When Your Truth Owns You

“Own Your Truth”

This is the phrase touted by many life coaches, spiritualists, baristas, and best friends. It’s supposed to set you free. The idea is that if you embrace every hard truth about yourself – the ugly parts, the hard to admit parts, the flamboyant or extravagant parts – you will live more authentically and therefore more healthfully. It makes sense, doesn’t it? When we lie, even to ourselves, it causes physical harm to our bodies and our psyche. It’s exhausting to remember who knows what or wondering if a truth will contradict a lie you told. We wear ourselves out trying to live in a made-up world.

So I took my first steps into owning a truth I had buried long ago. Because writing is often akin to breathing for me, I wrote my truth first. My friend, Truth, was at the other end of my writing. I told him many – but not every – ugliness of my truth. I bled out in words the smell, the taste, the sound, the pain of my truth. My life was laid bare to him. Every word was like a jagged splinter being ripped from my skin. But I pulled every one out and set it between us. Here is my life – the part I wanted no one to know, the part I’ve tried to outrun, the part that has boiled inside me for a lifetime. The shrapnel lay there between us, covered by silence. Truth wrote back to me. His words enveloped me in a hug from which I never wanted to emerge.

When I first wrote my truth to him, there was no cathartic moment. It wasn’t a relief to expel the words. Every word was painful to get out and the anticipation of what would follow was agonizing. No one ever said owning your truth would be easy. I suppose if it were an easy thing, we wouldn’t have hidden that truth from the world. But, I didn’t feel ‘authentic.’ I felt more scared and broken than I had before I wrote to Truth. I felt exposed and vulnerable. There was no strength in speaking my truth to someone. There was no relief in not hiding.

I continued to struggle – with my truth, with not feeling freed by my revelation to my friend, with still feeling counterfeit in my own life. I decided that perhaps owning your truth to one person in a very private way is not exactly how being authentic works. But, I didn’t feel ready to share publicly. I wasn’t one to stand on a mountaintop and shout to the world. I tentatively shared with another important person in my life. The words were a little less biting this time. Still clumsy and bent around an incomplete story. Again, the shrapnel littered the space between us and silence hovered in the space above. Two people I loved now knew me in a very different way. This is a strikingly vulnerable place to live.

This was now over 18 months ago. This 18 months has been barbarous for me. There is no freedom. Although there are people to whom I can be fully who I truly am, I feel as guarded as I ever did. I still feel the weight of the mask I’ve worn for years. Accepting a truth within myself, one from which I’ve run and hid for more than half my life, I thought would help me feel whole and less broken. It has not. Owning my truth has become more of burden in my life than burying it in a dark corner of my soul ever was. It was a nagging afterthought before. It was a murkiness that lingered under the surface of my life. Now it is this obscurity that hangs heavy over my every thought. A blackness that infects my days.

Perhaps I was less successful with owning my truth because I wasn’t quite ready for it yet. I was pushed into my confession by overwhelming external pressures. It was fully my decision, but I was driven by a desire to make sense of crushing feelings stemming from cultural changes happening around us. I thought owning this truth would help me make sense of the anger, hatred, fear, and despair I was feeling. It may have. Slightly. Temporarily. As I look back on these 18 months, there is a part of me that wishes I’d never revealed this truth to anyone. The people who know my story have lovingly guarded my privacy. They have held my honesty with respect and genuine care. I thank them for that. They have respected my need to hold details back or to share everything with a flood of words and emotions. They have given me the safe harbor I so desperately was seeking. But, in the end, I did not own my truth. I have merely allowed it to own me in a more open and encompassing way.

If you are listening to your life coach, spiritualist, barista, or best friend when they’re telling you to Own Your Truth or Live Your Truth, take it slow. Make it your choice. Don’t get caught up in the exciting appeal of all it could mean for you. Remember that this is a life-long commitment, not a day trip. There isn’t an end point. Owning and living a truth is an every day event. It will be your new normal every single day. Prepare yourself for this. If you take those steps forward into a more authentic life, I wish you well. I hope you make the journey better than I have. I will still be here, navigating my way through the muck I’ve created. It’s a process that goes on.

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