By: Elaine Hamilton
I know I’m the mom so I’m supposed to be the one who says encouraging and profound things to my kids but SO often they say something that is exactly what I need to hear. Over the course of our lives together, they have rescued me hundreds of times.
Katie and I were chatting on the phone when I said, “Am I calling you too much? I know we just talked yesterday but I missed you today and I just wanted to hear your voice again. Am I being nuts??” Katie: “Mom, it’s okay. Call me whenever you want. If I don’t want to talk to you, I won’t answer. You do you.”
“YOU DO YOU”. That echoed in my head all day and it was oh so freeing! How lovely to be reminded I am not too crazy for the people I love. It’s a message we all need to hear. Because we can get a little angst-y about our crazy. We self-protect and hide and end up offering a censored, dumbed down version of ourselves so that we are less likely to annoy, burden or disappoint anyone.
It’s understandable. We’ve been hurt in the past. People we really hoped would want to know us deeply were careless with us. We exposed our soft underbelly – our neediness or our independence, our smarts or our inadequacies, our sense of humor or our serious side, our doubts, our fears, our strong opinions – and it didn’t go well. They judged, or laughed or ignored us. And their reactions sent the message, “You’re too much. Nobody wants to see all that. Please cover it up.” Devastating.
So it’s not surprising that we need a little encouragement to show ourselves to the world again. It’s something I’m often trying to communicate to the people I love, the people on my team, and the people I work with, “What we all need is more of you, not less. When you’re hiding and holding back, we miss out. We don’t benefit from a calculated, careful version of you. Give us all you’ve got!”
This kind of invitation can be as terrifying as it is exhilarating. It can feel a lot like jumping off a cliff. How can you know there will be a soft place to land? The trouble is, you might not know for sure. Certainly you can and should take a good long look at the person in front of you and evaluate what they’ve showed you about themselves to this point. Have they been safe in the past? Are they open themselves, are they willing to be vulnerable too? Okay then, we’ve got a good chance that this will go well. Then jump!
More often then not, vulnerability pays off big time. Showing our true selves to others and inviting them to do the same, connect us to one another in deeply satisfying and grounding ways. It reminds us that we are all in this together. We are all a little afraid, we are all struggling at times, and we all do a little better when we’ve got each other to lean on. Guardedness never gives us this.
So, the next time you get the chance to be with someone you adore, someone who makes your life richer, perhaps you might tell them how awesome they are. Give them more of you and invite them to do the same. Tell them you love it when they let you in, when they show you their tender underbelly. That they are never more lovable to you than when they are being their truest selves. And perhaps they will say the same to you. Because you, my friend, are not too crazy for the people that love you either. You do you.