The mega hit song in Lin Manuel Miranda’s musical, Encanto, inspired countless TikToks and took the world by storm earlier this year, surpassing even Frozen and Adele in streams.
No doubt, you know the tune:
Aside from the seductive beat, the delicious, kiss-your-mouth lyrics, and the fabulous plot twist, I think the song hits a chord because deep down, we all long to talk about what we don’t talk about.
It’s all too familiar: Gotta bad feeling about something? Better zip it. Feeling awkward and uncomfortable in a social setting? Typically, it’s STFU (or you may not be invited back). Stumble and make a mistake in one of the countless ways we humans inevitably do? Well, better lock that up tight (and hope nobody notices).
But in so doing, we miss the opportunity to lay down the armor protecting our hearts. We miss bringing ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities to the magnificent table of our shared humanity.
So let’s talk about it.
When someone extends their hand, offering a vulnerable: “Hey, I’m feeling a little panicked that I have nothing to offer here…” Or: “I’m uncomfortable with where this conversation is going so can we pause and have a reset…?” Or: “I’m really scared to admit this to you but…” then filling in the blank in an honest, unguarded way — such tiny acts of courage invariably elevate the collective experience.
Despite often fumbling, I’ve found when I hold steady, while gently opening the door to what may be hidden, everything begins to improve. The lovemaking becomes more engaged. The dinner party gets on a more soulful track. A father or mother, son or daughter slows down and gets curious, while another feels more seen.
It’s our willingness to talk about our fears and our joys, our insecurities and our triumphs — especially the ones we’re not “supposed” to share — that ultimately creates connection. We all get a little closer. We get into a better groove, together. Community is formed.
As Brené Brown points out in her wonderful new book, The Atlas of the Heart:
“True belonging is the spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness. True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are, it requires you to be who you are.”
Of course, sharing our innermost truths is not the same thing as sharing the fabrications of an overactive mind. We’ve got to stick to “I” statements grounded in the body: “I feel scared. I feel proud. I feel turned on.” It’s so easy to eject from the soma (the body) and return to the familiar realm of the mind. Then the “I feel…” is not actually followed by a feeling but rather a limiting belief or a spiritual/superior-sounding judgment.
On the other hand, we don’t want to turn everyone into our therapist! But if speaking from your heart turns someone off, maybe they weren’t your people (better to find that out sooner rather than later). And when you encounter anyone who wants to keep their messy, all too human truths hidden behind a facade of perfection... well, just keep dancing along to the beat of your own heart-drum.
The truth is, we're more charming and interesting when we loosen our grips on the controls. When we stop keeping up appearances for social media and let go of presenting ourselves as the perfect, egoless, uber-successful, enlightened human beings (we aren’t).
Then the magic can trickle back through the cracks of the façade. Then the family begins to heal. Then we finally come home.
In Encanto, Bruno knew where the cracks were forming in his family but instead of being exiled into secrecy, he deserved a place at the table.
So do all the deep, dark scary things we’ve been hiding from our loved ones and ourselves.