I am back from my New York City trip. It was my sixth visit and also my hardest. Just two days into the trip I experienced a falling out with a friend. I felt blind-sighted, disillusioned, angry, heartbroken. I had previously felt so certain that this person was the safest person with whom to have a friendship. He was just that nice and that good. Unsure about what kind of relationship I wanted with this person, I cried and leaned on a few of my other friends. Sometimes clarity comes with well-intentioned advice that feels wrong. A couple of my friends suggested I “fake it till I make it.” They urged me to just act as if I am fine and not give the person the satisfaction of knowing he had that kind of power. “That would really show him!”
I have a long history of swallowing grievances for the sake of pride and winning. My parents raised me on many of their own mantras, one of which was, “Don’t cry about people who aren’t crying about you.” I was raised by parents who were also taught to never let people see you vulnerable. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized in learning to silently and secretly bear trespasses, it kept the perpetrators in my life for much longer than was healthy. A defense mechanism that developed as a byproduct was very high tolerance for pain. Pain is how we know when something isn’t working or isn’t healthy. So consequently, I also developed high tolerance for people who were bad for me.
It wasn’t till my late twenties that I learned the value of pain. Like a lot of people, I’m hedonistic by nature and I lean on the pursuit of pleasure as my most sought out cure for pain. Sweep icky feeling under the rug and go on a trip or eat a whole half gallon of ice cream! But pain is good. Pain tells you when something isn’t working.
Another thing my loving but humanly misguided parents taught me that I had to unlearn was not using my words. They commanded me to always hold my head high and never let anyone suspect that they hurt me. With a lot of practice, I got to be very good at silently suffering until I felt numb. Which enabled a lot of mistreatment. Which toughened me up for more ensuing pain from these toxic people because they learned they can do anything and I wouldn’t speak up.
So when my friends suggested I fake it till I make it with this person who made me crumble on what was supposed to be a fun trip, I felt a very clear resolution rise from my stomach and into my heart.
I am no longer pretending with people who hurt me that they didn’t hurt me.
In deciding that, every superficial conversation initiated by this person felt like an uncomfortable game of charades. I took two more days to steel myself to speak up and when I did, it felt so good to be honest. Not only to him but also to myself. I felt strong. Powerful.
Who would have thought that in admitting feelings of hurt, you can actually feel strong and powerful?