This is a guest post by a reader who wishes to remain anonymous.
Recently I had a friend tell me something to the effect of, “you’re my friend only because we have this one thing in common.”
I feel as if a lot of people like to put themselves and others in boxes. I get it. I do it. It makes sense. It makes sense to have people fit into nice neat areas. When you need a laugh, call person A. When you need some wise advice, call person B. You always know who will give you what you need in a given situation. You have control. There’s order in a life that might seem otherwise chaotic.
But I’ve realized something. Putting someone in a box is not fair to them or me. When I choose to see only certain qualities in a person I am, in a way, saying that no matter how much else they have to offer, they are only good for that one thing. So when I have that friend that I am only friends with because they are good looking, smart, funny, or whatever key quality I decide they have, I sell them short. What if friend A, who I thought was only good looking was also good looking AND funny? Or the friend I thought was only a good study partner actually shared a bunch of similar interests with me? I miss out on so much when I only see people based on the neat confines I’ve placed them in.
I think we (and by “we” I mean “I”) do this because we are afraid. It’s easier to be able to have that control over the people in our lives and to know what to expect from them and when. It’s easier to shut everything down that doesn’t jive with our preconceived notions of what needs to happen. It’s easier to slap a label on someone so that we know who fits where. It’s neat and tidy and under control. We can do that to ourselves too- where we give ourselves permission to act only in a certain way, the way that fits our own idea of who we are. By keeping ourselves and those around us under control we can protect ourselves.
Sometimes people fall through when we need them most. That hurts.
Sometimes that person we so desperately want to connect with rejects us. That hurts.
Sometimes our attempts at authenticity are met with misunderstanding. That hurts.
We don’t want to be hurt. I don’t want to be hurt. Being hurt fucking sucks.
BUT it’s only by risking the possibility of being hurt that we will ever experience true love.
It’s by letting people see ME, not just in the dirty laundry sense, but ME, my authentic, vibrant, intelligent, gorgeous, amazing self and by opening my heart to others and letting them experience all that awesomeness. Because when I let others see me, I will begin to see me too.
It’s by knowing that I really do deserve love and connection. We are all wired to desire love and connection, yet it’s so easy to convince ourselves that it’s not for us, that we’re not good enough. But even in our imperfections, even though we don’t have the answers, even when we make asshole moves, we deserve it. If nothing else we deserve it.
It’s by daring greatly and by living with courage and from the heart. It’s by loving even when there’s no guarantee of being loved in return.
That’s what vulnerability is. It’s throwing away the boxes and letting yourself just be. It’s daring greatly if for no other reason but to dare greatly. It’s allowing yourself to experience wholehearted love and connection and to love yourself and let others love you.
It’s hard. But so totally worth it.“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” Teddy Roosevelt