This I Believe
I believe in the song “Say What You Need to Say” by John Mayer. I believe in being open and honest with absolutely everyone, and I believe I can be perfectly honest in every situation without hurting people’s feelings. But of course I also believe in the rule “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” in cases where it is pointless to criticize someone. I think I used to be more shy and intimidated by people, enough that my timidity hindered my ability to ask for help or even to make friends. I wasn’t good at speaking my mind or getting what I wanted….Even asking for what I needed was a struggle.
The most mortifying experience of my life happened because of this: I was eight years old and with a friend and her family at a huge amusement park. We were in one of the scary Halloween theater shows they had going on, and I mentioned I need to pee. My friend’s father asked if I could wait, and even though I wasn’t sure if I could, I felt bad asking him to help me find a bathroom, so I didn’t…until it was too late. I got out of my seat and walked out into the crowds of the park, frantically searching for a bathroom. Luckily I got into a stall, but before I could sit down I had wet my pants.
I didn’t understand the source of my problem until I got into middle school. Luckily, my mother–the social worker–could see I was having problems with being scared of what other people thought about me. She taught me to keep a less self-centered perspective and to realize that others are so concerned with their own thoughts that they wouldn’t pay that close of attention to mine. And even if they were, not saying what I needed to say would probably end up hurting me more than inconvenience others.
By the time I got into high school I put this policy of openness and of honesty about my needs into practice. Once on a date, ice-skating with a boy I’d been out with before, he grabbed my hand. I didn’t feel excited…in fact I could tell that this was a guy I’d much rather just be friends with. I let go of his hand and told him that I was sorry, but I couldn’t give him the wrong idea about how I felt about him. I enjoyed being with him, I told him, but I’d rather not hold hands. I could tell he was disappointed by the way he responded, but he continued to ask me to hang out. Today we are just really great friends. He told me recently that he was glad I had been honest with him that day, that he no longer felt that way about me, and that he was glad our relationship turned out the way it did. I constantly continue to try to say what I need to say so that I never end up wondering whether saying something would have made a difference … whether telling the truth would have made my life or another’s better.