I am a really good liar. Once upon a time I got everything I ever dreamt of by lying. All I had to do was lie to myself and everyone else around me about who I really was.
Here's who I really was: a dyslexic girl raised by a single mom in squalid conditions. We're talking cardboard-for-walls, tarps-for-a-roof, and road-kill-for-dinner squalid. I still struggle to own that part of my life.
In my early twenties, long before I'd had the chance to tackle my shame around the poverty I grew up in, I met my Prince Charming: intelligent, handsome, upper middle-class. He even chewed with his mouth closed.
I instantly adored him and set out to make him love me (even though I couldn't see how he might love someone like me). I became The Perfect Girlfriend, determined that he should never meet the real me.
The lying was subtle at first. I read the books that he liked. I cancelled my Columbia House membership and started listening to public radio. We spent every holiday with his family, because he was uncomfortable in my mom's half-built house.
And it worked! I married Mr. Perfect from the good family. We went to all the best parties. We holidayed in exotic locales. We hobnobbed with famous athletes. This was happily-ever-after, right?
There was just one teeny, tiny spanner in my works. I had assumed that getting that ring on my finger would prove I belonged in his ideal world. I thought I would feel better about myself. But there I was, and I still felt worthless.
Soon after the wedding, I saw my life stretching in front of me perpetually playing Mrs. Perfect. The prospect should have thrilled me. But instead I felt dead inside.
To avoid going home after work, I began spending every evening at the gym with my girlfriend. I would collapse on the stretching mats and just cry. After awhile it occurred to me that maybe I wasn't the problem; maybe it was the pretending that was making me feel worthless.
I couldn't imagine being the real me, because the real me didn't want this life I'd hustled so hard for. Although the prospect terrified me, the only comfort I could find was the thought of getting out.
I had to stop lying.
So one night I took my new husband out for a pint and told him the truth for the very first time: I didn't want to be his wife. I didn't want our life. It wasn't me. I wasn't me.
And then it was all kittens and rainbows, right?
I told the truth and my perfect life imploded. I walked away with nothing but a mountain of wedding debt and some very posh flatware. I moved to a tiny apartment on the cheap side of town and took in a flea-bitten tomcat (my ex hated cats).
I endured days of intense loneliness and nights wracked with doubt. But to my immense surprise, despite all I'd given up, I still felt happier than I ever had. I could breathe. For the first time in my life I felt comfortable in my own skin. I was home. I was me.
This is what I learned about telling the truth:
You deserve your truth.
First tell yourself the truth. Write it down. When you see it in black and white, it feels solid and strong. It becomes a foundation, a place of support.
Print this out and write your truth here:
Your body knows your truth.
In a culture obsessed with the mind, we undervalue the wisdom of our bodies. Research has shown that the body is a powerful lie detector. It's so simple that I almost missed the signs. Every moment I spent in my mother-in-law's house I felt sick to my stomach. My body was telling me to stop pretending.
Write down something that makes you feel sick:
When I finally told my husband that I didn't want to be his wife, I literally felt a weight lift off of my chest. My body was saying, "Yes!"
Write down something that makes you feel free:
These are your signals. Learn to read them. It might be scary, but what feels lightest and freest in your body will always be the truth.
Your truth-telling doesn't have to be perfect.
Truth doesn't have to be eloquent or exacting or beautiful. It only has to be true. Truth has a resonance that makes up for any lack of style. Sometimes you may be tempted to slip back into lying, and that's okay. Set a course for the truth. Keep putting yourself back on course and keep telling the truth.
You are gonna get a reaction.
When you tell the truth, some people genuinely aren't going to like it. Be prepared for their reaction. Trust your instincts. You probably already know what kind of a reaction to expect. Use those instincts to make a plan and get the support you need, instead of using them to scare yourself into staying silent.
You are going to be uncomfortable and you are going to be fine.
As a life coach I've seen clients make major life decisions without a backwards glance, while others had never-ending second thoughts. It can feel really uncomfortable to stand in your truth. Surrender to that discomfort. Allow it. Resistance only prolongs the agony. The quickest way out is through.
You are enough.
The most damaging lie I ever told was the one I told myself: "You're not good enough." That lie, which so many of us tell ourselves, keeps us caged, miserable, and desperate for approval. You don't need to be anyone other than who you are. You are enough.
I may be a good liar, but now I choose to tell the truth because it has brought me more than I ever dreamed possible. Telling the truth has brought me peace, and freedom, and an unshakable affection for myself, just as I am.