Man, I got whomped recently. I put myself out there and I felt like I got a giant punch in the gut for my efforts. I was down for the count for three days. I barely left the house.
We all know putting yourself out there can be a tough business. But I think, even tougher to learn than putting yourself out there in the first place, is learning to put yourself out there with intention, thoughtfulness, and a healthy dose of reality about how it might be received.
In other words, you can’t just go babbling to everyone about everything; not everyone is ready for that. Even if the stuff you have to share is really, really good - like my stuff was.
And what if the stuff you have to share is difficult? What if it’s about something you did to hurt that person? Maybe you’ve worked through it, feel good about where you are, and you just want to share what you’ve learned so you guys can connect, heal, move on.
Or what if it’s about something totally outside of the two of you and they have difficult feelings about it that have nothing at all to do with you, but instead are about something they haven’t worked through from a similar experience with someone else?
The list of the ways in which relationships can be complicated is endless. And it can be really tempting I know, to use these awful times of maybe putting yourself out there and it not being well-received, which leaves you feeling sad and disappointed, as an excuse to stop doing it at all. But that is not the answer. I repeat that is NOT the answer.
Putting yourself out there - that is to say, opening up, being vulnerable - is essential to getting your emotional needs met. (Trust me if it wasn’t, I would have found a way by now to do it completely solo.) So we can’t and wouldn’t want to just stop.
But others are just human after all like we are.
Some people are really, really good at being there for you when you’re down, but they may not be as able to be there for you when things are going well. I know, I know, this sucks when you want the people you love and who love you to be happy for you but give them a break. They’re doing the best they can.
Of course, it can be the other way around too. Some people might only be able to handle happy; positive! It can be tough for them to hear another person’s struggles.
Whatever the case, the answer here is not to stop sharing, but to just understand what you can and cannot share with certain people. That’s not being inauthentic or being untrue to yourself, that’s caring for yourself and for your relationship with that person in a really special way. That’s being absolutely authentic and accepting of both your needs.
And staying open, but cautiously so, allows us the opportunity to bring new people into our lives. New people to give us fresh perspectives, to support and encourage our new ideas. It is my experience that these new people are the ones who truly foster growth and learning.
It allows us the opportunity to appreciate those already in our lives too. To realize that as we move through life, our needs change, we change, and so must those relationships change as well. This I would argue is where the really, really deep stuff happens.
So even when it feels tough, and like you’d be better off contracting your world down to a party of one, think of all you’d miss out on. You’d miss laughing together, crying together; sharing your achievements, sharing a great conversation. You’d miss getting to know them, know their story; learning how they are like you, how they are different.
Yes, some things might be simpler, but I doubt they would be as rich, as full, as worthwhile. Because humans are meant to be together and our best lives are ones that are shared.