“Fake a frown, you hurt others. Fake a smile, you hurt yourself.” – Unknown
For the last ten months I have had the privilege of becoming a part of a community that often shares explicit stories, real life events (that don’t always have a happy ending) and truth to a point that hurts. Many of us don’t have college degrees nor do we claim to be experts in any particular field, but what we do have is our voices and courage in combination with our life experiences. And for some uncanny reason (different for each of us I suppose) we dare to place our business on the street or worse, the internet. I believe most of us have come to a place in our lives where impressing others truly no longer matters. We have defied this myth as mere words and choose to “live” them in our blogs and other forms of expression. Even as we work through our personal struggles, writing has become our personal therapy. Our smiles when they come, our genuine, no longer fake. We no longer seek to please a crowd or gain approval from others. What we have is all we have, however we also realize that our stories are not over yet. As I read other blogs, I am encouraged by the thousands of people who dare to share their truth while encouraging others along the way. I am encouraged that it’s okay to be sad when things aren’t good. I’ve learned that being strong does not always lie in my ability to hold it all together or present a fake smile, but if often lies in my ability to allow myself to breakdown when I need to as a way to release and regain the strength that I so desperately need to maintain and sustain.
As much as we may profess to agree with these statements, for many of us it still presents a real challenge to be real with others, even ourselves at times. I submit that we have deferred to simply presenting a fake smile versus saying how we truly feel. All in the name of what, keeping the peace, not hurting someone else’s feelings, (although we hurt) and making others happy at our own expense? What a tragic life to live. I know because I have lived that life. I was afraid to share what was truly happening in my heart because I didn’t want to hurt someone else. All I gained from that was living a life full of lies, primarily to myself first and then the ones I cared most about. A recipe for authentic emptiness.
So what happens when we decide to become real with ourselves and our immediate surrounding world? What happens when we stop pretending all is well when it isn’t? This is not to say that our entire collage of family and friends should know the intimate details of our lives, but who does? Who really knows you and do you think it’s even essential that someone else does? When you leave this earth who will authentically be able to share about the dash in between your birth and your death? The dash is what matters, for it’s the legacy that you leave on earth. There are couples that have been together for years that still live behind secrets they are ashamed to disclose to one another. Yes it is a risk, yes it is scary, but what’s the point of pretending? Does that form of safety bring closeness to your relationship, or does it secure the wedges that already exist between you? I guess the real question is does it even matter to you? On the surface, it probably doesn’t because most of us have learned the art of deference. We allow our careers, television, other pseudo relationships, alcohol, drugs and many other forms of distractions to substitute or numb our need to truly connect. I have learned that this is truly the great tragedy! To leave the earth unknown by the ones that are allegedly the closest to us.
I submit that dying unknown is equivalent to dying alone, which is one of the greatest professed fears of people on their death-bed.
Although this individual has family and friends around them, they live in a continuum of secrets and self-perpetuated illusions, usually all in the name of pride or fear. Typically when we think of the secrets this person carries, we automatically imagine some horrendous acts, but honestly it’s the small things that separate us. It’s the small things that keep us at a distance and because they are small, they are easier to hide and excuse . We can easily claim ignorance or remain aloof to the reality of our decision to be fake. We learn how to talk our way through anything, all in the name of establishing a boundary and keeping people at bay. Ultimately this becomes our way of life until we face a life-changing event that demands our truth or worse, our lies become fully exposed. Although that day may seem and feel like the worse moment of your life, it is truly an opportunity to start over being your authentic self for once, and hopefully for remainder of your life.
Ultimately when we choose to be something other than who we are, we systematically forfeit the advantages of what wholeness brings. If I lie to my God, my spouse, my therapist, or the closest people to me, how will I ever expect to move away from that current state of emptiness and sadness? When my smile is designed only to keep others away from my place of pain, more than likely it will be effective in doing just that. So the cycle continues and there I will remain, alone. However when we choose to open up and bring to the surface the depths of who we are, one day at a time whether we’re smiling or not, our lives will fill with a genuine substance that only authentic truth can bring. When our hearts our broken and we no longer see a need to deny the hurt, when disappointment comes our way and we refuse to dull it with artificial measures, and when we finally realize that our anger is a secondary emotion designed to mask deep hurt is when we will pursue the help that our soul needs.
As I continue to write new posts for this blog, I’ve become apart of a greater community of people who have made the choice to release ridiculous inhibitions, unfounded fears and senseless reasons to not become transparent. For sure there is a cost, which can range from personal ridicule, hurtful critique and our vulnerabilities being exposed to the world. But when you have come to the place that you know there is a greater reward for doing it regardless, (and often afraid) there really is no option. What we desire in our hearts is to express all that we have, no holds bar. Of course we are selective on who gets in, but when you see us smile you best be assured that it comes from within. These are the smiles that light up the world and make it a better place to live in, even it if took a tragedy to forge it. At least now when I smile I’m no longer pretending, I’m just being me. I suggest everyone try it.
2 thoughts on “When There is Sadness Behind Your Smile”
I’ve always considered radical honesty a revolutionary choice! To be honest not only with those around us, but most importantly, to ourselves. For a long time, I hid my desires & needs from even myself. It felt much safer that way, to only strive for what (I assumed) others thought best! But now that I’ve decided to embrace honesty, I’ve discovered a new (inner) world of experience and from that, a deeper understanding and appreciation—a more profound love for myself. Great post, Hank!
Hello Sarurah, radical honesty with ourselves. Hmmm… probably not a popular concept huh? It’s easier to lie to ourselves isn’t it? You hit on some key points that step on lots of toes, like how it’s safer to strive for others versus ourselves. Where do you think this comes from? Is it a human condition? I’m curious to hear your point of view. What caused you to change Sarurah? What brought you to the place of embracing honesty for yourself? I believe we all need to hear the amount of courage it took for you to come to this place. Indeed it is a more profound love of yourself. Thanks so much for commenting!