Opening Up IRL – Why Is it So Hard?

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Yesterday I had my first honest conversation with a friend of nearly 30 years about how I feel, even then I only skimmed the surface. See, I learnt early on in life to keep my real thoughts and personality to myself.

Why? I was one of those kids who never fitted in. Not with my family; they’re nice, but they don’t get me. Not at school either, so I was bullied constantly.

Once school was done I packed up and never looked back. In a new city I cultivated an image of perfection; the right hair, clothes and clubs, I never said a bad word and kept my opinions to myself. This worked and I found friends and a great job. Clearly being perfect was the only way people could like me. Being anything but perfect caused problems and scared off guys, so the wall never came down.

Problem is, perfect me attracted and married Crazy Cat Boy. Over the past 20 years I’ve slowly “changed” so that I can be more me.  The reality was that I was just too different to the person he thought he was getting involved with.

One real life friend, Kooky Canberra Girl, knows more about me than most. I can tell her pretty much anything and she won’t freak out, but that’s about it.

It wasn’t until I became involved in forums around ten years ago that I found a place where I could be real. Suddenly I was free to be me and people didn’t seem to run away. A whole world of sharing opened up. Being able to express myself openly (and anonymously) online has helped me be more at peace with myself and come to terms with who I actually am and what I want from life. I’d been living the facade for so long I’d lost who I was.

As a people person the irony of a bunch of people on the internet knowing more about me than the guy who shares my bed or my best friends is not lost on me. As a marketer I’m intrigued by my own behaviour.

I am (on the surface) a pretty confident person, and I’ll back myself to come out on top in most situations. So why is it so hard to open up IRL? Fear, insecurity? I’m not sure. It’s not that I think my friends will run away or CCB will bail. I’m just worried that I’ll have to be open all the time and I’m not comfortable with that, it scares me, I’d have to think about things I don’t want to face. So for now I’ll just be me on the Internet, as long as you don’t tell anyone, it’s our secret right?

I’ve Quit Guilt & So Should You

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I gave it up about 18 months ago. If you haven’t already done this, give it a try it is liberating.

I was a 3 pack a day guilter so it wasn’t easy.

I always had that feeling that whatever was wrong was my fault somehow. It comes high school where I was bullied everyday then moving straight into a job where the company culture was to sit the staff down and tell us that we should do anything they told us to because no one else would hire us. I already knew from school; comply and conform is the only option for acceptance. Doh, talk about negative reinforcement!

Closed doors, must be talking about me. Something goes wrong on a project that I’m only slightly connected with, must have been something I’ve done. CCB in bad mood, yup, must have been something I said or did. It got to the point where guilt was starting to control my life.

My light bulb moment came after a particularly trying day at work where it was announced that “not everyone will be going” to a long awaited event that I was a critical part of the planning for. I immediately thought; Well, I should take one for the team, I’ll talk to the boss tomorrow and tell him to leave me out. Then I went home and got ready for my walk and CCB got cranky because he wanted me to go and do something with him, he didn’t need me to do it, it was just that what I wanted to do wasn’t about him*

So I went for my walk feeling guilty and then it hit me… why am I feeling this way? I deserve to get fit; I have the right to want what I want.

Then I thought about the work situation. I didn’t notice any of the boys volunteering to step back, so why should I? I’m a key part of this team and I should be at this event. I’m proud of the work I’ve done to get this up and running. Bugger it, I’m not having that chat with the boss tomorrow and I refuse to feel guilty about it.

So that is the day I gave up guilt.

I feel lighter and strangely more confident when I reply “That’s a shame, what is being done to resolve the issue?” instead of immediately trying to find a way that I messed up and jumping in to help “fix” it.

Guilt is a highly addictive, nasty, destructive habit that is bad for your mental health. Giving up is hard, but not giving up is worse. Take a hint from Tay Tay** and Shake It Off, Shake It Off.

* He’s working on that

** I wonder how different my high school years might have been if Ms Swift rather than Mr Farnham was the soundtrack!