on Experiments with Honesty and Empathy

Added on by Taylor Smith.

A few weeks ago, I decided to start being more honest with the world. There are still a lot of secrets that I am keeping—secrets that may never see the light of day—though this is not what I mean when I say “honest.” What I am trying to say is that I am experimenting with being a bit more open, showing a bit more vulnerability. This is an effort to be more “connected” with the people around me. Things have been really difficult for my family, me especially, over the last year, and I am thinking it’s time to be honest about that. In the past few weeks, I have made a series of Facebook posts that have been pretty raw, definitely more so than usual.

So far, it has gone pretty well, actually. People have been very gracious and appreciative of the things I have said and shared. I have had a few people reach out to me, privately, to say both “thank you” and “I think what you are doing is great.” Like I said above, there are still a lot of things that I am not going to share, things that will be too painful or heart-wrenching to let everyone see. But, I am feeling some relief by sharing these things, and I am learning that most of us aren’t as alone as we might fear. It has only been a few weeks, of course, but I have already noticed a difference in the way I think about my anxieties and treat the situations wherein I find myself.

I am sometimes quite shy. It takes a long time for me to feel inclined to let anyone “in,” to even participate in small talk. I can’t put my finger on exactly why I am this way. I like to think that I am more thoughtful than I am vocal (which I think is at least partly true), but I have a suspicion that I might also be a little untrusting, maybe even judgmental of others. Often, I am fine to just sit and observe or listen when I am stuck in a social situation. Parties and the like can be kind of tricky for me; I don’t mind being there, but I am reluctant to actually be social, especially with the group. This can sometimes come across as cocky or uninterested, which doesn’t help my case.

Something I am learning about myself—well, I guess I always knew it, but I am learning to recognize it better—is that I am very empathetic. I mean this in the sense that I have the talent/ability/skill/curse of being able to really feel what other people feel. If I see someone I know start to cry, I have a hard time keeping it together myself. This, even when I might be clueless as to why they are crying. In many ways, this is a good thing; among other things, it means that I feel like I can really understand people, that I can really connect with them. But, it also means that I end up carrying some of their burdens without realizing it.

I suppose my empathetic-ness could be partly to blame for my reticence toward letting people “in.” I wonder if this is a form of self preservation; talking to too many people, being too social might end up with me feeling too many things, carrying too many burdens.

If you ever see me at a party:

  1. You must have a life as boring as mine, because I go to something like one party a year, and

  2. Please know that it’s probably not me being cocky if I seem standoffish; it is more likely just me trying to figure out how to be social in the current context