tell what disturbs you, what you fear, what you have not been willing to speak about



So the little self-published book I wrote a foreword for (The Art of Being Unmistakable by Srinivas Raos) has grown up to be a bestseller.

Here’s what happened. Glenn Beck – yes, Glenn Beck – fell in wild and irrevocable love with the book, with the message, and had the author – “a surfer from Berkeley” — flown to Texas to appear on his show.

(I know what you might be mumbling to yourself. Glenn the hell Beck? But it proves that some things truly do reach beyond the political divide. Or abyss, as the case may be.)

At one point, Glenn and Srini discuss the power of telling your truth. The scary truth. Which reminds me of this quote by Natalie Goldberg:

“Write what disturbs you, what you fear, what you have not been willing to speak about. Be willing to be split open.”

Srini likes to say he wrote the book “by committing career suicide one Facebook status update at a time”. (The rough draft of the book first appeared as a series of lengthy Facebook updates.) Glenn mentioned that the day he started telling his truth on air was the day he thought his career was over: “instead, it was really just beginning.”

If you want to create something great, you have to put yourself out there to bleed a little. click to tweet

When you look at the things we fear the most, they include exposure, ridicule, and social exile (or worse). We learn that to risk these things is to be vulnerable, and to be vulnerable is to be weak — in a culture where only the strong survive.

We hide behind social masks and lists of best practices: taking our cues from what has already worked for the people who have gone before us, and shaping ourselves accordingly.

As human beings, though, we seem to have an obsessive hunger for what is authentic, for what is real. In a society as mediated as ours has become, maybe we can’t always describe what we mean by ‘authentic’ – which allows the word to become as overused and emptied of meaning as many accuse it of being. We know it when we see it. Or rather, we know it when we feel it…because it, whatever ‘it’ is, slips past our intellectual defenses and goes straight to the heart of who we are.

To the primal, emotional, nonverbal part of us.

It’s the place where we don’t think so much as pulse with the fierce recognition that your experience is also my experience: a part of myself kept safely hidden and unsaid. It’s like you got into my soul and said what I was thinking, or what I felt but didn’t know to say, or how to say, or couldn’t risk saying.

There comes a sense of relief and wonder: sometimes of shame lifting away, and often of illumination: I am not alone. I thought it was just me, but I’m part of something bigger. There are others of my kind.

To make something truly your own means to infuse it with your sensibility, to filter it through your worldview, to cast it in your voice. When you do this, you step out from behind the mask. You show your inner life.

You make yourself vulnerable.

Instead of saying what’s already been said, you explore a new aspect by saying what and how it is true for you. You update it, or reinvent it, or put a new spin on it, or veer off into new territory altogether.

Because it’s truly yours, it’s fresh and new.

Because it’s true, we pulse with it, resonate with you, and reward you with our time, our money, our attention, our love – and sometimes our hatred.

Truth gets under the skin. It shows up the places where we are the same — but also where we believe ourselves to be wildly different.

The courage to tell your truth includes the courage to be controversial. click to tweet

Truth – and truthtelling — are not for the faint-hearted.

Nov 1, 2013

11 comments · Add Yours

I like telling the truth, although I’ve yet to reach any kind of fame status – still, there’s a lot to be said for obscurity.

Nice post, like the way you think.


COMPLETELY agree. Just did this with a Medium piece yesterday – ripped my innards almost right out.


This post really resonated with me, thank you for writing! Am going through exactly this fear after leaving my career of nine years as a US diplomat.


That an aging woman starts to become invisible and slowly fades to invisibility


Indeed! I love your words, so reassuring.


This inspires me (as you always do), and your words resonate the truth. You’re a clear and powerful writer. Thanks for sharing with us.


Oh! So true and so well said. Thank you for writing this very timely and very precious post.


I truly believe that is people would be more open and truthful, we would all be happier because we would not feel so alone. I know that when I read about someone having the same problems I do, it really helps. That’s why I lied your site so much when I found it…you get right to the nitty- gritty and are so raw and open.


This is exactly what I’ve been thinking about for the past few days. Truth telling is one of the most freeing and empowering things we can do for ourselves and those who are listening. Thanks you.


Artists have been doing this for aeons…


A beautiful post and utterly true. It’s uncredibly brave and gut-wrenching to ‘be real’.
A tough work in continual progress – much harder than ever trying to ‘be’ anything or anyone else.
Thanks Justine – this is timely reading for me personally – have just adopted the motto “Get Fearless, Get Real.” Now to walk the walk…


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