Truth Byte #11: Stop pretending to have your shit together.
Finally, I confessed. After standing in front of the crowd for three hours in my heels, watching them laugh and resist and quickly wipe away the stray tear, I confessed. I had been holding back. Here I was, the facilitator of a personal development workshop on Boundaries, and people were supposed to be letting go and opening up, and healing.
But I had not actually felt one thing all morning.
When we arrived, the room was locked. The lady helping us was grumpy and flustered. My team was moving like molasses, and the usually camaraderie we usually have was replaced by a busy grey cloud as we tried to beat the clock and get everything ready. We finally opened the doors, and people were late. The usual buzz of the workshop was missing. Everyone came in quietly. Something was off.
So in our team meeting at lunch, before we opened the second half of the day, I asked my team what they saw. Because sometimes the leader can’t see the whole picture, and a good leader will look to her team for help (something I should have done hours ago.)
And then they called me out.
“You are holding back,” someone said to me, “You are not letting the tears fall. And if you won’t feel, no one else has permission to feel. You are the leader. ”
Hmmmm…..that one struck a chord, and the reverberations reached way back into my childhood where I was taught about authority figures and how they are supposed to behave.
I was trying to lead like a robot, when really, I am human. (Isn’t it strange that we have to remind ourselves of that?!)
For someone who is an expert on human emotions, I was stuffing mine down. I was so busy holding my shit together, that those around me felt that they too had to be perfect and put together and act like nothing was wrong. And here we were at a let-it-all-hang-out kind of workshop, talking about life, and it’s struggles, and all the ways we were letting people ignore our personal boundaries. This was emotional stuff! And yet I could not feel. Because I was trying to look perfect.
I didn’t want “them” to know that I was a wreck. That all I could think about was that we barely broke even this time, and I was considering cancelling these workshops. I didn’t want “them” to know that I was missing my kids, and was wishing that I could have joined my family on their first camping trip this weekend, a first I feared we would never get back. I didn’t want “them” to know that I had stuffed the foot-ends of my nylons in between my toes to keep the runs from climbing up my leg, and my feet were cramping. I didn’t want them to know that I have a voice in my head that tells me I am a failure and a fraud on a daily basis, and I have to pull out every tool in my arsenal to keep that voice at bay. Every. Single Day. (Almost.)
Instead, I was here, keeping my commitments, proving to “them” that I was fine, I was their leader, I was going to help them face their own personal demons.
All without actually feeling anything myself.
So I confessed. I confessed how hard it was for me to watch their pain, because it matched and activated my own. I confessed how I wanted them to think I was perfect, because then I felt like I could teach them something, because the only way I thought I could teach anyone anything was if I was “above” them or better than them. Because who wants a teacher that they see as an equal? And as I confessed, my voice locked in my throat, my eyes burned like the afternoon sun, and without time to control it, the tears started to fall. A waterfall down my face, taking with it the Dior eyeliner and mascara, Bobbi Brown BB crème, and Shopper’s Drug Mart brand blush I had so carefully applied that morning. I quietly sopped up the black/brown/ruby rainbow with one of “their” tissues.
And do you know what happened?
“They” thanked me!
They cried with me. They held my tears and they loved me anyways. They asked me to join them in the journey, rather than just watching them from my ivory tower of book knowledge and theories, but to actually get down in there with them, in the depth of their pain, and simply hold their hands as we found a way out together.
So today I am admitting to you: I don’t have my shit together. And yet here I am, trying my best, beside you, willing to hold your hand. We are family, after all, brothers and sisters muddling through this maze called Life. Neither one of us has to do this alone, and neither one of us has to be perfect.