Truth. I’m a big fan of truth. The whole philosophy of my private and professional life is based on searching for, discovering, expressing myself and behaving in a truthful way.
But… there are as many truths as people. The truth is not the fact. The truth includes a subjective opinion and comparison with one’s expectations and worldview. The fact is objective, but the truth is always subjective.
Psychologists say that truth, when expressed with bad intentions, is aggression and this is one of the two issues that I take into account when I’m not sure whether to speak or not:
- What are my intentions?
- Is saying this here and now necessary and is it going to change anything?
Good intentions exist when we have good intentions towards the PERSON to whom we are speaking or when we’re expressing our own truth, but without adding revenge, buck-passing, defensiveness, ego-feeding or manipulation into the mix. Conversely, bad intentions are the kind of intentions that may be good for us, but not for the other person – when by telling the truth we feel better, smarter or more sophisticated. The worst thing is that when we’re close to someone, we do that in velvet gloves. The person to whom we speak believes that we speak with good intentions so they take our words as truth, not an opinion, and as concern, not criticism. I feel hurt but also guilty when I have that feeling, because an adult person should be able to react well to constructive criticism, right?
The other indicator is TIMING AND POTENTIAL FOR CHANGE: can anything be done with such information? If not, then maybe it is not worth communicating it at all.
The truth spoken with bad intentions is aggression, and the truth spoken in a bad moment causes aggression. I was in the La Guajira, a desert in Columbia, without Internet access – and I notified everyone about that earlier on my Facebook page and my blog – when I received a text message saying that there were 3 spelling mistakes in the text from 3 weeks earlier on the blog. This information was dramatic due to its content and even more dramatic due to its timing. I was without Internet access and it was Saturday, so Ania, who handles social media in the company, was not at work and I couldn’t do anything until Monday.
“But it’s such an embarrassment! You have to be more careful! Such things should be corrected on the spot.”
Is that true? Well, it is, and I actually agreed with her. Did she have good intentions? Well… whatever they were, they were served in velvet gloves so they looked alright and couldn’t be rejected.
Or: “When you’re in the tropics your hair curls so much that you look like a post-comatose lion.” Hey! Sure, they curl. But first of all, I love it (and here’s where I usually hear: “You can’t handle criticism” – because is it really so difficult to belive that I do like messy curly hair???), and secondly: whether it’s a post-comatose lion or a post-upscale-salon lion is a matter of taste and trend-savviness. Some might take me for a lion, some others for a hipster :).
Intentions can make you accept even the worst truth about yourself without having to swallow it. Then you can use it as a springboard for making changes and not consider it a rock tied to your neck or concrete shoes that drown your feeling of self-worth. Otherwise, even if you considered it to be rather sturdy, that feeling of self-worth may become crippled or riddled with holes.
For some reason we tend to consider our subjective truth an obvious fact. And then we step out of our role of a friend, partner, teacher, mentor or family member and wear the shoes of inquisitors hell-bent for the truth. When we label an opinion as “the truth”, we give ourselves the right to express it irrespective of whether somebody want us to do it. That all men must die, that we have to pay taxes and that the Earth revolves around the sun – those are truths. Now, that someone looks young/old, that they have to work/learn/try harder, that they need to be more independent, romantic, serious, that they have to make less clutter and eat healthier or that this story is going to end badly – these are only opinions. They may be one hundred percent true, but you can’t be sure.
Being a woman, I’m obviously sometimes a little touchy about hearing any “truths” regarding my looks or style. I have a friend, a fashion photographer. When we meet, he often says:
“Hey, this make-up is not too good.” “That dress doesn’t suit you.” “Your boots have too low a heel.”
I had accepted it without a word, until I finally said: “Hey! Your opinion is very interesting, but I haven’t asked for it, so I’d be grateful if you let me wear the kind of make-up and clothes that I like.”
“But I’m telling you this as a professional. Being a photographer I see every detail and I tell you this for your own good so that you look your best and are the most beautiful.”
Next to the fact that the truth needs to have its time, space and proper ground, we often forget that the truth is only our truth and thus tells a lot about ourselves, for example about how we perceive the world or another person. So it’s not only about someone not being ready to face the truth, but also about them not being ready for the truth of what WE think about them… I think that i’s easier to accept an opinion when we believe that the person on the other side of the conversation simply likes us a lot. My best friend, Becia, is a make-up artist and stylist. I NEVER felt criticized or pressured by her, despite her changing/improving my style of clothing, hair or make-up many times.
“You’re looking great now, but maybe you’d like to try something different. I can show you some things! Maybe we’ll choose this dress for the party and then I’m going to do your makeup. Would you like that?”
Sure I do! And during such process she presents to me her vision which usually becomes my vision in the end too. Why? Because she gives me space and says all of it with kindness and love. Both Skas and Becia look at me. At the same me, as I am. But one of them elaborates Power Point presentations on what can be improved in me and the other looks at me and sees the real me.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. To a much bigger extent than in the person beheld.
This is one of my deepest convictions.
When we were going to Gili, my friend Mariam said hello to a very fat little girl. They were both very happy to see each other. And when that little girl threw herself into Mariam’s arms she almost swept her off her feet (Mariam is a rather tiny person). Mariam told me that she had been there many times and she often met that girl:
“I visited this place many times and whenever I saw her, I only saw a little fat child. When I came here with my son, she was so kind (her son is 4 and that girl is 7 and they speak different languages), funny and open and so eager to play with Gianni and to introduce him to everyone so that he didn’t feel lonely, that whenever I see her now I see only a beautiful, joyful and happy child and completely don’t notice how big she is.”
Whether the girl is fat or not depends on whether you know her or not. What you see in her depends on what you experienced thanks to her.
When someone expresses their opinion, they tell me HOW BEAUTY LOOKS IN THEIR EYES. What lenses they look through, what is important to them and whether they see a HUMAN BEING as a whole or as a set of puzzles that can be improved or moved around until the perfect image is achieved.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. What is in your eyes when you look at the world?
My shorts that are too short, my makeup that‘s too strong.
My colours that are too bright, something that not only Skas didn’t like – my colleague told me in Copenhagen that I look as if I ran away from circus.
Mariam’s favourite word is love and it’s how she is every day: everything she sees in people she always sees through the prism of love. When I’m with her my criticism goes away. Well, not totally, but I’m much less critical than usual.
“You look as if you were Winnie the Pooh. It’s not that cold.” “I have no idea if it’s that cold, but I am that cold.”
I love tulle. In most cases, however, I am alone in that opinion. Because of that, even in Cannes when I wore my beret cap I heard: “You look a little theatrical, don’t you think?” I didn’t, but as a precaution I asked Tosia: “Hey, isn’t that too much?” Tosia looked at me critically and said: “It’s never too much. You look great.” Well, love is love!
What I love most is going out with people who see me first and my exterior later, because it doesn’t matter to them anymore.
“No offence, but your hair is kind of ridiculous.” “It’s not proper for a woman of your age/status/position to have such fingernails – you’re totally childish…”