Nine months ago a friend introduced me to the idea of the ‘law of attraction’. This metaphysical concept states that whatever vibe we push out into the universe, we then tend to attract back in response. So if we start thinking we’re fundamentally worthless then this idea begins to permeate our thoughts, our emotions and then our behaviours. All of this will all be picked up upon by the universe and as a result we’re more likely to attract people who are as worthless as we feel. Obviously this can be put to far more positive uses, and I realised this morning that I have grown to believe in a variation of this idea based on honesty. If we’re able to project our honest selves, we’re more likely to attract people who are honestly like ourselves.
Anyone who has spent time around very young children can have little doubt that we start life as emphatically honest creatures. Any kiss stolen from the milkman, chocolate lifted from the pantry or weight put on by a relative can’t pass without comment. And thus begins the first lessons in moral ambiguity. Those that raise us usually teach us that ‘white lies’ are ok, and that we should hold back the truth if it’s likely to cause offense. As we stretch into our teenage years we learn that no-one’s arse looks big in anything, that the girl or boy who pretends to hate you is often the one that is too scared to admit their secret passion, and that your parents will reject you if you admit you’re gay. We’re coached to know when to conceal truths. If we’re lucky we were raised to avoid using a lie as a truth, but rarely are we schooled in the dangers of failing to disclose what’s in our hearts.
I had my own collection of secret shames as a teen. My hidden crushes, my inability to contribute my virginity to a good cause, my dismay at thinking the Beatles were rubbish. Ironically it would have been far easier to choose full disclosure at this stage of my life, as I hadn’t yet started building a serious baggage collection. Now though full and frank honesty means admitting truly uncomfortable things. That unicorn-in-a-heart tattoo, the vocally challenged rendition of a Robbie Williams tune at my wedding, the huge hurt I went through when that blessed union dissolved. Fortunately though the benefits of deciding to drop all the barriers is never too late. Over the past couple of years I’ve discovered that although the exposure of your vulnerabilities means that you’re left with nowhere to hide, the significant benefit is that there is no longer any need to.
At the start of this year I formed an incredible relationship with a stranger, one which initially transcended misunderstandings. I met someone who I immediately felt comfortable with, and we spent six weeks sharing secrets, swimming with dolphins and grinning at our good fortune. At times I was jarred by some of her revelations, but when I took a moment to examine my responses I realised that our moral codes were almost identical, and I’d met someone else who had dared to forge a life in spite of other people’s opinions, rather than because of them. Through our shared honesty I discovered what could be gained by letting someone know the real me, and I think she found sanctuary in that too.
A drastic change in circumstances upset this delicate balance. We both fell back into old patterns of behaviour and fought to rebuild walls to protect ourselves. As a result we could no longer see the person we’d been so overjoyed to find. That brief, beautiful commitment had been built on a mutual sharing of everything. When we lost that we lost trust and faith in what we’d built and we both knew we had to walk our own paths again. There’s no more lonely feeling than leaving something like that behind, but we both now understand what incredible rewards honesty can reap. And I hope we’ll always be in each others lives.
The benefits of exposing my thoughts has also led to a significant shift in my writing. A couple of months ago I wrote an article that was a simple, open explanation of my thoughts. It was pure, unrefined, unseasoned me. It elevated my writing to a new level and things changed. From that point on I’ve had much more feedback on what I’ve written. I’ve found so many more points of connection with people who have been kind enough to read my articles, and then moved enough to comment. I’ve had my honesty reflected and it has given me the confidence to continue to write more frankly, and not to shy away from difficult issues.
It’s not always easy living your life in the open. We’re taught to hide our vulnerabilities, to reduce our exposure to pain. But if we can’t let other people know who we really are, then we can’t be sure that they love the ‘real’ us. If we can find people who enjoy our company despite or even because of all the things we usually hide, then the reward of continued friendship is all the sweeter.