By: Lauren Freier, Regular Contributor
It is a common habit for people to define their ideal careers, friendships, and mates by what they do not want rather than what they do. This script makes sense, because the best way to justify a miserable job or a bad relationship is to remind ourselves that it at least taught us what to avoid for the next time (so that hopefully there isn’t another next time). But what do we want? Shifting our focus to examine the “do’s” is like an optical illusion that takes some much longer than others to finally see.
As I begin to reflect upon what I do want, I am reminded of the times I feel most fulfilled and of the people and places involved in making that a reality. A key ingredient to my fulfillment has to do with being understood at my very core, as this is the difference between feeling noticed and feeling truly seen. When you think of the people who just “get you,” it is not important how long they’ve known you so much as how deeply they know you. The feeling of warmth and security that comes with another’s acceptance of your true self is human connection in one of its most raw forms.
So often we walk around with our invisibility cloaks pulled tight. We are eager to watch and observe, but until we become active participants ourselves, we will never have perfect vision. When I sit in coffee shops doing work, I overhear college interviews, first dates, business meetings, and catch-up chats between old friends. I witness, I listen, and I smirk, as if watching movie trailers of other people’s lives. I am learning (and eavesdropping), but I am not connecting.
Instead I become an active participant in my own life when I let someone in and expose my feelings, secrets, and aspirations. During those times when I choose to unveil my cloak, my body literally shakes as it knows it is about to step into scary foreign territory—a place of vulnerability. I can intellectualize until my brain hurts, but in the end I know I must sit with the discomfort and move through the fear if I want to reach greater wholeness.
Why should any of us bother taking the risk and ridding ourselves of our protective layers? Because “What we know matters, but who we are matters more. Being rather than knowing requires showing up and letting ourselves be seen” (Brene Brown, Daring Greatly). It is much easier and cozier to remain bundled up and hidden, but ultimately we experience a void that only vulnerability can fill. When this happens we must show up and face ourselves, because the best way to clearly see is to authentically be.
Lauren is a passionate writer, Beatles fanatic, celebrity gossip junkie, therapist, and mental health advocate. Her personal and professional experiences in both LA and Chicago have inspired her dedication to emotional wellness, resiliency, and self-acceptance. She holds an MA in Clinical Psychology and is a therapist at InnerVoice Psychotherapy and Consultation, a Chicago-based private practice, as well as a social-emotional health educator at a non-profit organization.
Featured image via boltgroup.com