Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Letting Go of the "What Ifs"

Disregarding sociopaths and other immoral types, many good people tell tons of lies--or at least they withhold truths and keep secrets. They usually do so feeling uncomfortable about it because they perceive themselves as generally truthful, but at some visceral level, they often feel they have no choice but to lie. Some are vaguely aware their lie is linked to avoiding a possible consequence that brings them anxiety, but that's when their brain shuts down. Fear freezes them. They don't examine it any further. So they keep things hidden or exaggerate or deny because--let me just bottom line it--it seems much easier to do nothing and pretend you're not actually making a choice every time you let whatever deception continue.

When you do nothing, it's much easier to say you didn't make a mistake and that, well, things just kinda happened to you.

Now, some would leap on this judgmentally and call these people "moral cowards," but I don't see it that way. I feel empathy because I've been there and practically drank myself to death over it. I know what it feels like to feel trapped by fears, insecurities, and extreme anxiety of the type that causes sleeplessness. Truth is, some of these people are incredibly strong, and the last thing I'd call them is a coward. I've seen these people try to stuff things they feel because they can't face the consequences of owning up to their feelings, and they "stiff upper lip" their way through life, experiencing, sometimes, great sacrifice to themselves.

Take the closeted gay person. I wouldn't say that person is a coward. It takes great strength of will to hide yourself, pretend to be someone you're not, ask your partner to not kiss you in public or hold your hand, or not invite them to a job function to which spouses are invited. It sucks to be in the closet. I feel sorry for these people. The only time I start getting judgmental or angry about them is when they're public servants or politicians who, because they're in the closet, will vote against legislation that would actually benefit the gay community for the mere reason they are afraid of someone pointing a finger at them.

They suffer profoundly. What hell it must be, to fear losing your job because someone might not like it that you're gay. What hell it must be, to think your parents may reject you because you're gay. (And what does that say about your parents, about them not actually loving their own child unconditionally?) What hell it must be, to fear losing a friend because you know they have a problem with gay people. (And why are they even your friend?) But notice all of this is based on a series of "what ifs." How horrible it is to let a big chunk of your own life remain a secret--a lie of omission--because of the power you've given to those "what ifs."

We tell lies when we can't bear the anxiety we feel if a certain "what if" were to happen. We will do whatever we can to control that "what if" situation.  Here's a hypothetical. Two days, say, into a new relationship, some people will already start making promises they can't really keep ("Sure, I'll be faithful to you") just to control somebody else ("Because I don't want you to be unfaithful to me.") Oops. Mistake. You've just let a fear run your decision-making. In four months, there you are, realizing you leaped into exclusivity way too soon--but now you can't take it back, because it will look like a backslide and they may break up with you. Since you don't want that, you start seeing others on the sly because there's no point in wrecking the current relationship when you're not really sure you want to end it. And so now you're doing the very thing you feared from the other person and you're also lying about it.

These are the kinds of messes and hypocritical actions fear-based thinking gets us into.

So many of us walk on this earth afraid to death that if somebody actually knew the REAL ME, they wouldn't like us.

At some point, if you're going to live sanely, you have to get off this train that will lead you nowhere. You have to face your fears. You have to learn to live with anxiety. You have to take risks with the full knowledge that you may get hurt. You have to just be yourself--which means KNOWING YOURSELF--and love yourself just the way you are. There is nothing wrong with you. You may just be a little different from some other people. So what? It doesn't make them right and you wrong. It merely makes you your own glorious, unique self. Some people will love you and some people won't. The ones who won't--well, that's their crap, not yours.

It is so freeing to let go of the "what ifs" and just be yourself. Don't tell lies. Say what you think. State what you need. When you don't know, don't tell others what you think they want to hear: tell them "I don't know." Anything less than forthright confines you to a world of deception, game playing, and power struggles.

The general rule of thumb is that people who lie a lot are full of fear, are insecure, and will never be happy--never truly serene and content--until they start loving themselves and telling the truth.

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