“Did you actually say that?” my friend claps her hand over her mouth, stifling a laugh.
“Yes,” I reply, slowly, wondering what is so shocking or funny.
I’ve had this encounter more than once in my life. I recount a story to a friend, or a family member, and as I tell the story I watch as they hold their breath, waiting to hear how I respond in this particular situation. Even though they know it’s coming, they’re shocked by my lack of filter, or my bold statement made during the recounted exchange.
What’s even more confusing is that I don’t even notice that I’ve said anything particularly bold or unfiltered, I’ve just said how I felt, instead of lying or pretending, two things I’m not a huge fan of.
My husband and I have spent some time over the years talking about my lack of filter. He’s certainly more of a measured conversationalist, whereas I blurt out my thoughts and feelings before I have a chance to think. We’ll discuss a recent response of mine, and sometimes the suggestion will be made that I need to work on filtering my comments. I value my husband’s opinion, so I spend a full 24-hours carefully weighing every single word before they pass my lips. Then I get tired of it, and go back to the authentic version of myself.
If you’re looking for an example of what I mean by unfiltered, that’s going to be tough. My entire life is simply lived by being honest and true to myself. That means when people ask me how I am, I don’t reply that I’m “good”, if I’m not. It means that if someone asks my opinion about something, I don’t patronize them, I tell them the honest truth. One of my husband’s least favourite habits of mine is my blurting out “this price is ridiculous!” at overpriced stores, as a sales attendant stands two feet away. Whoops.
Being unfiltered doesn’t give me a pass to be mean, judgmental, or unkind with my words. These are all adjectives that I don’t think describe me as a person, but if I ever slip up and say something unkind, I always apologize and accept my miss-step. I’ll happily accept the opportunity to grow from my mistakes, but I also know that I won’t get things right 100% of the time. Mistakes are not a reason to try and control every single word I say, until I become this unnatural robot who is a lesser version of my true self.
After my last conversation with my husband about my lack of filter, I finally put my foot down.
“This is my strength,” I said, firmly to my husband. It was the first time I had ever framed it that way, and suddenly it was like I was viewing myself from a different perspective. This is my strength, even if it gets me into a little bit of trouble sometimes.
I value authenticity and honesty, so why would I try and be anything less? It’s important that people never think I mean something that I don’t, which is why it’s better to just come out and say what I really mean. I’m the kind of girl who values open communication, which has resulted in a very open relationship with my husband. If it wasn’t for my dedication to honesty, my marriage would be weaker, and our ability to be our true selves would be compromised.
As a friend, I will not, and cannot ignore a rift in a relationship. I will be the woman who stays up all night, running through a grievance or difficult situation in my mind, restless until it’s been settled. That means I don’t have a ton of friends, but the friends that I do have are solid, friends who aren’t afraid to hear the honest truth - because Lord knows they’re going to get it from me.
I will never stop being the woman who hates small talk and shrinks away at minor pleasantries. I will always be the one who listens, cares for, and is actively attuned to the emotions of others. Is there a time and a place for open and honest communication? Of course. Do I always get that? Nope. But I am done feeling guilty for my occasional lack of judgment, when the majority of time my openness has led to stronger relationships and honest dialogue.
The world might not know what to do with us unfiltered women and men, the ones who tell it like it is and don’t shy away from truth over palatable conversation. But the best thing about us unfiltered brothers and sisters? We really don’t give a crap what anyone else thinks, anyway.