How many times have you opened your mouth to say something and the wrong thing has come out? At the time, it’s such a release to get the words out but later on, maybe a few hours or even days later, you’re sitting alone in your living room wishing you could take the words back.
This regret can naturally spiral into self-criticism – of who you are as a person, of your personality traits – and essentially, you can get very down on you.
And it’s not just saying the wrong things, it’s doing the wrong things in the face of what society expects you to be or act: I have to go to that family function even though I’m utterly exhausted. I have to spend x amount of money on a gift for their wedding because they spent x amount on me. I have to stay with a husband I don’t love because he treats me nicely. I have to go to church and be religious because that’s what my culture and family expect from me. I have to pretend I have my life together when I’m struggling, because it’s a sign of weakness otherwise. I have to pretend I don’t have sex when I do – and the list goes on.
I can relate to this, because I’ve lived it. I said the right things to the people around me for most of my life – the things they wanted me to say. At the time, I didn’t even realise I was doing it. The next thing I knew, I was married with a child and had no idea how I got there. The weird thing was that I felt as if I had not made any of the decisions that got me to that point, yet nobody had held a gun to my head.
Now in hindsight, I can say that I had made one paramount choice that affected my life trajectory: somewhere along the way, I had made the choice to cave in to expectations and be who everyone wanted me to be. Why? So I can be loved and accepted. Or maybe, I wasn’t aware I even had a choice.
Through saying the wrong things, we learn so much about who we are and what we want.
While this kind of existence may please others around you, what ends up happening is that you repress your true self or, in some cases, you live a double life where only a few people know the real you and everyone else sees the façade. Lack of confidence and a sense of who you are is what usually lands you in such a position. This is a common outcome, especially for women, who are generally steered towards finding the right man vs. finding who they are.
Why are we afraid to say what we think, or do what we want? Why does culture and society expect us to be good and do right all the time? What is wrong with saying the wrong things? Since when did being a human necessitate a 100% success rate in everything we say and do? Through saying the wrong things, we learn so much about who we are and what we want. Of course, there are repercussions too, but only through stumbling or failing do we learn how to pick ourselves up.
And maybe, if necessary, our approach changes and we become more successful in our relationships and even in our professional lives. Only through being our true selves will others learn who we are, and – who knows – they might even learn something, too. Maybe you will open their eyes to something they have never considered before. I know that through my divorce and eventual emancipation from my cultural expectations, while it was challenging for the people around me at the time, I can confidently say that many of those people have not only learned to accept me, but through that acceptance, some have also challenged their own behaviour.
I have to pretend I have my life together when I’m struggling because it’s a sign of weakness otherwise.
How we interact with people in all facets of our lives is so important and for me, speaking my mind – while it comes with consequences – has been extremely liberating. But it is scary, to say the least. I started off so quiet and then exploded in art and writing that is so raw that many people in my arts find it hard to swallow. How dare she speak her mind? She’s too controversial! She’ll never get anywhere acting like that!
But there are days when speaking my truth has extended beyond me; it has become a protest against the silencing of women. Now I am putting together a theatre show called KORALY: “I say the wrong things all the time” and I am afraid to put it out there. It doesn’t conform to traditional theatre. It doesn’t conform to how my culture expects a woman to behave or act – it’s scary on so many levels. But it is me. This is me. And if I want to create a dialogue with society and to inspire others to do the same, then I have to be brave, open my mouth and speak my truth.
Koraly Dimitriadis is a freelance opinion writer, poet, filmmaker and the author of Love and F**k Poems. Her debut theatre show KORALY : “I say the wrong things all the time” will premiere at La Mama in Nov-Dec 2016. www.koralydimitriadis.com