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Why We Need to Share Our Honest Feelings

Sealed Lips

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” ~Nelson Mandela

She hurt my feelings. She was leaving soon to live in another country for up to six months. I knew that if I held on to my hurt, this resentment would fester, and my best friend would be the recipient of my anger.

I prayed for courage to find the right words. I didn’t want to hurt her. I knew I had to say something or I would allow my hurt to manifest into something huge.

The courage came, and I acted immediately. I dialed; my heart pounded. I was so afraid.

She answered. The lump in my throat made me silent. I began to weep.

I gently uttered, “I'm calling to tell you that you hurt my feelings. When you didn’t show up for my big event, with no phone call, no communication, it hurt my feelings. When I asked for your opinions on my new gig, you didn’t respond. It hurt my feelings.”

I stopped and let the silence set it in. Within a few seconds she responded.

“That was the bravest thing I have ever heard you do. That took so much courage. I’m sorry. I’ve been self-absorbed.” And the story went on.

She ended by saying that she, too, has been seeking to speak her truth, and that I had just provided the greatest example of how to do it gently and with kindness.

The woman I called is one of my best friends from childhood. Believe it or not, making that phone call was one of the hardest things I've done in my new way of living. I’m a recovering alcoholic, and I'm learning how to feel and how to communicate.

I spent my first forty-plus years sugarcoating my life and my feelings—putting a beautiful spin on everything and avoiding controversy at all costs. But that didn’t work, and the ultimate cost was I almost lost my life to alcoholism.

Growing up in a dysfunctional and alcoholic home, I developed the ability to shine things up at an early age. I spit polished every word that came out of my mouth.

I painted a thick coat of pretty on every fear that besieged me. When asked how I was doing, the simple “fine” or “great” would ward off further inquisition.

There was a lot at home to worry about back then, but I believed that worry was for the weak and that I was stronger than worry, so I locked it in a steel-cased compartment deep inside of me and threw away the key. Things were just fine.

And I did not even acknowledge anger. I can’t tell you where or how to access the anger that has burned slowly within me for decades because I have never given it a voice.

“Aren’t you angry?” a therapist would ask me on occasion. With a genuine and convincing smile on my face, I would nod no. I didn’t feel angry, but the truth is that I really didn’t feel anything.

I learned at an early age that it was just easier to get along in this world by placating everyone. I didn’t realize that while I was overly concerned about not hurting others with the truth, I was sacrificing my soul.

I know now that I was an incredible liar. I lied all of the time and to everyone. And while a lie about how I was feeling may have seemed insignificant, it wasn’t. Those lies were the most powerful and did the most damage to my psyche. They continued to reaffirm the idea that I did not matter.

I had my first drink at thirteen. I was a blackout drinker from the start, and alcohol let me escape from my fraudulent life.

I was a high-functioning alcoholic for many years achieving much success in my career and personal life despite my drinking patterns. I could mold the veneer of my life into whatever I thought would earn society’s approval.

After years of heavy drinking, I was graced with the gift of sobriety at forty-four. Let me tell you, getting sober is like growing up all over again, and it’s a rollercoaster of a ride. There are many days when I simply feel like a little kid, paralyzed by fear, overcome with sadness, or gleefully happy.

One of the many gifts of sobriety has been discovering my true self and creating new habits and patterns for living.

Over the course of my journey, I've regularly struggled with two issues—faith and honesty. I will leave faith for another post, but learning how to be emotionally honest with myself has been a brutal and slow process.

Like peeling away the skin of an onion, I find that I have to peel away my old habits and walls that I have in place to shield me from the truth. Every time I think I have it mastered, another opportunity arises that challenges my commitment. I find I actually have to practice being honest with myself.

A good friend of mine who has helped guide me in this new way of life constantly reminds me to pray for and meditate about courage. During my first summer of sobriety, I did this constantly.

