The Nicest Person On Earth
I’ve been called the nicest person on Earth. I’ve been called innocent. Naïve. A saint (for real).
And though I’ve always appreciated these comments (for the most part), I’ve also found them confusing. The me that I’m familiar with is often sarcastic, crude, and a little too in-the-know. Compassionate and caring, yes, but nice, naïve and saintly…I’m not too sure.
Why then do so many people think that I’m so goddamn nice? Well. I think I finally figured it out. And it isn’t pretty, or nice. It's because I was a liar.
An Introvert, an Extrovert, or Just a Plain Ol' Liar?
If you were to meet me at a social gathering, depending on the day, you might conclude that I’m the typical extrovert. I love to tell a good story, and I will be the first to suggest a head-stand contest. I really loathe small talk, and I don’t hesitate to ask the weirdest-freaking-question-ever or to divulge that I feel compelled to tell you that…you should maybe call your sister’s roommate’s cousin because he may have something to tell you about the crack in the third step leading to your grandma’s attic.--That kind of weird.
But the truth is, I consider myself an extreme introvert based mainly on one significant detail—I often feel totally exhausted after “get-togethers,” so much so that I’d be happy being completely alone for a week or more before feeling like I should make an effort again to be “social.”
In the past, I regularly put off emails, phone conversations, and basically all types of social anything because it often left me feeling so…tired.
When A Friend Calls You a Liar It Might Be for the Best (and You Might Really Be Lying)
A few weeks ago, a very dear friend of mine had the chance to visit. She’d been hitch-hiking South America (I know, badass) and she made Montanita her final stop. I’d long ago noted that hanging with her rarely left me feeling drained, or exhausted, on the contrary I often felt inspired, and on fire. I’d assumed that the only reason her company energized me rather than depleted me was because she was just well, really awesome.
But during our last little hang-out something happened that made me rethink everything I used to believe about my social interactions and why some of them drained me while a few others energized me. As we sat there discussing bending spoons, and all of the magical perfection of the universe, our conversation took a turn—the last thing I remember saying was something like, “but I could never say that to him—that would totally freak him out.” And she looked right at me and said gravely, “You have to be more honest, the world deserves that.”
It hit me like a proverbial ton of bricks. My ego wanted to deny that I’d been dishonest in the first place. But my authentic-self knew that she was right. The more I thought about it, and the more we talked, the more I admitted that honesty was rarely my priority, I was usually more focused on making whomever I was with feel…comfortable, and like they belong.
If I’ve raged against anything in my life, it’s been against mediocrity. It’s been against choosing comfort over passion, complacency over risk-taking, and stability over profound joy.
Social Engagements Exhaust Me, Not Because I'm an Introvert, But Because I Was a Liar
I was grossed out to realize that even after all of my ranting and writing about how nothing feels better to our souls than the truth, I so seldom made truth an unwavering priority.
And this, I learned was a huge reason why social engagements left me feeling deflated, and ironically, not because I’m telling lies to my friends about their own lives, but because I’m telling lies to my friends about my life.
People Like to Tell Me Their Problems, and If I Can't Make Them Feel Better, I Make Myself Look Worse
People like to tell me their problems, their deepest darkest fears, and insecurities. In fact, people like to tell me pretty much everything that is going wrong in their lives. And I like to hear it, actually I love it. I love an opportunity to assist someone in moving closer to a life full of peace and joy and further from a life of bland restlessness. It’s really my ultimate pleasure.
But, as much as I loved to be a part of these conversations I realized that instead of responding truthfully with my own heart-felt knowledge to their tales of lost love, financial flounders, or personal demons, I often congratulated them for being so _______ brave/smart/compassionate. And then I went on to tell details of my own life that made me look ten times more lost/confused/selfish than they had in their story.
I often even LIED about how shitty something in my life had been. I never lied about the physical details of a story, but frequently I’d say that I was lost/confused/bored/anxious about things that really, hardly even bothered me (and maybe even entertained me). Like the f’d up soup I cooked that actually tasted strange and simultaneously ridiculously good. Or how hard it is not having hot water, or how lonely I felt all the way over here on a different continent. When really, my life is pretty sweet. Basically, I talked a lot of dramatic and exaggerated shit about myself. And then sat around while they made themselves feel better by making me feel better.
This tactic usually worked. Sort of.
They left feeling energized and validated, while I left feeling deflated and hung-over.
So, there, that’s why I feel like a wet towel after social interactions.
The next question is WHY. Why do I feel the need to lie about my own life?
And why don’t I have the guts to tell it like I see it—especially in instances where I’ve literally studied my friend’s issue and have successfully overcome it in my own past? Well, this answer is frighteningly complex.
