“There is a crack, a crack in everything / That’s how the light gets in.” –Leonard Cohen
When I say “show them your cracks” I’m suggesting that you show people your vulnerable spaces where you don’t have everything together.
“Sounds good, Kate,” you might be thinking. “But I’ve done that before, and it didn’t so go well.”
When you decide to show them your cracks, here are some common responses:
Sometimes the response is advice-giving (“She’s got a crack! Let’s fix it!”).
Sometimes the response is silence (“She’s got a crack! Ugh, I don’t want to be around that.”).
Sometimes the response is one of those really concerned looks where you can tell the person is thinking something, but holding themselves back from saying it (“She’s got a crack? The life coach? Um, she sounds like she’s having a really hard time and I don’t eeeeeeven know what to do with that”).
If you are someone who makes it a habit of showing the places where you are uncertain, or where you have fear, this so breaks the mold that it’s unusual. People don’t always know what to do with this.
My work isn’t about becoming fearless (I think that fearless is the new perfectionism). Like you and every other human being on the planet, I experience doubt, worry, nervousness, anxiety, sadness, anger, frustration, resentment.
The courage is the willingness to be open about imperfection. Show them your cracks, even though they might not respond well.
How do you respond?
How do you respond when people tell you about their cracks, their imperfections?
People who are inclined to give advice usually are only hoping to be helpful. The shadow of that is sometimes that they’re distancing themselves by trying to remain “above” the problem.
People who distance themselves are scared that simply by being around someone else who is walking through a life challenge, they, too, will “catch” that challenge, like a virus.
Others are disappointed; perhaps secretly hoping that someone else had it all figured out. No more pedestal.
And, sadly, there are others who will feel a delighted glee at someone else’s admission of struggle.
The response of others when you show them your imperfections will tell you a lot about who they are and what they fear.
It isn’t really about you.
We need more people talking about the places where they feel busted-up. And yeah, we also need more people who roll up their sleeves and move beyond diarist admissions of suffering.
But more than anything, when people show up with their cracks, they’re showing up as their entire selves. That’s worth something.We owe it to the people who show up to not pathologize their emotions.
You can fear things. This doesn’t make you dangerous. It makes you real.
If you want to live as a whole person, you’re going to have to be willing to not shut down anything, including the stuff that’s hard to be with.
It’s not easy, to live as a whole person.
But it’s definitely not easy to live as a person who’s shut down, or mired in doubt, or numbed out, either. It’s not easy to live wondering whether everyone would leave if they saw everything that you are.
Show people your cracks. Choose whole. Choose real, over fear.