I’ve had some hard conversations. Actually, the terrifying part was imagining how those discussions would unfold, but in reality, they weren’t that difficult. And, I found that people tend to admire and respect someone who can be completely honest.

These are the steps I take when I face emotional honesty. It’s a simple process.

  • Identify and connect with my emotions.
  • Identify my part in the situation.
  • Pray for the courage to speak honestly, with kindness and authenticity.
  • When courage hits me, act immediately.

For those who don't believe in a higher power, meditating on courage will help them find the strength within to be emotionally honest and tell the truth to themselves and others.

We may think that it’s easy to tell a little white lie to save someone else’s feelings, but is it? Wouldn’t it be easier to just tell the truth?

It’s funny, but I relish the opportunity to practice honesty now. And, it is becoming more of a natural way of life for me. If I feel overwhelmed by the truth I have to share, I begin praying for courage immediately.

I also have learned to speak with compassion and without hate or anger.

When I told my friend that she had hurt my feelings, I was overcome with relief, as well as a feeling of gratefulness for her friendship. By speaking up, it allowed us to grow closer, but I had taken a stand for me first; I had demonstrated to both of us that I matter.

Each day we are given a precious gift—the gift is that day. What we do with it is up to us. I choose on this day to be authentic to the world. It’s all I can be. It’s freeing just being me. I choose to remain vulnerable by speaking my truth and sprinkling love wherever I go.

When we learn to speak our truth, we become courageous, we value ourselves, we shine our light from within, we become worthy, and we feel, share, and connect on a more intimate level. We can inspire honesty in others.

Sealed lips image via Shutterstock

About Rene Brookbank

Rene Brookbank exchanged cocktails for mocktails and ditched her corporate career to pursue heart-centered endeavors. She believes that giving up substance doesn’t mean giving up taste. Rene created Love & Recovery, an online boutique, as a way to continue the celebration of lives in recovery. Love & Recovery specializes in tasteful and beautiful gifts for people in recovery. www.loveandrecovery.com

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  • LaTrice Dowe

    Honesty wasn’t my best policy when I was growing up. I lied through just about anything, including the truth. I hated hurting people, so sugar coating was my best option. I snap when the behavior is repeated, especially when someone hasn’t learned their lesson. I want them to be fully aware of how their actions affect me, and see what they can do to make some changes. If not, I’m walking away.

    Thank you, Rene, for sharing your story.

  • Hi Rene,

    I remember the first time I told a buddy of mine that he did something that upset me–it was a difficult and awkward moment. Now that I think about it, I used to laugh about that moment years later, but I came to realize that I was only being authentic–I didn’t, and don’t have to compromise myself just to please someone else.

    And I still want to be authentic up to this day. Seems that that part of me didn’t change after all these years.

    Your story is so inspiring, thanks for sharing it.

    Best regards.

  • Kathleen Robb

    Wow Rene, such an inspiring piece. I can really relate to not being able to express hurt feelings, I still find this hard and something I am working on. I particulalrly liked your comment that standing up for your feelings showed everyone in the relationship that you matter.

  • JenOnLife

    Thanks for sharing your story. I have to work on the steps you listed for emotional honesty which is difficult for me to do…baby steps. Overall, I’m glad that I’m getting better when it comes to sharing my feelings. I hope to utilize you’re steps much more. Thanks! 🙂

  • Jen…it definitely has taken me baby steps, and sometimes I take a step backwards. I just try to keep moving forward in this process of being super honest. I appreciate your journey in this regard too!

  • Thank you Kathleen. It is definitely something that many people struggle with…the first step to resolving this is identifying the issue. It is then that we can work on new behaviors. Thank you for posting.

  • Ethan..I love that! We don’t have to compromise ourselves to please someone else. We are just being us. Thank you for your insight.

  • Hi Latrice…I also can relate to snapping at people. And, I know now that I can definitely walk away from toxic relationships. I tend to surround myself with love and kindness. And the more I am enmeshed in those types of relationships, my life has become extremely peaceful. And, I am able to have difficult conversations when I come from a place of love. Thank you for reading and commenting.

