I have been thinking about honesty a lot lately, in part because people have been uncharacteristically (or characteristically, if I’m not being naive about it) dishonest with me, but mostly because I’ve been lying by omission pretty much constantly lately and I’m not sure how badly I feel about it. I have begun equating my personal life with functional alcoholism; it’s probably not healthy for me, but it’s not affecting my job or my relationships yet, so I can sweep it under the carpet. Deep down in my morally bankrupt heart, I know I’m a mess, but I probably won’t do anything about it until I hit rock bottom.
I’ve also been thinking a lot about the faces we show to different people. Maybe with one group of friends, you’re a militant atheist, but with your Christian friends, you pretend their religion isn’t absolutely bonkers so as not to hurt their feelings. Maybe with one group of friends, you’re the loud mouth who talks about her vagina too much, but with another, more reserved group, you pretend you don’t have a vagina at all. I don’t know how you live your life.
When I am all alone, I am a negative, lazy, self-loathing hermit who is prone to fits of depression. My work persona, unless you really know me, is that of a positive, hard-working go-getter who always sees the silver lining. Here’s an actual exchange I had with my boss on Friday:
Us: [Complaining about some issues we had with our database]
Me: I prefer to see [these constant glitches] as a challenge!
Her: Only you would see it that way!
Me: [Feeling bad for giving her the wrong impression… again] I don’t actually feel that way. I just think unflappable optimism is hilarious*.
*In retrospect, I probably could have reeled in that honesty at the end there.
I don’t mean to lie about myself at work. My workplace optimism isn’t intentional. I AM that person when I’m at the office. I’m the social me – the me that needs everyone to like her. I say things like “Oh, you’ll have that information for me at 5pm and the project is due tomorrow at 9am? No problem at all. I don’t mind working for an extra 6 hours tonight” And I’ll say it with enthusiasm, not a hint of sarcasm or malice. The truth is, “I am pissed off at you for handing something in 3 days late, at the end of a work day, forcing me, the only person on the team who has met any of her deadlines, the person who gets absolutely no commission from this project, the person who is literally paid THE LEAST, to work after hours when I should be present with my children. If I told you what I really think, that would mean I’d have to deal with actual confrontation, and a whole other bunch of awkwardness when I have to work with you in the future so I’m going to let you get away with being a total fucktwat. Just know that you are taking advantage of me and I hate you!” But also, the truth is “I’m happy to work late because this job gives me a sense of self worth and this will help my paltry career. Plus, me saving your ass will make you like me, and if you like me, I can’t help but like you, so I’m more than willing to play the hero. Besides, I deserve to work until 3am tonight because I’m a pussy who hates confrontation. Enjoy your night.”
I don’t mean to be a martyr, either – I think it’s totally gross – but this need to be liked by EVERYONE makes it hard to be a real, honest, genuinely nice human. I’m clearly using work as an example here (and it’s an extreme example – there are people I would do overtime for in a heartbeat, without feeling a lick of bitterness, because I know they are working equally hard and I love them for it), but I could probably think of a million well-intentioned but two-faced examples from my personal life, too. More and more, especially lately when I already feel chock full of shit, it makes me wonder when being nice (personally and professionally) crosses over into deceit. Where is the line? I mean, I’m really asking here. Someone, tell me. Please.