Sunday, April 9, 2017

On Being Yourself and Saying "I Can't Share That"

I've decided that I want to be myself all the time, including at work, and including with people I'm "supposed" to make a good impression on such as a partner's family and friends. I know lots of resources will say that that's a bad idea, that it's just part of life that you don't get to really be yourself at work, but that is not acceptable to me. It's my life, I'm not a chameleon, and I plan to be myself all the time.

I thought about this last year, when I wrote my New Year's resolution for 2016, and it's come up again this year as I'm working on my Never Growing Up post. For me, when I'm in situations like work where I don't feel like I can share everything that I'd like to share, I want to get comfortable just saying straight out, "I don't know if I can share that."

It's not that people ask me really private questions or anything. For the most part, I like to have intimate conversations with people and I want to give honest answers to questions that most people ask. However, it often happens that when someone asks a question that seems casual, that they clearly don't intend to be intimate, my honest answer to the question is something that they might judge me for. It's especially something that I get concerned about at work. I used to handle these situations by telling small lies. For example, if I wasn't sure I should tell someone what my New Year's resolution was, I would say that I hadn't made one. If I wasn't sure I should tell someone what my party theme was, I would say that it didn't have a theme. If I wasn't sure I should tell someone why I wasn't feeling well, I would say that I was just tired. Little things like that. But what I've decided now is that when I'm questioning whether it's okay to share the truth, I'm just going to be honest about that. But I'm not going just to say, "That's private," which would put the topic completely off-limits. I'm going to say that I'm not sure if I should share it. I'm going to say this with hesitation, let the other person know that I'm questioning whether it's work-appropriate or whether it's something that they might judge, and let them either drop the subject or tell me that it is okay to share with them. And if something is deeply wrong and it's not something I can talk about fully at work, I am not going to lie and say that I'm just tired or that nothing is wrong. I'm going to say something along the lines of, "Yeah, I'm not feeling well," or "There's a lot going on," or, "Something bad did happen, but it's not something I can talk about right now." All of those responses make me feel soooooooo much better inside than if I lied and said I'm just tired. So that's what I'm going to do from now on. The only exception is if I really, truly want to keep something private from someone, in which case I might lie to protect my privacy, but if it's a case where I would like to share but I'm worried about how they'll react or whether it's okay to share in terms of work-appropriateness, I'm going to use one of the responses I gave above.

I'm going to start doing the same thing with anything that I don't want to be judged about. If someone asks me a question about, for instance, how much money I spent on something, I'm just going to say, "I don't want to share that because I don't want to be judged about it," rather than pretending that I don't remember.

I also want to get firmer about not having conversations that I don't want to have. Like, sometimes I feel okay discussing experiences like college and the breakup, but other times, if I don't know a person very well, I worry about their reaction making me feel worse. If I think that's the case and I don't want to take the risk, I want to be comfortable saying, "I don't want to get into that right now because it's going to make me too upset." And I'm going to stick to that. When I was a senior in college, I had tons of first-years demanding information out of me about why I hated the school when I told them that it would make me severely depressed to discuss it with them, but they kept pushing me because their knowledge was more important to them than my mental health. Going forward, I am not bending once I've said that I won't discuss something.

For the most part, I do want to share most stuff, I just want to let people know when I'm not sure if it's okay to share or when I'm choosing not to share because I don't want to be judged. I don't want to lie about stuff anymore.

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