I can remember specific moments in my life where someone has had the courage to look me in the eye and tell me an unvarnished truth. Perhaps I wasn’t always gracious in receiving the message. I could not handle the whole truth. But in the end, I always remember the sincerity of the messenger. I do not remember all the times someone has told me what I wanted to hear or what felt good. Those times are as difficult to count as it is to count how many breaths I’ve taken in my lifetime. There is a finite number for sure, but the exact one, I will never know.
People will always gravitate towards preserving feelings. It’s in our nature to be empathetic to the pain of another. Most sane people don’t want to intentionally cause pain or discomfort, so they will sugarcoat, evade, embellish, or sometimes lie to avoid telling you what you need to hear. You can get addicted to praise. Praise feels good. Praise makes you think that you are doing things right and people appreciate you for it. Praise makes you think that you are special. Praise can blind you to reality.
Usually there’s one (and if you don’t have one, get one) friend who will love you enough to give you the hard facts straight up. You may want to reject this person. You may not be ready to hear the truth. You may not be able to handle it. The truth forces you to remove the rose-colored glasses, step from behind the rose-colored wall and face that what you think you know isn’t what is so. This process is often terrifying. It’s hard to make good decisions while also avoiding the real truth. Sometimes that means you have to actually stop ignoring and act. You have to step outside of your fear, show up as a grown up, and deal with it.
Of course, it’s easy as well to fully reject what this friend is telling you. It’s easy to get defensive and brand them as disloyal or a hater. Let’s be clear, everyone who disagrees with you is NOT a hater. One more time for the back row:
Everyone who disagrees with you is NOT a hater!
People can disagree with you and have no jealousy towards you. People can disagree with you and not wish you harm. People can disagree with you and not think you are an awful person. People can disagree with you and still love you.
Being showered with praise and admiration can only take you so far. Even the best singers in the world still have vocal coaches. They need someone who has a vested interest in seeing them get better, not in making them feel good with how great they already are. The world’s greatest athletes still have coaches. The truth isn’t to crush your dreams. The truth gives you a road map to improve, to make better decisions for yourself and others. It also lets you know when it may be time to completely change course. All of that is okay.
Gaining clarity and accepting the full weight of it is hard. Many people can’t handle truth so they retreat to comfort. The problem is that too much comfort for too long leads to stagnation. Stagnant blood clots. You have to keep moving, growing, expanding to keep the blood flowing and to keep life going.
When everyone surrounding you showers universal praise all the time, it’s time for you to listen to the one friend who can look you in the eye and say, “Oh hell NO!”