Researchers have estimated that we each speak around 16,000 words each day. But that number pales in comparison to all the things we don’t say.
We want to tell people when we’re hurting, but we’re afraid of looking weak and inferior. We want to share our dreams, but we’re afraid of being questioned and criticized. We want to open up about our beliefs, but we’re afraid of being judged and rejected.
Deeper than all those fears is our need to genuinely bond with each other — not just on a superficial level, but based on our actual thoughts, beliefs, feelings, and even fears. We need to feel deeply connected to other people, fully seen and appreciated by them, and secure in those relationships. We can have a million and one acquaintances, but if none of our connections feel intimate and meaningful, we will ultimately feel alone.
There’s actually some interesting research that shows we tend to value physical possessions less when we feel loved and accepted by others, because relationships can provide a sense of comfort, insurance, and protection. They truly are the most valuable things in our lives. In order to create these connections, we need to let our guard down — to stop worrying about impressing other people or avoiding their judgment, and show up as we truly are.
This kind of vulnerability can be terrifying, because you never know when you show someone your authentic self how they will receive it. You can’t be certain they’ll respect and honor your truth. You can’t know that they will appreciate your perspective and offer you compassion and understanding. And you can’t be sure that they’ll respond to your openness in kind, sharing themselves with the same courage and sincerity.
All you can know for sure is that the benefits of opening up far outweigh the disadvantages of staying shut down. Naturally, some people will stay closed off, but it’s worth the risk of feeling vulnerable to find the ones who won’t.
Still, so many of us limit ourselves from forming those deeply satisfying, close-knit bonds because we want to play nice, or fit in, or feel in control — or maybe because we have no idea who we really are. We’re always learning, growing, and evolving, and it can be challenging to feel a secure sense of self when addressing the various parts of ourselves we’d rather change or deny — it’s challenging, but it’s not impossible.
If we make the effort, we can discover who we are beyond our roles and distractions. We can understand the feelings, thoughts, and needs that lie beneath our masks. And we can embrace both our darkness and light with an appreciation for our complexity and humanity.
©2013 by Lori Deschene. All rights reserved.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher, Conari Press,
an imprint of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC. www.redwheelweiser.com.
Tiny Buddha's Guide to Loving Yourself: 40 Ways to Transform Your Inner Critic and Your Life
by Lori Deschene
A collection of vulnerable reflections and epiphanies from people, just like you, who are learning to love themselves, flaws and all. The book combines all of the elements that made the author's first book, Tiny Buddha, compelling -- authentic, vulnerable stories; insightful observations about our shared struggles and how to overcome them; and action-oriented suggestions, based on the wisdom in the stories.
Lori Deschene is the founder of tinybuddha.com, a multi-author blog that shares stories and insights from readers from all over the globe. She launched the site in 2009 as a community effort because she believes we all have something to teach and something to learn. She is the author of Tiny Buddha: Simple Wisdom for Life’s Hard Questions, and her work has appeared in Tricycle: The Buddhist Review , Shambhala Sun, and other publications. (Photo: Ehren Prudhel)