“Humans are chicken shits. That’s the only reason why we’re in these situations to begin with,” I say to one of my best friends over the phone. Let me explain why.
I was put in a rather uncomfortable situation recently, one that made me call up my friend rather late one evening to rant about the whole situation and ask for her advice. After dissecting every single detail, we both came to the disheartening conclusion: the situation could have easily been avoided if all people involved (myself included) had simply communicated more openly and up-front about… well, everything.
Yet reality draws up the opposite image: miscommunication left, right and center. And in some cases, no communication whatsoever. An endless spiral that is hard to break out of once set into motion. Had we simply been more open with each other, things could have turned out very differently.
Pride and fear
We – humans – have this infernal tendency to make our own lives (and those of the people surrounding us) so much more complicated. We hide behind our feelings, always driven by the same two motivators: pride and fear.
As a person who internalizes their feelings a lot and shies away from showing vulnerability of any kind, I have definitely been a chicken shit. One that would rather ignore a person altogether if it means that they can avoid the given problem or conflict. One that won’t voice the things that bother them in the moment but will rather hold onto them and carry them with them. One that is all about flaunting the I-don’t-give-a-shit attitude in the face of the people that hurt them the most.
Because admitting that you’re affected by something is admitting that you care more than just a little. And that level of vulnerability scares me. It also puts a dent in my pride. So I remain that little chicken shit, petrified of opening up, cowardly waiting for the situation to become even worse. Even though being more open about my feelings from the start would have most likely prevented the situation from happening in the first place. Even though I am a hypocrite for behaving this way as it drives me up the wall when others act the same.
It’s harder when there are personal feelings involved
Aside from in work environments, I have never been a particularly assertive person. The reason I think this comes easier to me in a professional environment is because it’s not personal. But when it comes to confronting people close to me or people that I care for… that’s personal.
So, when someone does something that hurts my feelings, I usually stay quiet. That’s not to say that I believe my feelings to be invalid, it’s more like my natural instinct is programmed to avoid uncomfortable situations at all costs. The fear of confrontation and that crippling fear of admitting to having hurt feelings get first priority while my own feelings are pushed to the side (by my fear & pride).
Yet my feelings still have to go somewhere, inducing long conversations and discussions about the issue with third parties. Never with a single person who is involved or should actually be hearing these things.
Why I am making an active effort to be more blunt
Quite recently, I tried being more direct. I had found myself in quite a misunderstanding with one of my best friends, a misunderstanding that went unsolved for over two years (!!!) because my awkward self couldn’t bring myself to clear it up; Fearful of hurting his feelings, confused at how this could have happened in the first place, scared of the uncomfortableness that was bound to ensue the second I brought it up.
What I realised was this: while I was trying to protect myself by keeping quiet, I wasn’t protecting him at all. My behavior wasn’t fair to him, it was selfish. All it did was let the misunderstanding dig its roots deeper. So, I decided that this was the time to be more blunt, to finally have that difficult conversation and clear it up once and for all. He handled it like a champ. He was so understanding about the whole thing, we both apologized and moved on. I couldn’t have dreamed of a better outcome.
That experience showed me that I have to start making an active effort to be more direct. That it is beneficial to be straight-forward. That there is nothing to be afraid of. And that I can’t always wait two years before addressing issues. I simply have to suck it up and confront it head-on.
Difficult conversations will hardly ever be comfortable, yet the longer you wait, the more uncomfortable they get. It is proven that putting our feelings into words helps us deal with them more effectively and can lead to more positive outcomes.
I don’t want to be a chicken shit anymore
Moving forward, I do not want to be a chicken shit anymore. This process will not be an easy one for me, that I am sure of. By being more open and honest up-front, I will be going against a lot of ingrained habits, ones that will be tough to unlearn. My UN-chicken-shitting myself will require me to push myself a lot more than I am used to; To willingly put myself in uncomfortable situations and to be more transparent about my feelings. I will have to accept that being vulnerable is necessary sometimes and that it is human.
I do not want to make decisions based on fear or pride. I want to make decisions that benefit both sides involved, that push us to learn, improve and become better people. And that starts today.