Saturday, October 23, 2010

to say it gently

Very recently, someone that I love asked me what I thought of the new shirt they had just bought and were wearing. While I didn't think it looked terrible, I honestly didn't think it looked very good either; it wasn't very flattering, too tight in spots. I personally wouldn't have worn it if it had fit that way on me.

However, I'll be the first to admit that one of the great karmic crosses of my lifetime has been my hypersensitivity to how (I think) others perceive me and the often hateful, unhealthy relationship I have with my body. Clearly, I project my own concerns on to others when dealing with these kinds of things. So, when I told this person what I thought, I made sure to include that fact.

The enthusiasm rushed from their countenance, they went to the bathroom mirror to reassess their reflection, and they ended up changing shirts. I obviously dashed their good feelings, and I feel awful about that. They reassured me that they were fine and that they had asked for my opinion, but still I feel sorry.

For the longest time, I've believed that it's best to tell the truth. Even when it's not pretty or it's potentially hurtful to hear. Of course, I don't go around saying every little negative thing that occurs to me for the sake of "truth-telling." But if someone genuinely wants to know my opinion, I've believed that honesty is the way to go. It lets people know what they're working with. It gives them more pieces of the puzzle with which to respond. I think it's all about how it's expressed. There's no need to be cruel; whatever needs to be said can always be said kindly.

At first this little episode made me reconsider what I might should do if this kind of situation ever happens again. Should I just go with what's polite and spare someone's feelings? Or should I continue gently telling what's true for me, on the occasions that I'm asked? (And if you knew how I dressed, you'd be startled that I was even asked about someone else's fashion at all!)

This reminds me of why I think it's so important that we each find our own inner alignment. I think we would all be so much better off if we could reach for that state of being in which other people's opinions of us are irrelevant. I imagine it happens a lot; I know it did with me. We have an idea (or piece of clothing!) that we think is brilliant and that we're so excited by, only to foolishly ask someone else for their two-cents and end up having our not-yet-fully-formed dreams ripped to shreds. I used to ask for people's opinions all the time before I attempted something new, until I finally discovered that whatever is important to me really ought to be sheltered in my heart awhile before I bring it out in to the world, where it can be subjected to all kinds of opposing forces. Often I just wasn't ready or committed enough to defend it when it met with that opposition before I started opening my big mouth about things. If we're seeking advice and we truly value what someone may contribute to our ideas, then I think asking is appropriate. It's great and we could gain a lot from it. But if we're just wanting someone to agree with us, and to tell us what we want to hear so that we can have a temporary feeling of validation, then I think we're looking for trouble. Because, as vexing as it is, people do have their own ideas about things! And we can never know what they'll say. I just think that before we go asking other people's thoughts, we need to be 100% clear that we're committed - and in exuberant love with our own vision first - and to be certain that we're emotionally willing to hear anything.

I think I'm just going to keep doing what I'm doing. Ultimately, I'm not responsible for someone else's emotional reactions to what I say. My job is to be as honest and kind as I can be, because that feels right. And if what I say comes from a place of love, and it happens to be something that hurts someone's feelings, I think that eventually, that love will be what's most apparent. If someone asks for a truth, and I fail to share it because I fear their reaction, whose interest am I really concerned with?


  1. bravo. I like the conclusion you came to, as well as the thoughtful deliberation that led you to it.

  2. Hi Karen, thanks!
    It feels right. : )

  3. Honesty is important, especially with our friends. But you don't have to choose between honesty OR hurting someone's feelings. There are some great ways to be honest and save someone's feelings. Because as much as we can say opinions of others don't matter, they do. It's human nature.

    *mingling a bit early or late, depending on your perspective.

  4. Hey Governor Jen! I agree; I think it's vital. I think the most important thing is how we approach the expressing of it.

    *late or early, I'm glad you came by!

  5. I also think honesty is best but with tact. Happy ICLW! (#72 & 106)

  6. I enjoy your reflective posts Jeff. I was sorry to hear though that you have some unresolved (perhaps?) issues about your body, so just thought I'd share this thought - 'your body is not who you are, it is just where you live'. I think we often anchor ourselves far too much in our physical form and get caught up in all sorts of evaluations about it.
    I write about weight loss, but believe immensely in accepting and respecting our bodies - after all it's the only one we're going get!
    Hope this comment is not too off track....just a few thoughts that came to mind as I read your post.

  7. @ Krissi: I'm so with you! Happy ICLW to you!

    @ Mon: No, you are not off track at all. Troubles with my body get entirely too much of my attention. It's strength and resilience and service are definitely more deserving! I appreciate your reminders.

  8. some nice food for thought here!