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I Tattle On Myself (There I Go Again!)

woman with megaphone

“My last boyfriend dumped me.”

Allow me to set the scene for you…

There’s an hour-long “BodySculpt” class I like to take every week at my gym. It involves jumping around with weights to loud music. Since that’s pretty much the only real workout I’d otherwise get all week, I added personal training earlier this year. That also happens at the gym.

I give a semi-believable approximation of my best efforts in class, but I pull out all the stops and put on my big-girl shorts for personal training sessions.

When my personal trainer, Sarah, shows me an exercise she wants me to do, sometimes it looks really hard. But instead of saying, “Oh HELL, no,” which is how I feel, I reply, “Okay!” as though she just suggested I eat as many chocolate-chip cookies as I can in the next two minutes.

I don’t want her to think I’m a wimp, you see. That I’m not trying very hard. That I’m not committed.

A Public Shaming … Of Me, By Me

Along those lines, there was a day a couple of months ago when I was in my BodySculpt class — nothing to do with Sarah and personal training — and I got tired halfway through. For the first and only time ever, I decided to leave 30 minutes into the 60-minute class.

Making my way through the gym’s main area back to the locker room, I bumped into Sarah, my trainer. “I saw you in there, working hard,” she said with a big smile and a jaunty thumbs-up.

“You had to see me on the one day I left halfway through,” replied My Guilty Conscience, to my horror.

Instead of just smiling back at her and saying, “Yup! Great class. See you Wednesday,” which is probably what Sarah was expecting, I had to yank myself out of the quitter closet and confess I’d left early.  Why?

I’m sure Sarah *wasn’t* thinking, “Why isn’t Tina still in class?” She was in the middle of her own workday, she couldn’t see the classroom from where we were standing, and the schedule of fitness classes (which have nothing to do with her) is probably not top of mind.

In other words, she wouldn’t have known I’d left class early if I hadn’t told her.

I’m Not the Only One

It’s bad enough when you’re the one who outs yourself. It can be just as awkward outing someone else.

Years ago when I worked in an office, I was having a casual conversation with a coworker when he mentioned having been in a certain neighborhood at lunchtime.

“Oh, what were you doing over there?” I asked, just out of curiosity.

He looked uncomfortable and said, “I … had a therapy appointment. That’s where my therapist’s office is.”

We were both embarrassed that I’d accidentally outed him as someone who goes to therapy. I’d had no clue what I was getting into by asking the question.

Why do we insist on telling people whose business it isn’t the very things we’re most embarrassed, ashamed or self-conscious about?

I think it must be because either:

1) We think somehow they already know, or

2) We think if they don’t know already, it must be obvious from our discomfort that there’s something to know, so we might as well let them in on it so they’ll stop wondering why we’re being so weird (because they can SEE that we’re feeling weird, we’re sure of it).

In any case, keeping our business to ourselves doesn’t always feel like an option in that “caught in the headlights” moment.

But having been many times on the other side of unnecessary and unexpected revelations from others, I’m encouraged to practice keeping my own counsel about my weaknesses, secrets and failures.

(Remember “Lions and tigers and bears, Oh my!” from the Wizard of Oz? Here’s a new one: Weaknesses, secrets and failures, Oh my! Weaknesses, secrets and failures, Oh my! …)

It will probably take practice to act as though people can’t read my thoughts and don’t know how short I’ve fallen of some personal or social mark. But gee, it seems doable if I put my mind to it.

I don’t need to tattle on myself. It’s bad enough I sometimes eat things I’ve dropped on the floor.

… D’oh!

Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

About Tina Gilbertson

Tina Gilbertson is a psychotherapist, speaker and author based in Denver, Colorado. She specializes in supporting parents of estranged adult children through therapy, consulting and other resources, and offers assertiveness training and executive coaching for organizations. The author of "Constructive Wallowing: How to Beat Bad Feelings by Letting Yourself Have Them" and the "Guide for Parents of Estranged Adult Children," Tina is often featured in the media as an expert on communication and relationships. Her blog on PsychologyToday.com is called "Constructive Wallowing."
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0 Responses to "I Tattle On Myself (There I Go Again!)"

  • Rosie
    August 10, 2013 - 10:27 am Reply

    Tina………again a very amusing article. I love your sense of humor! This is so true. Why do we feel like we have to “spill the beans” to anyone who asks? When I am checking out at the grocery store and the checker asks, “How is your day going?” I have to bite my tongue and just say “fine.” When really I have had the worst day ever! Then I feel like I lied to the checker! It is hard to remember that no one has the right to know all your “stuff” if you don’t want them to. Sometimes I feel like I end up blurting out more info to people I come in contact with, than I do to my therapist. And I’m paying her to listen to my junk!!! 🙂 I think for me it has to do with feeling guilty if I lie. Probably drilled into my head as a kid.

    • Tina Gilbertson
      August 10, 2013 - 10:54 am Reply

      Rosie, your comment made me smile AND you made a great point. Feeling like you’re lying is definitely a strong motivation for blurting “the whole truth.”

      This makes me wonder about when a boundary (a good thing) becomes a lie (a bad thing). Hm. Might be a topic for another post. Thanks so much!

  • Cheryl
    August 10, 2013 - 11:11 am Reply

    Great article! IDK… sometimes I wonder if it’s like what you were talking about in your previous post. I think as a society, we are so starved to talk to someone about real stuff. I know in moments similar to what you describe here, I am so desperate for – idk if it’s forgiveness, soothing, someone to say, ‘hey, it’s ok – it’s not such a bad thing to leave class early if you’ve overdone it today’… idk. Maybe just acceptance, or reassurance? If someone else can accept it, it gives me the reassurance that I can accept it too.

    IDK if that’s a backwards way of looking at self acceptance or not. I know we we should strive to be able to accept ourselves without the need of external validation. But I guess I still need training wheels on that one.

    Thanks again for the great ideas to think about.

    • Tina Gilbertson
      August 10, 2013 - 1:15 pm Reply

      Very interesting, Cheryl. I personally don’t feel like there’s anything wrong with seeking validation the way you describe. Unless you’re raised by wolves, self-acceptance comes from first having been accepted by others. Maybe that’s even true for wolves, come to think of it.

      Anyway, my point is that we’re social animals and we all need a certain amount of validation to get to self-acceptance. Thanks so much for your insightful comment.

      For anyone who’s interested, I have an article on my website on how to give validation.

  • Peggy
    August 11, 2013 - 4:48 am Reply

    As a member of the humane race, which we all are, a girls got to do what a girls got to do! Sometimes we’re perfect :).. sometimes we’re not, it’s all good. Have a great week, you always make me feel better.

    • Tina Gilbertson
      August 11, 2013 - 8:56 am Reply

      It makes me feel good to know when a post has made someone else feel better. Thanks for joining the conversation, and for the validation, Peggy.

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