I was sitting across from an incredible human being over salads and coffee in a local lunch spot and I was scared to death.
It wasn’t this human’s fault. She was becoming a person I trusted. You know those people you meet at random times in life who make you feel like God cut you from the same cloth? Like your souls share the same threaded design? This was how I felt with her, a person slowly becoming a friend as we decided to share small swatches of our hearts with one another, bit by bit, testing the waters to see if they felt safe.
And they had so far. But things were getting scary for me. Because I did feel safe, and that meant I had to wade a little deeper. I had to share a little more. If I wanted to take this acquaintance-becoming-friend to full-fledged-partnership, I knew I needed to make my way to the deep end, revealing more vulnerable realities I carried around inside clenched fists so nobody could see them.
I had to get real.
And getting real is frightening.
Another reason I knew I had to let this girl in was because I was one week into my challenge to do one thing that scared me every day for a month. As you’ve probably already gathered from this post and many others, allowing people to see the raw fleshy parts of me is something that scares me quite a bit. This lunch date was my opportunity to stay true to my daily task of consciously putting myself in situations that struck me with fear.
So I swallowed a sip of my coffee. I inhaled. I exhaled. And I started to speak.
Why Showing Who We Really Are Is So Scary
I thought a lot about those moments impending my choice to jump into unknown waters without a life jacket in the days that followed. What made it so terrifying to be myself? How come letting people in makes my chest fill up with resistance?
The answer I’ve come to has to do with a few things. Shame, for instance. Guilt. Worry that we are not enough, that other people have everything together and we don’t. Pain over past rejection. Fear we’ll be rejected again.
Here’s what I mean:
None of us are perfect. We are all pretty jacked up human beings who have done some things we aren’t proud of, things we wish we could bury under a bush and run away from and forget about and never speak of again.
And we’ve also all experienced rejection in some form or another. Maybe we were blindsided by a terrible breakup. Maybe someone we loved cheated on us. Maybe our parents communicated messages that we weren’t worthy of love or affection, even if they didn’t mean to or say so outright. Maybe something else.
As human beings do, we often think of these rejections as commentary on our worthiness. Our worthiness of acceptance and our worthiness of love.
We internalize the message that we don’t deserve love or acceptance. We’re too messed up for that.
So we hide. We tuck our most vulnerable realities away in our pockets or behind our ears where nobody can see them, because if they see them they won’t want to love us anymore. We put on masks or pretty clothes to cover up our scars. And we smile.
We make ourselves seem perfectly fine. Our job is going great. The kids are excelling in soccer. Our partners are always loving and we never, ever fight.
The thing is, when we are all doing this, we have a society of people pretending all is well. And when we look around, it seems like our neighbors and coworkers and Facebook friends have their whole lives together. And we feel more and more alone in the ugly realities of who we truly are on the inside.
The thing we don’t realize is that everyone around us is bleeding in private, just like we are.
The Consequences of Hiding Our True Selves
The choice to portray our lives without blemishes when we show them to others has a catch. I mean, we’re doing this for acceptance, right? We’re hiding our real selves and pulling out the smoke and mirrors to feel loved.
This is safe. We’re wrapped in a tight cocoon of lies and unrealities, and nobody can touch us here. The real us is safe. The fake person we let walk around in our shoes and coats is perfect, and they’ll be taken in, and they’ll be fine.
And yet, if people are only accepting us and loving us for these nice pretty pictures we are painting them, are they really loving us at all?
If they only see caricatures of who we are and take in these impostors with open arms, they don’t really care for us. They care for our stunt doubles.
They care for the person that we are not.
Even when we aren’t aware of this reality, we feel it in our bones. We know somewhere, deep down, that we aren’t truly loved by anyone because nobody really knows us. And if they don’t really know us, they can’t really love us.
So at some point we are forced to recognize the cold, hard truth: we are not loved. There’s nothing (and I mean nothing) more lonely and terrible than that.
A Case For Vulnerability
It doesn’t have to be this way. Just because we aren’t loved when we are hiding ourselves doesn’t mean that we can’t be loved at all.
We can. We deserve to be, and we need to be.
Being vulnerable and coming out of our wrapped cocoons to show our real selves is the scariest, most frightening thing of all. We risk being hurt at our most raw.
And yet, when we decide to open ourselves up to trusted people and we receive love and acceptance, oh my gosh! Watch out world!
The healing that happens in moments when we are fully seen and fully loved is indescribable. It’s irreplaceable. There is nothing else as nurturing and momentous as this.
We have to be vulnerable. That doesn’t mean we need to tell our whole life story to the person checking us out at the grocery store. But when we choose to be true to our experiences and our shame and our guilt to people who make us feel safe, we take a big leap into love.
What a beautiful thing that is!
How To Get Started
After I left my lunch date with the girl I spoke about earlier, I ran into a quote by Glennon Doyle Melton. This lady is a boss who writes a blog called Momastery, where she writes about being real even when it seems like the scariest thing in the world. She also has a book called Love Warrior. I haven’t read it, but I’ve heard incredible things from people who have.
The quote goes something like this:
Glennon Doyle Melton was on to something. Our lives might be a wreck behind the curtains we’ve drawn and it might be the most terrifying thing we can possibly think of to let someone in to see it.
But we have to show up anyways. We need to. All of us deserve love because we are all human beings, as beautiful and as messy and as complicated as the person next to us. And we all have that innate human desire for acceptance.
It’s all about choosing to take the leap and showing up anyways.
If you’re thinking about this stuff as much as I am and you’re wanting to make more conscious decisions to show up, I’ve made a few lock screen templates as helpful reminders. I have one on my phone, and every time I see it I remember to let a safe person in that day.
Take your pick below. All you have to do is download them onto your device and set them as the lock or home screen:
How does vulnerability make you feel? What pushes you to open up despite how scary it can be?
If you’d like to pin this post, here’s a picture you can use!