More and more this semester I’m realising that in life being flawed is really some strange version of perfection. I had this glaringly obvious realisation pointed out to me last year that people will always love you more for being flawed and real than perfect and fake.
It has been quite the struggle, though, to figure out where to draw this line.
Honesty was particularly important last week on the 3rd March. The day that Lord Neuberger, President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, would visit our Law School as the legal figurehead for the Law Society. It was a day that would see the culmination of two months of planning for me. The pressure was on.
See, this was the thing… I was in charge of running one of the biggest days our Law School has ever had so I made sure that everything was perfectly prepared. I felt like I had to be seen as having everything together because, otherwise, why should I be trusted with this responsibility? But the thing is, how can you be a good leader – one who creates other leaders – if you constantly create the illusion that everything is seamless?
When I got up to deliver my introduction for Lord Neuberger I was presented with more than 500 faces staring back at me. Due to the style of the lecture theatre I could see every last one. And although I was prepared, have experience with this and was generally rather excited – my hands were shaking uncontrollably. Every attempt to trace my notes with my fingers failed miserably.
So what do you tell people? The ugly truth or the perfect version where I did the whole thing with ease?
Cautiously, I told them I was shaking. I expressed to them how I loved it but adrenaline and understandable fear caused a terrified reaction. And so what? We spend so much of our time trying to put up a facade of perfection that we forget how beautiful the reality of the struggle really is. And how it can encourage others to push themselves to try things they’re scared of too.
The importance of honesty doesn’t just extend to the scary bits, but the positives too. We are so quick to judge and be negative. So quick to complain in this world. Sure, being critical is key to driving improvement, but so is recognising the positives. We must push ourselves to point out the greatness of every situation. This really stuck with me this week because of the following quote:
“For some reason, we are truly convinced that if we criticise ourselves, the criticism will lead to change. If we are harsh, we believe we will end up being kind. If we shame ourselves, we believe we end up loving ourselves. It has never been true, not for a moment, that shame leads to love. Only love leads to love.” – Geneen Roth
Instead of being honest with ourselves and everyone around us about the negative things, let’s shout about the brilliant, the extraordinary and the commendable.
Think about it – the phrase ‘can I be honest with you?’ has such negative connotations! But why should it? Honesty is simply a reflection of reality, and in reality things aren’t as bad as we make them out to be, so let’s start expressing that.
So much in this world also goes unsaid. There was this illustration I saw recently of a cartoon novel labelled ‘things I never said’. It really hit me. We spend so much time trying to filter what we do and say because we are so scared of what everyone else thinks. There is so much regret in this world through simply not being ourselves; it’s quite painful.
Recently I heard the heartbreaking news that someone that I went to school with had passed away from Leukaemia. We weren’t that close but it was devastating nonetheless. When I first heard about his illness I thought about writing a message to wish him well but I didn’t want to seem fake or patronising, because the reality was that we weren’t that close. And now he has passed all I can think about it what I should have said.
We worry so unnecessarily about what could happen in a bad way, with almost complete disregard for the fact that the best things could come your way by just opening up.
Maddie, a friend of mine, writes an incredible blog (take a look!) and shared it on Facebook.
I gave her blog a read and adored it. It was so vulnerably honest. And my first instinct? To say nothing. Not to share my thoughts and awe. I had to push those feelings down. In the end what came of it was both of us feeling uplifted after I plucked up the courage to message her.
And then there’s just telling people you care. Saying you love them. Writing long distance friends letters. Declaring that you miss them. Mentioning how much you appreciate something they did.
What’s the harm? If anything, I’ve learned that holding all of this in is what does the harm. It holds us back from empowering one another, from forging exciting relationships with people and leaves us with a lot of regret.
These simply acts are invaluable at university where you’re exposed to so many different people; you can’t let them just pass you by.
Sometimes being authentic and vulnerably honest isn’t swallowing your pride but something you’ve got to totally own. Being flawed and human and exposed shouldn’t be something we shy away from – we all love it and are all empowered by it.
In this world sometimes going against the norm and trying to make a difference can feel futile. But we must not stop just because we can’t change everything. One person at a time is more than good enough. Inspire honesty as you go, and others will blossom and benefit from it too.
So, today, however small the step you take – know it’s in the right direction. Let’s just be honest.