The challenges of being myself
My search for meaningful connection
There are times when I would desperately love to be more authentic in everyday relationships. To show up and bring the real me to a situation. Which I realise all sounds very grand, but some might wonder what that actually means in practice. Put simply, it means that I want to be myself with others.
It doesn’t sound very difficult does it?
But I’m sure there are plenty of people who, like myself, find this hard…who tend to hide away who they really are.
A few months ago I challenged myself to be more authentic, in the hope that this would help me connect with others on a deeper level.
You see, when I meet people I usually end up knowing more about them than they do about me. The conversations often become one-sided. I don’t give much of myself away during those exchanges, and so the other person doesn’t always know what to talk to me about.
Over time I’ve become an expert at making conversation by asking the other person all the questions and then sitting back and listening to them. As time goes on they have no choice but to fill the gap by talking more about themselves. It ends up being a vicious circle and instead of connecting, things tend to move in the opposite direction as they get to know very little about me.
And so it goes on.
Someone once said to me that I’m at my best when I’m being myself. Which was a lovely thing to hear. It made the challenge of being more authentic all the more important to me.
Through the challenge I discovered that being myself was actually really difficult. It felt incredibly hard for me to open up and talk about myself in face-to-face situations. I don’t know why I was surprised by that because it wasn’t anything new.
The times that I feel best able to be myself is when I’m writing. There is something about having a pen in my hand that helps me get out everything in my head that I can’t do in person. It feels safer somehow, less risky.
Some of the things I’ve experienced in life have hardened me in some ways in order to protect myself. It’s difficult talking to people about the realities of my life without feeling like they are judging me or that they don’t quite understand. This is not just a feeling that I have, but is based on evidence of times when I’ve tried opening up in the past. Not always, but enough to make me think twice about when I do it.
And this feeling grows bigger as I get older and people start to to talk more about things that I’ve never experienced and probably never will. I often listen to conversations about other people’s children, and more recently, the unique relationship and love others have with their children. Knowing I’ll never experience that hurts. A lot. When I hear this it feels like I’ve failed somehow.
It’s the same when I listen to people being praised for their outgoing personalities, knowing that as a socially anxious introvert it would be very difficult for me to be like that. I hear people admiring the easygoing and relaxed nature of someone, realising there are times when I’m completely the opposite due to the anxiety caused by living with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.
All these things add to the disconnect that I experience with the world, to the feeling that I’m on the outside. And it’s no one’s fault. It’s just the way things are.
So what I concluded from the challenge was that, rather than worrying so much about wanting others to see the real me, I just need to concentrate on feeling comfortable within myself and to be happy with the way I am. That way I won’t be so reliant on other people’s reactions to me, whether positive or negative. When I’m able to do this this, I get the feeling the connections I seek may follow more naturally.