I remember the first time I intentionally answered “How are you?” truthfully. I must have been 12 or 13. My pet mouse had escaped from it’s cage and I had found it… dead.
The phone rang so I picked it up and said “Hello” in a regular fashion.
The jolly voice on the other end said “Hello! And how are you today?”
“Not good” I replied and carried on to tell the caller my troubles and woes.
He patiently listened to me and then said “Who am I speaking with?”
“It’s Sarah!” I said suddenly realizing that I had no idea who I had been talking to.
” I must have the wrong number.” said the telephone stranger; “Sorry about your mouse, goodbye.”
I’ve ping ponged back an forth between vulnerable authenticity and comfortable conformism thousands of times since then. And here I am 20 years later only slightly more expert at answering truthfully than I was then. Here is what I’ve learned since spilling my guts to a wrong number…
Being authentic does not mean every conversation is YOU centered.
I cringe to remember a time when I ran into a couple I know, who were weeks from being married. Instead of gushing about plans and telling them I was excited to attend their wedding, I babbled on and on about an 8 hour road trip I was taking with a friend of mine and our collective 12 children. Blah blah blah ME… blah blah blah can you believe I am doing this? Blah blah blah.
Being mindful of other people’s big exciting life events is a very good skill to acquire!
Know the difference between small talk and intimate conversation.
You are not supposed to deeply connect with everyone. There is nothing wrong with making small talk. Ask genuine questions. Don’t be afraid to have an excuse or two up your sleeve in case the chit chat just doesn’t interest you and you feel the need to bow out.
On the flip side, it is a gift to know your tribe. To know those people who are going to still love you if you text them about poop… or when you complain about cramps… or you cry on their couch because your heart is broken.
Reserve intimate stuff for only those most deserving of seeing your raw and weak places because they have proven themselves capable of handling those things with care.
“How are you?” should be a permissible time to compare yourself to others.
When an acquaintance asks you how you are, and they are just doing it to be polite, I say its totally fine to say “I’m good.” If that’s not quite the truth though you can think in your mind “Compared to a naked porcupine wrestler.”
If a kindred spirit is asking “how are you?” go ahead and say the part about the porcupine wrestler out loud.
It’s OK to disappoint people.
I was put on this earth to be kind… I was put here to have deep connections… I was not put here to rearrange my life according to other people’s plans and passions. Don’t be afraid to say no. Say no to the things that don’t line up with your life’s purpose, your goals and your likes.
Don’t say no just because something is scary and forces you out of your comfort zone… but don’t say yes because it’s comfortable to be a people pleaser.
Revealing your vulnerability does not automatically equal being treated kindly.
Being brave enough to tell someone how you truly feel can often make them uncomfortable and defensive. (Seriously if you have any tips for this please fill me in.) The best advice I can offer is use lots of “I feel” statements and ask the other person to explain their intentions. Then give them the benefit of the doubt.
What lessons are you learning right now? What challenges do you have with being authentic?
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