I honestly haven’t stopped listening to that song all day.
This one line say a lot. A whole lot more than what it reads. I think this is one of those songs that doesn’t need to say a lot to say everything.
I think many of us try to fix past hurts done to us by absorbing responsibility for them, whether or not we should. Something becomes broken, it needs to be fixed, the person who caused it isn’t going to fix it/disappears/chooses not to/etc, so we fix it ourselves, somehow taking full responsibility for it. Most of the time this causes us to look back to see if we can find anything we could’ve done differently or how we could’ve acted and thought about a particular situation or relationship. We automatically assume there are fixable details that would’ve changed the outcome, yet we don’t quite know what they are some of the time. And not being able to figure that out is really, really frustrating. We like concrete facts and bullet-point breakdowns. Unfortunately, life isn’t always so cut and dry, and neither are we.
The constant need to be gauging ourselves and making sure we add up to our ideal (or someone else’s) puts a harmful spin on the pursuit for attention, love, and recognition. Suddenly, it becomes a game for us to see what we are lacking. It’s no longer about participating in human connection, learning about ourselves, growing as individuals, and giving each other grace when we make a bad decision. It becomes a quest to be graded, to be reminded where we fall in the spectrum of perceived perfection. We become addicted to performance-based love and recognition, which allows to keep track of what we are owed and what we owe. Who you are is no longer good enough — it’s how you play the game that tells you what you deserve. You have to tell the right story for it to be acknowledged.
Think about a story you’ve told before. Did some of the details change depending on who you were telling it to? Maybe there were some exaggerations or omissions? Maybe to one person you emphasized one detail, and to another person, another detail. And when you really think about it, don’t we do that with our lives? Emphasizing one thing while hiding the other? Why is that? I think it’s because we are looking for approval and connection with the people we encounter and we think they are going to react or care more about certain details and not of others. The better story we can tell to their specific nature, the more recognized we are, and therefore, the more connected and valued. We’re constantly telling different versions of the same story. So much so, that we forget what the true story is.
As far as I know, no one has figured out how to avoid hurts involved in relationships. Whether it’s a romantic relationship or otherwise, we’ve all been hurt and disappointed by other people. And much to our dismay, it keeps happening. All over the place. Even if we are the recipient of a wrongdoing, we still think there’s something we could’ve done to prevent it. Why? Because when something hurts, it can’t just keep being that way — it needs to be fixed so that we can move forward. And guess what? The easiest way to do that is to do it ourselves, even if we are not the best solution. So, we tell ourselves whatever it is we think we are missing in order to “heal” the hurt.
How many times have we thought statements like this:
“If only I was more creative, funny, pretty, masculine, thin, strong…”
“If only I didn’t care so much about this or that…”
“If only I cared more about this or that…”
“If only I wasn’t so stubborn, selfish, weak, strong…”
“If only I had only been more open and honest…”
We try to take care of those hurts by giving them a reason for existing. We calculate equations which we hope will lead us to the reason for the hurt and give it some meaning and weight…perhaps something we can refer to for future reference. For some reason, we avoid the feeling caused by the hurt and try to fix it instead, as if simply letting ourselves feel it will be the end of us. And I truly think when we tell stories we think someone wants to hear and leave ourselves out of it, that creates the biggest hurt of all: we deceive our “trueness.” We realize how much of ourselves we gave up to the stories we told in hopes of experiencing that connection we longed for. And rather than presenting authenticity, even if it required vulnerability, we presented a manufactured version of ourselves which was so carefully calculated for whatever outcome we were hoping for. And then the inevitable feeling of shame settles in when we realize our “product” was rejected even though we gave so much of ourselves up to that story we told…the one we thought they wanted. Our “enough” wasn’t enough…it wasn’t even real.
What if we let ourselves be broken? What if we all just started talking about our eating disorders, porn addictions, daddy issues, quests for love in all the wrong places, alcoholic mothers, abusive fathers, poor decisions, and broken hearts? What if we laid it all out for everyone to see? What would that look like? My suspicion is that instead of judgement, we’d be met with the phenomenon that vulnerability sometimes creates: We’d feel even more connected by our trueness than we ever could with our carefully created psuedo-selves.
Ironic, huh? Maybe instead of impressing people with our stories, we chose a different path to pursue connection — the path of belonging. When it comes to connection, being able to fit in has been our main objective as a culture and as individuals. We do this by changing our clothes, hair styles, music preferences, hobbies, and palates so that we can match whatever group we’re trying to get in to. Thing is, I’d rather belong than fit in. What’s the difference? Fitting in means you simply appear to belong; belonging means you’re valued. One says familiar, the other says family. One is accidental, the other intentional.
If we follow this new path, are we all going to magically just get along, never get hurt, never feel abandoned or rejected, and always feel loved? Unfortunately, no. But, if we’re constantly concocting versions of ourselves to please what we think people want, we’ll never actually get anywhere — we’ll just get really brilliant at faking it and lose sight of our trueness in the process.
In an effort to challenge myself into becoming more authentic, I hope that instead of shying away from vulnerability, I will recognize and move closer to it. So, here’s to becoming more genuine, more open, more unafraid, and more true. My stories may not always be the brightest, most exciting, most interesting, or most unique, but at least they will be mine.