How I Finally Figured Out How to Be Genuinely Me Through Writing
by Sarah Fader
Once upon a time I wrote a blog post about how my ex-boyfriend broke my heart in high school. It was my heartbreak and my story to tell. I wanted to be real with my audience. What's more is I wanted to be real with myself and share my feelings about being rejected.
As soon as my ex read this post, he found me on Facebook, and told me that he was offended by it.
Admittedly, I didn’t handle the situation well. In hindsight, I believe that he was trying to open up to me about his feelings. He was angry, and ultimately the conflict ended with him removing me as a friend on Facebook. It burned. It stung. And I was kind of heartbroken again, even though the last time he broke my heart I was 16, he was still able to impact me at 34.
The interaction stuck with me, because it isn’t the first time something I wrote offended someone else. People tend to have strong reactions to the things I write and it’s because I express myself candidly and I share my feelings about the way that I’ve been hurt or angered by them at times. Since that whole experience (he was my first love, mind you), I developed a profound fear of rejection. It’s difficult for me to be vulnerable with a romantic partner, because I am terrified if I show them all of myself they will get scared and run for the hills. When I sat down to write about it all, I was actually processing the experience.
However, what I’ve realized is that you have to be prepared for people to have a reaction to your writing. Your writing doesn’t live in a void, and what you write will emotionally affect other people.
Does that mean you should stop sharing your heartbreaks, conflicts and struggles with other human beings? Fuck no, it doesn’t! You are entitled to your words, and the other person is entitled to their reactions. And sometimes, you have an inaccurate perception of the situation. For example, a friend of mine recently wrote a post about feeling shamed for having a mental illness. I read it, and I wondered if I had shamed him. His words were impactful and raw. I was convinced he was talking to me. Instead of internalizing that paranoia, I asked him:
“Did I shame you? If I did, I didn’t mean to.” He told me that it wasn’t about me and that I hadn’t made him feel that way. It’s worth checking in with someone before making assumptions about their words. Words have power and they affect different people in different ways.
Here’s another difficult truth to stomach about writing:
Not everything is about you, even if it’s about you.
Yes, I meant what I wrote.
When someone writes about you, it’s their experience, their perception, their pain, their joy, their anger, their tears and their fears. The writer has the right to own their words and what they mean to them. They are writing through their lens.
In many ways, writing is a selfish act. When I write, often I'm doing it in order to process an experience I’ve been through. If I'm worried about who I could offend, I wouldn’t have very much to say. I would be censoring myself left and right.
Real writing—honest writing—is a true act of bravery. When I wrote that post about my heartbreak I honestly wasn’t thinking about how my ex would react. I was focused on the emotions that were lying dormant inside me. I wanted to understand them better and process them. I was having trouble connecting in romantic relationships and I traced it back to this trauma I experienced as a teenager. I didn’t mean to hurt him in the process, but unfortunately that was a side effect of my writing.
I’ve struggled with the fallout of writing about real things, things that matter to me. In all honesty, it has put strain on my relationships at times. For me, it’s worth that sacrifice. Writing is how I can process my emotions and come to a fuller understanding of how I grew or changed from a situation.
Here’s another crucial point . . .
Don’t apologize for your writing.
You can empathize with the person who was hurt or angered as a result of what you wrote, but you do not need to apologize for writing it. That’s your truth to tell and you have a right to your story. People will try to pressure you into removing your words if they feel that it somehow places them in a negative light. You don’t have to remove your words if you wrote with honest intentions.
When you write, remember why you are doing it. There are so many reasons to tell a story. Maybe it’s to process your own feelings or you could be writing to help other people who are going through a similar experience. By the way, I do not suggest writing as a means to seek revenge. That's writing with a negative or malicious intention.
It never ends well. Trust me—been there, done that.
Write because you have to. Write because you breathe words. Write because you need to feel your feelings and they are dripping off of your hands onto a keyboard!
The people who love you will read your words with open eyes and hearts. And even if they don’t, it’s okay. Your truth is still valid. Your feelings are valid because you feel them. Your words are valid because you wrote them.
Now go write your truth.
About the Author
Sarah Fader is a regular contributor to TIR. She's also the founder of Stigma Fighters, a non-profit organization committed to bashing the stigma and shame often associated with mental illness by sharing real stories from real people.