Have you ever downplayed your excitement over something about which you were genuinely excited? It may have been an audition, a job opportunity, a pregnancy, a new relationship, or anything else you truly wanted to come to fruition.
“Playing down the exciting stuff doesn’t take the pain away when it doesn’t happen,” says Brene Brown in her book, The Gifts of Imperfection. “It does, however, minimize the joy when it does happen.”
Engagements, career opportunities and pregnancies are just a few excellent examples of instances where we commonly downplay their value to us, so as not to appear needy or to risk disappointment when it doesn’t pan out.
Over the past six-ish years, many of my friends have been getting engaged and married. There is/was a common theme of ‘not getting hopeful for a proposal’ in case one is disappointed.
The story is: ‘If I don’t tell my family/friends that I am hopeful, or that I want to be engaged/pregnant, it will hurt less to explain that it didn’t happen.’
The truth is: ‘If I don’t tell my family/friends that I am hopeful, or that I want to be engaged/pregnant, no one will know, and I will be alone in my disappointment.’
I have had both failures and successes in this area. Now, when I say failure and success, I don’t mean the outcome of the actual situation, I mean my failure and success in dealing with the situation. Let me tell you about one of each.
Success: One of my close friends and I had the same goal of obtaining a coveted position in a fitness company. It is safe to say that, at the time, it was probably the highest career goal for both of us. We were both qualified and worthy, and had equal chances of being chosen. When the call for applications came out, we both created our application packages. The application had choreography and video components, which we shared with each other and gave feedback. Weeks later, we both got the crushing email that neither of us had been chosen.
“Once you’ve diminished the importance of something, your friends are less likely to call and say, ‘I’m sorry it didn’t work out – I know you were excited about it,’” Brene Brown says. “When things haven’t panned out, it’s nice to be able to call a supportive friend and say, ‘Remember that event I told you about? It’s not going to happen, and I’m so bummed.’”
My friend and I were both devastated. But since we had communicated how badly each of us wanted the position, we both knew how disappointed the other felt. That evening, we got together to drink wine, eat pizza, and re-watch our videos, just for fun. If we had have been competitive, secretive, or insincere about how badly we each wanted the position, we would have been alone in either failure or success.
I later moved on from the company, deciding the position was no longer what I wanted. My friend was eventually chosen for the position in California. We sincerely celebrated her; and I am so proud of her.
Failure: I was not a little girl (or even a young woman) who dreamed of her wedding or her wedding dress. I always wanted to get married, but I didn’t once think about the details. I was, however, raised in a family where frugality and practicality are most important, and making a big deal about anything is frivolous and impractical.
So, I believed that I wanted my wedding to be inexpensive, low-key, simple, and small, without ever thinking anything else of it.
I do not like shopping – that story is true. So, when I got engaged in April of 2015, I went wedding dress shopping in June so that it would be done, although I wasn’t getting married until June of 2016.
None of my bridesmaids live in the city, so I went wedding dress shopping with a great crew; my aunt, my cousin and my mom. I had never once thought about what I wanted in a wedding dress, other than that there would be “no frilly shit. And no veils.” To a bridal shop, this is like going to your hair stylist and saying, “Do whatever you like, I don’t know what I want and I’m easygoing.”
Our first stop was The Bridal Gallery in New Westminster – a beautiful, two-story appointment-only store, just like in Bridesmaids. There was an intake form about what you wanted and when your wedding was, etc. One of the questions was, “What is your budget?” I had created a budget but I hadn’t actually considered what we could afford – I just knew I would keep it low-key and not extravagant so I wrote $X, an amount that was very reasonable for a wedding dress in 2015. My lovely mother saw it and said, (with awe, not judgement or passive aggression) “It looked like your budget said, $X!” Although she didn’t mean to, it crushed me to hear that she would think I was being extravagant. “That is the high end,” I whispered in reply.
The efficient and lovely salesperson said, “One man, one dress, and we will find you yours!”
I found a beautiful dress that was a couple of hundred dollars above my budget. This had been our first stop so we just moved on. After looking for a different bridal shop in North Vancouver, we ended up at Isabel’s Bridal. This shop was smaller and different. Instead of the salesperson bringing you champagne and dresses only in your size, the salesperson with an Irish accent said, “Just try on whatever you like, we can alter anything to fit you.”
My mom found a beautiful dress in the window and it was extremely discounted as a window model. It was 4-5 sizes too big for me, but the employee assured me that it could be altered to fit me. We took photos, bought the dress, and went out for dinner to celebrate.
The first dress
Fast forward to two months before my wedding; I got off work early and my friend got a babysitter so she could come to North Van with me for the dress fitting. Long story short, the shop’s only seamstress apparently got stuck in their bank during an armed robbery and the store didn’t call me to cancel. I was disappointed but I sulked home with my dress and found a different seamstress closer to home.
I took my dress to the new seamstress, put it on, and she pinned it for alteration. I looked at myself in the mirror. The seamstress apologized and said she couldn’t make it completely fitted – I had just bought a dress that was far too big. I took the dress off. I got in my car and bawled. It looked awful. Why had I bought this dress? Why had I settled to be cheap and easy and get it over with? Because it was less dramatic and more low key to be cheap, easy, and chill.
My wedding was quickly approaching, I was heading to New Orleans for my bachelorette trip, and I didn’t have a wedding dress. I recounted the story to my bridesmaids. “Should I just settle? What should I do?” My friend Jessica simply said, “I think you need another dress.” I am so grateful for her saying that to me; giving me permission. She, and one of my other gracious bridesmaids traveled into town a day early so we could deal with this dress business. We went back to the bridal gallery, where the same salesperson gave us champagne. This time she said, “I guess for you there is one man, but two dresses.”
We found a beautiful, comfortable lace dress, the same price as the first dress I didn’t buy, but I bought it on the spot. It was the one. It cost me the price of two wedding dresses, but…lesson learned.
That story about my wedding dress has served to be the reminder I need when I am trying to downplay my excitement. Like this year, instead of telling everyone that I didn’t need or want a baby shower, as uncomfortable as I was, I admitted to my friends that I did want one and to myself that it was OK to be excited and make a big deal over having a baby.
I think that when we are living authentically, we know what is truly O.K. to be dramatic or excited about. Like anything, it may take practice and boundary-pushing before we are completely comfortable admitting our excitement and successes.
I won’t lie – it will take a couple of painful failures to teach us about what we maybe didn’t know we really wanted. But the risk is never truly celebrating anything for ourselves at all.
So, if you know anyone who wants to buy an inexpensive, never-worn wedding dress, I’m selling!