Pretty early on in life, I learned how judgmental people can be. There will always be someone who needs to see others at their worst in order to solidify their own happiness. As a result, these people only see and share the negative. If you don’t frame what you tell someone just right, they’ll jump at the opportunity to misconstrue your words as they talk behind your back.
I’ve never been good at filtering, so I am absolutely awful at protecting myself from those who are going to use what I say against me. Unless there’s a good reason to present only the very best parts of me, I’m always going to be more or less “myself.” If I’m at a job interview or having a five second conversation or talking to a former enemy or a teacher who was always particularly cruel, I will happily paint my life as a field of sunflowers and myself as the brightest star in the sky, but otherwise I don’t have the energy nor the motivation.
I’ve learned not to care if people talk behind my back, because those kinds of people aren’t very nice anyway, so it doesn’t really matter what they say. When someone’s cruel or petty and they’re known for it, their opinions generally don’t hold much weight with those they talk to. Instead of valuing the weight of their words, I choose to value connecting with people and telling stories and sharing experiences. It’s so much easier to get through life when you can talk openly with others. We grow through hearing stories, both real and fiction, and by taking down barriers and better communicating our own lives and the lessons we have learned, the relationships we form will be that much more meaningful.
If we filter what we say and how we act and teach others to do the same, it just creates shame, which is ridiculous because then we can’t talk about things that so many of us go through. We shouldn’t have to be silent when we fail or do something embarrassing or experience any human emotion other than happiness. When I talk to my friends and family about my life, I don’t want to leave out the bad, because then the picture they form of me is incomplete. I’m not going to shut up about half my life just so people won’t talk behind my back. If I do that, it means that people won’t get to know who I really am, and the same will happen in return, and I won’t get to learn from the lives and wisdom of others.
I want to share my flaws and blunders and the experiences I’ve had that I look back at and cringe. Not only does adding a few sarcastic anecdotes and a sprinkle of self-deprecation to my stories totally fit my brand of humour, but letting people see that side of me is so much less work and so much more fulfilling. I want to be friends with people who like the person I actually am, not someone I pretend to be.
Obviously there’s some sort of a filter to put up in order to make good impressions and not over-share (please don’t talk about all your problems with someone you just met… unless they’re a therapist, then go ahead), but to go beyond that has always seemed like too much work to me. I want other people to know me and I want to know them. I want to live as if life is a more-grownup version of an elementary school sharing circle. I’m all about sharing and feelings and openness. So I encourage you to live openly as well, because then maybe we can create a nice culture of openness and take over the world… with feelings… and kindness. Wouldn’t that be nice?
(Slightly unrelated, slightly related: since we’re speaking of shame, I totally recommend Monica Lewinsky’s TED Talk)