I’ve been sitting with this for a long time now. My initial venture into this blog inadvertently led me to this place and this question. What does it mean to hold and live my truth? How do I do this when I recognize that my truth is not universal?
We all have our own truths, our own experiences, our own perspectives, and our own perceptions. Navigating what it means when that conflicts with others’ is often disconcerting and challenging, a path full of detours and no clear trail to follow. My arrival to this moment right now necessitated a certain amount of self-reflection along with engaging in perspective-taking, as Brene Brown discusses. The challenge comes in acknowledging the various lanes of my truth and that of others that exist while not allowing one to intersect or overtake the other.
How do I hold space for others’ experiences while protecting and being true to my own? Somewhere in all this is an element of betrayal, I think. Betrayal of myself, betrayal of others.
In truth, I believed that what I was doing in this space was trying to do just that, of holding and living my truth while still respecting and honoring that of others’. It’s also possible that perhaps I wasn’t. I will say I’m not sure what that all means right now. For the first time, maybe in my whole life, putting my words out here has been affirming for me in finally being able to reclaim my story and give myself a voice and the possibility of having to tamp it down, so to speak, does give rise to panic of losing myself once again.
What I do know is that through conversations, reading, and the community I’ve discovered is that I am not alone in these struggles. I am not alone in my feelings and, while it’s not a fun place to be, it is nice to know I’m not here alone. There’s a desperation in my desire to be seen and heard that I see echoed in the words and conversations with others. I also know from my own work that while it is critical, it is not the only way. My value and worth need not be wrapped up in others’ perception or understanding of me, in fact, it’s critical that it be divorced from that. Certainly that isn’t to say, as I’ve already stated, that others’ experiences and feelings don’t hold value.
Tiptoeing around all of this nuance for fear of stepping wrong has largely kept me from being able to be open about all of this. I don’t want to be small or shrink anymore. I also don’t want to overpower. I just want to be allowed space.
I’ve been wrestling with what it all means when I know what I know but others just can’t seem to understand or see. For so long, others’ truths have overridden my own. I was left to question myself, my emotions, and my understanding and would buckle under the pressure of not being the source of discomfort and discord. I can’t say how many times I’ve run through this very cycle, all with the hope of just being seen. Out of that cycle grew someone who constantly questions myself, doubts every choice, thought, emotion, and step. My confidence in myself and my competency bottomed out and has puddled all over the floor.
It’s when I think back to my times as a therapist sitting with people in their deepest pain and sorrow that I can get moments of clarity through the fog. When I worked with survivors of trauma, our conversations would most often center on boundaries and limits. How does one set healthy boundaries and limits while maintaining respect of others? Clients would agonize and twist themselves up in knots trying to walk this fine line. They were often aching over others’ perceptions that they were being unreasonable or just being difficult. Often I would sit with them in the silence only marked by their sobbing as they tried to make sense of it all.
I find myself in a similar place. I’m doubled over and contorted trying to make rational what is not rational, all the while feeling entirely crazy. The impulse to shrink so that others can be more comfortable is so strong and only reinforced by others around me. I constantly slip in my footing as the ground below me seems to erode away. But I’m slowly realizing that it’s not my footing or my ground that’s eroding but rather the wind trying to blow me over to the path of least resistance. Certainly that path would be the easier option, it would likely be more palatable for others but it would also be a compromise of my values and worth as a person. It’s taken me far too long to reach this point, but this point also no longer permits me to sacrifice.
So with a tear-streaked face, I’ll persist in holding, living, and honoring my truth and do so with dignity, love, and respect for others. My truth doesn’t have to be others’ truths and I also don’t have to shrink it or myself for the sake of others’.
Despite the magnitude of all of this, despite the challenges and intense feelings nestled in it all, I am grateful for the community I have found. I am thankful for those in my life who help create space where they can and allow me room to be vulnerable, honest, angry, hurt, weep, and hold me accountable. Therapy has also been a source of strength and support. A place where my honesty can be held and tested against a mirror while enveloped in kindness and support.