Honesty Doesn't Mean You're Mean. / by Ashley Cole

I once heard someone call me a bitch… not in a cute ‘we’re friends and that’s okay’ way but in a way that sounded more like ‘nails dragging on a chalkboard that stab at your eardrums until they’re raw’ kind of way. Once it was said, the word hung around inside my head constantly making me feel as though I needed to own it. I wanted my entire world to think I was a bitch. I wanted my snark to override my anxiety, to envelop me and make me cooler than I was or ever have been. At least, that’s what I thought I wanted.

I cloaked myself in bitchiness, calling it ‘brutal honesty’. What I didn’t know was that brutal honesty does not equate to being a complete bitch. I spent a lot of time priding myself on being my version of honest- telling people what I disliked about them or what they’d done- with rapid fire execution. I didn’t care if it hurt their feelings, better they know what was wrong with them than live life thinking they had it right. What I didn’t understand was that I was just being mean. It wasn’t funny even though people would laugh. It was painful.

So, this is how I realized that I was actually a bitch and how I plan to get my shit together enough to be honest with myself about who I was and how I plan to change that.

Rewind to September 2016, long before I had any thought to the fact that I might be the shitty person in the room versus all of the people I felt were being awful towards me. I put in my two weeks notice after not receiving a promotion at my job; a job where I’d received a promotion only a mere 6 months previously but I felt as though I was going nowhere fast. I know, insert your eye roll and something about millennial privilege here because you’re exactly right. Instead of realizing I was being a brat, I got angry at a co-worker (and friend) who got the promotion. I said to everyone else exactly how I was feeling about it, calling the co-worker things that she really wasn’t and discrediting her work that she had been doing for years. This isn’t the beginning of my bitchiness cloaked in honesty, but it definitely was the beginning to an end.

I complained to everyone. I whined about how everything she wasn’t doing every chance I could blatantly disregarding everything she was doing. I bitched about it to the point that I know I lost a few people’s respect. It bubbled in me like soured milk. And the fact that I was so nasty still does. I wish I could tell you there’s a good resolution to this, but there isn’t. I was so consumed by it that once I left the job I turned my sights to a new manager that truthfully, turned out to not a super great manager, but instead of saying why he wasn’t a good person and giving concrete examples I just complained about him and called him a ‘used car salesman’. I focused more on his appearance and personal issues than I did on what actually caused me strife with him. While I wasn’t wrong that he wasn’t a good person or manager, I was wrong in the way I addressed it. Again, I’d cloaked bitchiness in my own version of honesty.

Once I was removed from the position, I found myself trying to connect with the friends I’d made whilst there. I longed to have the closeness with the individuals I thought I’d be friends with for a long time. What I’ve learned is that there are threads that tie people together; some of those threads are stronger than others, some have more and some have less. A lot of the relationships I had during my time at that job were due to being at the same place at the same time and experiencing the same things. Those quickly showed themselves and we were no longer speaking. What surprised me were the relationships that had a larger quantity and stronger threads that were severed. These weren’t because we were no longer sharing experiences, these were deliberate.

And they were my fault.

I have spent so long feeling sorry for myself because I had ‘no friends’ that I finally had to realize the problem was me. It was because I wasn’t a good person after all. I’m not writing this to gain any sympathy for the person I was, but because I need to say I’m sorry to people that I don’t even know how to reach to say I’m sorry to. I said and did a lot of terrible things, I wasn’t a good friend. I feigned interest in order to just be cruel. I talked about how I disliked catty dishonest people, without even realizing that I was the worst of them all. I was mean.

It’s no one’s fault but my own and I blame no one for dropping my friendship. I hurt you so much by letting you down and genuinely being a garbage person. As I’m raising another human, I’ve been re-evaluating who I am. I’m re-learning the fundamentals of being ‘good’. I read him stories of people that are curious, intelligent, genuine. I tell him to be good, kind, smart. These are only words, what I need to do is show him how to be these things. I need to be accountable for my misdoings and say I’m sorry to those I’ve hurt. I needed to learn that being honest doesn’t mean you’re mean. It doesn’t mean you say whatever you think and that if it hurts someone it’s their problem. It means telling your truth but also not deliberately hurting someone because their truth may not be what yours is.

I’m sorry I was a bully. I’m sorry I was a bitch. If I slip up and occasionally still become that person please tell me I’m being unkind. Tell me I’m being a garbage person. I need your help to be accountable and to maintain a better path of being a human that is genuine. I don’t expect this to solve the issues in our friendships. I don’t expect you to forgive me, I needed to acknowledge what I’d done and make an effort.