Last week a woman published a video on social media mocking a bad date with a man that had ghosted her, and then she shared his name and his workplace. It went viral, and other young woman jumped in on shaming this guy. In a single day his whole life got blown up because he struggles with connection and whatever else drives him to ghost a woman. That’s shitty behaviour, yet these are the experiences that teach us about ourselves. We learn and evolve through things that bring us pain and anguish.
However, we seem to be opposed to learning from pain, or we feel like it shouldn’t have to be so hard. Often when we do experience it we’re so insulted and angry with the process, person or experience that we deal with our pain by shaming someone else. The moral question is whether it’s OK to go public and possibly have someone ‘canceled,’ because of our own pain. The answer depends on the severity of the action; that’s when we need time to collect our perspective of our world.
In my example, the young man, aside from having his own struggles, is being ridiculed publicly and has apparently gone into hiding. How heartbreaking is that?
Keep in mind that speaking our truth at the expense of someone else is slander. Speaking our truth as a story to share can help us support others who are struggling with the same thing so they don’t feel so alone. Sharing stories is different than trying to make someone pay for their actions in the court of public opinion.
I often hear people say that they’re learning to speak their truth. As with most new things, we flounder and mess up as we attempt to find our footing. It feels powerful to find your voice and use it in ways that honour yourself. If we can use it to tell our stories and avoid sharing someone else’s name on public platforms, that’s kind. When we share our story and include someone who simply didn’t meet our expectations, that’s unkind.
Life is about the process; we’re not gifted with wisdom when we’re born. If we’re lucky, we had parents or guardians that helped us listen to our bodies and taught us how to make choices based on how we feel instead of because we were told it was the right thing to do. Sadly, the latter is what most of us experience.
Speaking our truth is a learned process. When we first enter adulthood, we spend our time exploring our likes and dislikes, pushing our comfort zones and learning what feels good for us in work and relationships. We make mistakes because we’re not meant to know these things. Even as we age, if we haven’t had opportunities to grow and learn in ways that connect us with our voice, it’s hard to find your truth. If you’ve always sought approval from those around you (known or unknown), it can take a lifetime to learn what feels like the truth for you.
Speaking our truth is about learning to live honestly and to stop making our discomforts other people’s faults. There are times when people will do things that are unkind and undeserved; this is the time to move away from them or those situations.
The term ‘cognitive dissonance’ is a great descriptor of learning and growing. It’s anything in our lives that challenges our beliefs and makes us question our place in the world. It’s a phrase that describes the confusion we feel with learned information and what we feel when it conflicts with what we thought to be true. For example, in the present day, it’s the inconsistency between what we feel and what’s happening in the world that creates conflict in our minds and bodies. This expresses itself as tension in our nervous system, and we’ll seek truths that align with what is most comfortable. I’m not trying to simplify this time on our planet, but this does explain the dichotomy in our experiences.
We feel cognitive dissonance when we want to fit in so we act in opposition to how we feel in order to be accepted. It impacts our decision-making capacity — specifically when the options have positive or similar outcomes. We feel this when we receive new information that is in opposition to your belief systems.
According to A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance (Stanford University Press), the overall strength of the dissonance can also be influenced by several factors, including;
- The importance attached to each belief. Cognitions that are more personal, such as beliefs about the self, and highly valued tend to result in greater dissonance.
- The number of dissonant beliefs. The more dissonant (clashing) thoughts you have the greater the strength of the dissonance.
The point I’m trying to make is that we experience inner conflict as we receive new information; as we mature in our humanity we learn to either hide our truths and restrict our emotions or fumble through and find our truth. Our truth is ours and doesn’t need to be shared with the world, although that can feel immensely freeing. I include myself in having that desire. I’ve had to learn the hard way how to share experiences without dismantling others.
I do want to address our aversion to hearing truth: when we hear a story that challenges our own comfort or beliefs, we experience cognitive dissonance. We want to pull ourselves out of the discomfort — usually by disengaging from the storyteller (friend, family member or unknown person). We disengage by ignoring what they’re sharing, trying to prove them wrong or sugar-coating their experience — consider the centuries of minimizing women.
The only way to find our truth is to explore the world, experience new situations and watch our discomforts. We need to use our discomfort to learn about ourselves, not to make someone or a situation wrong.