When I got this question, my instinct was to respond with a question (a classic coach move). I was curious about what made this person’s brain immediately associate being real with being a complainer. After taking some time to consider, I realized that I actually resonated with the association. I don’t want to project too much onto this person, but I will speak personally for a moment.
When I think about “being real,” I automatically assume that means sharing when things are not optimal. And by that, I mean when the ish is hitting the fan. When my anxiety is doing the absolute most. When my business isn’t going well. When I’m so frustrated with dating, I would rather take a cheese grater to the forehead than open Hinge one more time.
I’m not sure if you relate to this, but I like to play things close to the vest (says the writer who regularly spills my guts to the internet). Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that I like to share things in past tense, once I have a handle on them or at least a plan. Sometimes, that’s a healthy instinct. But sometimes, it’s more about saving face. I like for people to think I have everything under control. So my fear of becoming a complainer might be legit, but there might also be a tinge of something else going on. Maybe I also want to protect my image, and I’m wrapping a nice story around it to make myself feel better.
Ok, I’ll stop projecting and get to the meat. How to be real with our people without becoming a complainer. If you’re really worried about it, you could always ask for feedback from a trusted friend. I think it’s also good to communicate what you’re looking for from the other person before being real. For example, if you’re just looking for someone to listen while you process big feelings versus you’re looking for advice on how to solve a problem.
I’ve also done an exercise with my coach that you might find helpful. We set a timer for three minutes, then I vent my brains out on everything, no matter how irrational or embarrassing, or disempowering. When the timer is done, we discuss how it felt and where I’d like to focus my energy next.
At the end of the day, being real, being vulnerable is essential to close relationships. I’m not talking about emotional dumping or expecting others to fix our feelings. I’m talking about sharing what’s hard and what’s great with one another and sticking around through it all. It’s not for every relationship in our lives, but for safe relationships, we don’t need to carry our big stuff alone.
If this was helpful and you’d like to go deeper, I’d love to work together! I’m passionate about helping singles make the most of their right-now lives. If you have a relational or life goal, I can help you get there. It would be an honor to be in your corner. You can fill out the interest form here, then you’ll be able to schedule your free 60-minute intro call.
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