One of the hardest parts of adulthood, and honestly, even just growing up, has been controlling this mouth of mine. It runs faster than my brain and apparently enjoys my foot in it. It gets me in trouble, again and again and again. I remember one time, as a small-ish child, I was taunting my neighbor/BFF over the fence, and her mom came out and scolded me, telling me to leave her alone. Even more clearly, I remember looking her mom in the eye and saying “it’s a free world.” I was probably 6-8 years old.
In my lifetime, I have made bad first impressions.. and second impressions… and probably third and fourth. I’ve overshared (arguably this blog is the best example of this 😅). I’ve defended the wrong people and picked the wrong side. I’ve alienated family members, because I didn’t like the way they treated someone I loved. I’ve hurt feelings, I’ve hurt the feelings of people I love. I have taken the blame for things I didn’t do, because I thought I was protecting someone I cared about. I’ve said things I think are helpful, only to have it twisted around and used against me. I’ve put people I love in positions that they have to make choices that they shouldn’t have had to make. I’ve asked people I love to choose sides. I’ve said things I wish I hadn’t and that I’m not proud of. I’ve said things that go against the very core of who I am as a person.
It’s not like I spew malice (or at least, I don’t think I do). I am just defensive. I’m an A+ student in protection 101. I have a clear idea of right and wrong. I have high expectations for friends. But I try to hold myself to the same standards. I try my best to be a good friend. I try to protect my loved ones, my advice (while maybe worded poorly) comes from a good heart, my opinions are (sometimes) well-founded, my heart is always sincere… it just hasn’t always caught up to my brain yet.
But I’ve also said things to be polite, to seem kind, that I didn’t really mean. I’ve said things to get validation from people I don’t really care about or need validation from. I’ve been fake, I’ve told white lies, I’ve complimented people for things are less than compliment-worthy
With all that in mind, i remember clear as day when I looked up at my friend’s mother and said “it’s a free world.” My neighbor’s mom looked me dead in the eye and said “not for kids” and this moment has always stuck with me.
I dislike being told no. I especially disliked being told no or that I was wrong at that age. I was humbled, but more pissed. But that’s not why it’s stuck with me. The questionable implications of an individual’s constitutional rights that give way in the statement don’t bother me either (maybe this is a topic for a different time). It’s the bigger picture, it’s the fact that she’s right, you can’t (kids or otherwise), just say anything without consequences. The world is not free from your words and your words, whether uttered when angry, when drunk, when hurt, or when embarrassed, don’t get a free pass either.
At the end of the day:
- Your opinion is yours and yours alone. Maybe you can convert someone, but probably not. You can definitely alienate someone though.
- Most people don’t actually want your opinions and if they do, you’ll know. They’ll say something like “yo Ashley, I really want your honest opinion.”
- It’s almost never a battle of right and wrong. But it is almost always a battle of feelings. Winning an argument, won’t ever assuage the hurt feelings.
- Impressions are important. Don’t blow them, or you’ll end up lonely in a group of people. Trust me: This one I know.
- If it’s not your story, you don’t get to share it. I don’t care if you have permission. I don’t care if you “know what’s best.” Share your own story and make it count.
- There’s nothing wrong with white lies and compliments. There IS something wrong with white lies and compliments to get white lies and compliments in return. If you need validation, validate yourself. You are beautiful. You are smart. You are kind. You are a goal setter and dream-achiever.
- Share your truth, but to the right people. The people that will hear you, hear the thoughts behind those words, and hear the emotion behind those words. There are some people that don’t deserve your truth. Don’t give it away freely.
- Defend your friends how you would want to be defended, but understand that they may defend you differently. Don’t hold it against them.
- While we’re at it, admit that others may not have the heart you have. That is okay. You can still do right by your heart, and just know, it won’t be reciprocated.
- Don’t get snarky. It doesn’t help anyone. And those snide little comments only feel good for a couple of seconds before you feel like an absolute garbage person.
- Understand that you aren’t going to be heard the same way you hear yourself. Understand that some people are listening with their heart instead of their brain. Understand that your meanings and thoughts can be twisted, even on accident.
- People are always going to hear what they hear – no matter what you say to them.
- Be honest with yourself and be honest with others. Tell someone that your feelings are hurt, but be willing to hear that you may have hurt someone else’s feelings too. Communication is a two-way street. If you’re the only talking, you’ve failed to communicate. You’re lecturing.
- Admit when you’re wrong and when you’ve been hurtful or when you could have handled something better. Use the words I’m sorry, but mean them.
- Don’t fall on the blade so someone else can avoid consequences. They won’t do the same for you, and years later, you’ll still be wondering if you made the right decision.
Basically, keep your damn mouth shut. Speak with your brain, not your heart. Or if you’re going to speak with your heart, let your brain catch up. The heart is a fickle being, it can say things it doesn’t mean, phrase things in a way you never intended, and can do irreparable damage.
I used to think that to be real, you had to speak from the heart, at all times. I’ve come to realize, that’s a good way to be real stupid, real naive, real selfish, real self-absorbed, and the best way to totally misrepresent your heart. You know, your good, genuine, kind heart. Your heart deserves better representation.
I battle with myself about this every single day. I still want lead conversations with my heart. I still want to be right. I still want to look kind and complimentary. I still want to push my opinions on others and tell people when they’ve messed up (at least based on my made-up standards), but that does not make a nice person or a friendly person, or a relatable person. This isn’t a person I want to be. In fact, I doubt any of us really want to be this person.
So Emily, if you’re reading this.. I am sorry about taunting you over the fence, all those years ago. ❤️
In the meantime. I’m keeping my damn mouth shut, the best that I can. I am working to only be sincere and genuine. I am working so hard to give the benefit of the doubt to others and to believe that I don’t know the whole story, or even 1/8 of it, in some cases. I’m challenging myself to let myself be wrong, even if it’s to protect feelings of those involved. I’m trusting that my friends and family know that they can always, always count on me to be their cheerleader and to stand up for them, but that they don’t need defensive Ashley on alert 24/7. I’m leading with my brain, then my heart. I’m learning to appreciate that every situation doesn’t need or WANT my input, and that is okay. Just know, I’m always here. This time, with two ears and one mouth.. that’ll try it’s best to stay shut.
Sunny daze ahead, sweet friends. Shut your damn mouth and think with your brain, THEN your heart.