Why I Felt the Need to Lie: 3 Reasons
1) I Feel the Need to Overcompensate (because sometime the world really is a tough place): Even as a kid, I made the comfort of others a priority. In grade school, I would create forts, and then attempt to force my sister and cousin to nap in the little beds I made for them while I covered them up and then sat there feeling relieved that everyone was accounted for and comfortable (even if they actually hated it). And because I’m a human being with a complex past (like all of us) I know how uncomfortable it can be to expose yourself and your perceived weaknesses to another person. It takes a lot of guts. And if the brave person ends up spilling their beans to the wrong person, he or she can be left feeling exposed, pathetic, and even more alone--basically, the opposite of how it feels to be lovingly tucked into a little fort bed.
It’s one of my worst nightmares that someone might feel like this in my presence. So, I overcompensate. To ensure that they feel like they belong, that they feel worthy of love and connection, I focus on the positive. How brave they’ve been in addressing this issue. On all of the rotten choices they could’ve made, and luckily didn’t. And then, if they still aren’t convinced, I start talking shit about myself (and even if they are convinced, just for good measure) ---and that ladies and gentlemen is where the conversation turns from nurturing to destructive. In these moments I compromised my integrity, my credibility, my character, and most disturbing, my truth.
And I’m doing my friend a disservice as well. Letting them walk away with a false sense of security about something they obviously feel in their heart needs to change (or they wouldn’t have brought me the issue in the first place). Anyone who’s been on this earth longer than a minute knows that if you don’t deal with things when they first arise, they will blow your life to tiny pieces later. I feel responsible for facilitating a lot of these explosions (and then running around frantically picking up the pieces). i
2) I Put Too Much Pressure On My Presence: Why do I hate small talk so much? Besides the obvious reason—it’s usually predictable and superficial, I realized that I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to engage deeply with whomever crossed my path. Reflecting on this, I have no choice but to admit that it was rather exhausting, and more often than not I found myself shutting down rather than "connecting.: I agree wholeheartedly with the idea that this earth is our school and that each person we meet is an assignment. –And I mean that in the most humane way. Each person has something to share with us about ourselves, and vice versa. But I let this idea morph into a monster that led me to believe that if I wasn’t having some life-changing conversation, then I might as well be silent.
But the truth is, by lying, instead of profound connections, I was creating what Chela Davinson poignantly calls "fast food connection."
3) I Wanted People to Like Me: And Lastly, since this is a post about honesty, I must also admit that I wanted people to like me. I wanted everyone to like me actually. And sometimes, or maybe even all of the time, the things that I’m truly thinking in response to his/her/your inquiry are pretty radical, and may not make you feel too warm and fuzzy. And then, you might not like what I said. And then, you might not like me. And then what? My friend points sink?
An important person in my life habitually says, “If they like you good, if they don’t better. If you’re honest, someday they’ll understand.”
Sciency Bonus (Why It's Cool If People Dislike You)
He’s right. And according to psychologist Ben Michaelis,
“ if much more than 85 percent of the people you meet like you, you are probably doing too much to get along.
"How can I be doing too much to get along with others?"
Getting along is great as long as it doesn't come at the expense of yourself.”
The Truth Is, The People I Enjoy Being Around the Most Are Brutally Honest
Remember when I said that for some reason, being with Z never left me feeling deflated? Yeah, I now realize why. And it's not because she's just super awesome (though she is) it's because she tells the bare truth. all. the. time. And she cuts through my bullshit. I wouldn't even think of "lying about my life" around her. She would immediately call me out on it. And I love it. One of my other best friends is equally discerning. She'll tell me straight up if she thinks I'm being shady, or egotistical, or if my last article didn't have great flow. And the truth is, sometimes it pisses me off. But every time, I'm a better person for having heard it. And I value that friendship more with every exposed truth.
Once again, I'm laughing at the universe's love for irony. For years I've been lying about my life to make others feel good, when the people who make me feel best are the ones who are the most honest. I've been worried I'd lose friendships if I stand with my whole truth, but again, the truth is, the people I choose to be closest to are the ones who are sometimes so honest it's shocking.
I've got a million reasons why my truth stretching is over. But the biggest one, is that I've realized that I've spent a lot of time treating symptoms, and very little time treating the ailment. I've invested in the short-term happiness of those in my world, while completely disregarding the long-term. As I meditated on this thought doing dishes last night, I literally almost puked as this idea popped in my head, "Maybe, I've even ruined lives." When all I've ever wanted was to help. Holy. Shiz. I'm glad I got to the bottom of this.
As I wrap up this post, I wonder if anyone else in the world will resonate with this, or if I'm just the weirdest person ever. The truth is, I write the things I most need to hear. And if it shines even a sliver of light in the dark corners of someone else's mind, I'm over-the-moon.
Splendiferousness and Reformed Liars,
p.s. If you're wondering if I've been lying to you, I probably have. Please forgive me. It was misplaced love.
p.p.s. But it's also entirely possible that when I was complaining to you about my life, I was genuinely venting, or confiding in you. Whatever the reason, if I shared a vulnerable moment with you, I want to sincerely thank you for listening.