  • Marina Novikova

    Amazzzziiing
    It should me like mantra for everyone
    especially for me

  • Lost guy

    Thanks for sharing

  • Rain Love

    Thank you for sharing this, Rene. I would like to say, tho, that while I definitely feel communication is important and it is okay to talk about things that we do and that other people do, we cannot blame other people for how we feel. How we choose to feel or react is always up to us. Nothing happens to us without our permission and choice, so it makes more sense to understand that challenges are simply learning experiences. Will we choose to embrace Divine Neutrality or will we react with lower vibrational emotions? This is a basic Higher Truth and part of Mastery ~ taking responsibility for our choices and learning to observe without judgment.

  • Alex Beard

    Thank you for sharing this, this is incredible stuff. I just started realizing this about myself within the last week. I am terrified to speak my mind or to hurt anyone or just conflict in general and lying to myself/others was easier. I’m so paralyzed by this fear I find it hard to be myself and make friends or connect with anyone. It’s very encouraging that you have made this jump and I applaud your success. I have a therapist and plan on talking about this!

  • Emotional honesty is so important. Thank you for sharing your story Rene.

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  • Maja Metličar

    Rene thanks for sharing your story, I think it will be very helpful for anyone in a similar situation. Actually, this is a good reminder for everyone of us. Honesty and authenticity make way for happiness and peace.

  • Trisha

    Such an inspiring article Rene, thanks for sharing! I also grew up in an alcoholic home and learned very early to put a lid on all my feelings and pretend like everything was just fine. Obviously it back-fired and at a certain point I had to acknowledge what was really going on. Meditation helps me tremendously to stay centered and honest!

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  • Thank you Trisha. Acknowledgement of the issue is the key to change.

  • Maja…I agree one hundred percent. Becoming authentic has been the biggest source of peace and happiness in my life. Thank you.

  • Thank you Murielle!

  • Alex, I am rooting for you. You can do it. I started with baby steps, and it becomes easier and easier the more we practice being truthful…and the relief and freedom that honesty brings is unbelievable. Keep at it. It is scary, but you can do it.

  • Rain…I totally get where you are coming from. I am not at that level of mastery yet, but am striving to be in divine neutrality. Until then, it is brilliant to learn how to speak up for myself and to identify feelings. When I was drinking, I never felt anything. I anesthetized myself. The more conscious I become, the more I am able to practice neutrality. I appreciate your comments.

  • Thank you Marina.

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    Wow this is so cool. I really love the part about speaking your truth with kindness and compassion. That’s so important as some people forget that. I am so impressed with your journey and how brave you are. Keep up the lovely writing. Looking forward to reading more from you 🙂

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  • Daniel

    It is so hard to be honest when I don’t even know what I’m feeling. I’m almost 4 years sober and some days, many days, I feel crazier than ever. Just a slow semi-controlled roller coaster of fear, giddiness, frustration, relief, guilt, gratitude, apathy, altruism, selfishness, lonely pain, connection, and withdrawal, anger, uselessness, self-righteousness. All of these and so many more. Yes I realize that I dropped into more negatives at the end. That darkness I’ve been hiding from is what I often find myself hiding in. When I first accepted the gift of sobriety it was thoughts of my children that pushed my towards life instead of death. Thinking of others saved my life then and can be so helpful now. Except when I’m hiding from my own necessary feelings and growth by manically focusing on others’ needs and wellness. How do I know when to focus on me, and when to get out of my head?! The first morning of the beginning of my sober life found me in the church of my youth and asking a God I didn’t understand or wholly believe in what I must do. The thought that kept coming to me. JUST BE HONEST.

  • Thank you fro sharing your story Rene. I also grew up within an alcoholic environment and learned to shield my true self and feelings well. There are a few people that see all of the real me, but I still finding myself hiding behind a veneer more often than I like. I’m in awe of your courage and inspired to find my own.