What if there was a place where we could really be ourselves? We could drop all walls, all roles and all pretense. We strip down all the fake laughs and friendly handshakes and are left with our bare self.
Well, this place doesn’t exist. Or does it? Don’t we all know this one couple that has somehow managed to hold space for each other? They share a bond of strong trust and mutual respect. Is this not such a place? As you have probably guessed this post is not about some far away country where people are more genuine but about authentic relationships. I suppose there are cultural differences in this as well. But let’s concern ourselves with real connection between friends or lovers for now.
We are told that it’s okay to be ourselves. We should be authentic and speak our mind. But here’s the thing. When people say this, they sometimes pretend that it doesn’t matter if we’re liked or not. But of course it does. We all depend on social acceptance. We can’t just tell our boss that he is an asshole just because that thought flashed through our mind. There’s a fine line between authentic and true to ourselves and downright rude and offensive.
When it comes to close friendships and relationships, being genuine becomes easier. We share our feelings and speak our mind more freely. But only rarely do we allow others to see us without a mask. The same mechanisms still operate. We don’t want to offend others. We want to be liked. But below this we also want to be understood. We yearn to show ourselves. This true connection is rare and in order to find it we must do the most scary thing of all: Let ourselves be seen, all imperfections, past pains and naive dreams.
But once we do open up and make ourselves vulnerable something magical happens. In most cases, we realize that the other person doesn’t run away. And suddenly we live in a place of „you’re enough“. Like we’re not alone in our problems and moments of self-doubt. This in itself can be a game changer for everything we do. These real connections I’m trying to describe protect us against crises, our own inner critic and depression. But they do so much more. Genuine relationships allow us to change. They allow us to launch a project we’ve been holding back, to send an application for a job we really want, or to give us the courage to confront someone from our past.
Being vulnerable is the only way to find genuine relationships. This does not mean that we should open up to everyone and cry our hearts out. On the contrary. Oversharing or overstepping personal boundaries is not the way to find true connection. What’s important is to open up to the right people. Not everyone can handle authentic persons. We have to treat carefully and trust our intuition whom we want to show our vulnerable self. Along the way, we will also face people who will reject us and that’s okay. We let them walk away.
So where is this place where we can be ourselves? It turns out we can find it in other people, but only if we’re willing to work for it.