with.

But I had moved way past quiet and reserved, and well into the realm of erasing myself.  I discovered a long time ago that in most situations, life is simpler if you just erase yourself rather than adding your voice to the fray of all the people in the room who want their needs to be met.  Since so much of my life is interior anyway, it wasn't all that difficult to do.  I can meet most of my needs myself without bothering anybody else.

The problem with that is that it gets kind of lonely, but it certainly makes life simpler and less complicated.  I remember a therapist saying to me once--probably twenty years ago--when are you going to stop being the garbage dump for all the people in your life?  And me looking at him blankly, because I honestly couldn't think of a reason to stop.  Everyone likes things the way they are, I reasoned, and I don't mind.  I can handle it.

Until eventually I couldn't.

Anyway.  It wasn't until something the Bettyverse leader said early on in the existence of the group that I finally understood what I was doing to myself.  "How is anyone going to know you if you never speak your truth?" she said.  Or something to that effect, I didn't go back and look it up.  It seems so entirely obvious when I type it out like that, but it was like a bomb going off in my head.  The reason why nobody really knew me was because I never let them know. 

So I've been working on that for a couple of years now.  I'm still not great at it, and I'm never going to be an extrovert.  But I've been working on speaking up when I need to, and being more open and honest about what I think and what I want, even when it upsets the balance of whatever group I'm in.  I'm not a blank space.  I'm a person.

I had another major realization about this over the holidays.  I learned this kind of behavior from my mom, who is the expert.  Unlike me--who appears to be sweet to people who don't know me very well, but is really snarky and sarcastic-- my mom truly is a sweet person, who will run herself ragged to help out a friend or her daughter or whoever needs her help.  She is learning as she gets older that she has to take care of herself more than she used to, but she truly doesn't resent it.  I love her and admire her and wouldn't want anyone else to be my mom.

But, like many women of her generation, she is really good at erasing herself to meet everyone else's needs.  I think she's been working on this in the years since she and my dad divorced, but I don't think it will ever come naturally to her to speak what's on her mind. 

I had another bombshell moment when I was talking to her about something or other the week after Christmas and she made a statement, and I realized that I didn't know if she was telling the truth.  I didn't know, because I never know, because she always modifies what she says to meet the needs of the people around her.  There's no way to know what she really thinks.

OH. *dumbfounded look*

Ohhhhhhhh. That's why you need to be honest.  So that when people talk to you, they know you are saying what you mean. They know that they're getting the truth.  Again, it's one of those things that's completely obvious once you know it, but I don't think I got it before.  Until I was in the position of being the listener who really wants to know what someone else thinks, I didn't get why it's important to speak your mind. I never thought of it as being dishonest, I just thought I was being selfless and helpful.  God save us from selfless people. 

Work in progress. 


  1. Side note: while I'm reading this, 250 wildly honking Canada geese just flew over the house. Obviously, they have no trouble at all saying what they mean!

    The other reason to say what you mean and mean what you say is because it makes you trustworthy. My SIL is a master at the whole sweet and nice thing until she turns on you and accuses you of all sorts of crap because she read in hidden meanings to what you said. Now she clearly learned this at her mother's knee, but what happens is when she is being all sweet and nice, I don't trust that she won't suddenly stop. I don't trust that she means the nice things she is saying. I don't mean to say that you are like this because I sincerely don't believe you have the viciousness that she does at all, it's just that when you aren't honest and up front, people can't trust that what you are saying is what you are thinking.

    1. Well, I hope I'm not. I'm honestly not sure that I haven't done exactly that in the past, because I am really good at reading hidden meanings into things other people have said. But I don't think I've ever done vicious things in response, I've just managed to make myself insane. ha. But yes, you got what I was saying exactly. :-)

  2. Barb - I've done what you're talking about a few times. But I know exactly what I'm doing and it's usually because whoever I'm lying to is not worth the effort of the truth.
    My mom, on the other hand, makes this a career and you're right, I never know if she's telling the truth or accommodating someone else.

    Kudos to you for working towards a more genuine life.

  3. I'm outspoken, generally, which comes with its own set of issues, lol. Well, life's a journey... always trying to find that balance.