Last month, I talked about wandering down memory lane with a friend. Since that post, the weeks have been filled with coffee dates and catch ups with people who resurfaced that day. Accepting invitations out and replying to messages wasn’t easy. Not at first, at least. I had an idea of what stage of my life I should be at in my head. What these people expected of me. I had this image of where they were in their lives. And as these images became more and more vivid, and I became more and more sure of them, excuse after excuse formed on my tongue. I was preparing for the moment I was asked a question that I didn’t want to answer. That I was ashamed to answer truthfully to. I tried to steer the conversation away from myself, blaming it all on me being stereotypically British – unable to talk about myself, unable to say anything that may encourage a compliment in return.
In comes my sister with a message, a quote from Jarrid Wilson. So random, so serendipitous:
“I’ve built more relationships with people by being open about my struggles than I ever could have pretending like I had it all together.”
It was reading these words that made me choose honesty. I bit the bullet and chose to truthfully answer their questions, to be honest about how much I’ve struggled since we last saw each other. As the conversations continued, I realised I was wrong. They didn’t expect me to be married with children of my own, living the life of the perfect housewife. They didn’t expect me to be raking in millions at a high-end job. They didn’t even expect me to have left home, buying a holiday home in some exotic location. They just expected me to be… me. For them, all that mattered was that I was still the same kid they grew up with.
For a long time, I was very much the kind of person who pretended like I had it all together. To an extent, I still have that tendency. I still struggle to tell people exactly what I’m thinking or feeling. Confess the thoughts that go through my head. The majority of that goes on a trusted few, and sometimes, even then, I tell them things weeks later as opposed to right away. I have, however, learned to answer questions as honestly as possible. To listen to people’s advice and recommendations. To be more open.
When I first began my road of healing, I had to learn (difficultly, I might add) that healing can only happen when you let go of the negative and make room for the positive. My world was small to begin with: my parents, my sisters, two or three friends. I often liken it to being a recluse – only leaving the house to go to Tesco or to an event that I couldn’t get out of. I worked from home, I spent hours longer in bed than was necessary, I refused to pick up the phone or reply to messages for days, but I still painted a portrait of a girl living her best life on social media.
Slowly, I began to open myself up to the possibility of having more. Of not needing to paint a picture because the picture was actually real. It’s been three years since that realisation first hit me. It was a slow process. A difficult process. It hurt. But every time I told my story, it hurt a little less. Piece by piece, it began to feel better. Toxic relationships were cut away, like limbs promising to only make you sicker if they stayed. But they made room for new possibilities. Opportunities. Relationships.
By accepting my own pain, grief and struggle, by opening up about them, I’ve been able to welcome likewise. I no longer to pretend I am living a great life on social media – I genuinely am! And every relationship is now bound in love, understanding and acceptance.
Looks like Jarrid Wilson was right. Relationships build – are rebuilt, in some cases – when you’re open and honest. And I’m pretty sure that starts with the relationship between you and yourself… If you can’t accept yourself, no one else stands a chance.