"I feel like I need to talk to you about something. And it's not bad, but it's something I think you should know."
Last weekend I went to a screening of a movie with a new friend. I've known this man for three years at our workplace, but only recently have we hung out in social settings, and that is how he started our conversation. "I feel like I need to talk to you about something. And it's not bad, but it's something I think you should know. You should know that I'm in this. For life. I don't know if you have a lot of close friends or if you need close friends or if you want close friends. But I'm in this. The people you met tonight? They're my inner circle. And I'm inviting you in. They'll love you because I love you. But you should know that I feel like you have a wall up. I feel like you're guarded with your thoughts and emotions. And it's not a bad thing. But if you want a friend where you can drop that wall? I'm your guy. I'm not saying it's a bad thing you have walls up. I get it. I'm not offended. But if you want a friend to just be you with, I'm here."
Wow. That's a lot. That's a lot in general, but especially in one sitting. Especially in one monologue.
I didn't respond right away, instead I stared into my steering wheel trying to figure out if I was flattered or offended. My first thought was defensive: "I don't have walls up. That's absurd." My second thought: "He's so right. How did he know?" My third thought: "I'm so hungry." So I went with that. I offered my new friend some M&Ms and figured I'd use food as a nice segue into talking about something that makes me uncomfortable. Or rather some things... Plural. Lots of things make me anxious when it comes to discussing being guarded. Friendships. Relationships. Trust. Connection. Collaboration. Love.
Trying to articulate my hesitation with letting people in was difficult for me. I love people. I am a people person. I'm one of those people who has never met a stranger. I can strike up a conversation with anyone, anytime. I can small talk, flirt, sell, compliment, jab, and banter with the best of them. But when it comes to truly being myself, to being real, to allowing myself to be vulnerable with another human being? That's where I falter. I don't want people to see my insecurities, my weaknesses, my flaws. Why is that? Why am I so willing to have surface level conversations, to discuss the weather or politics or wine or economics or fashion or ethics, but not my true feelings?
At first I didn't have an answer to this question, but then I thought about it. And wrote about it. (And talked to my therapist.) And I'm slowly realizing that some of the people I have entrusted with my innermost thoughts and desires failed me. And so I've filled these last few years with acquaintances and surface-level relationships because I was afraid to get too close to people in my life. I was afraid of exposing my weaknesses and not being worthy of those in whom I invested, of being abandoned-again. But those weaknesses? Those are my humanity. And guess what? We're all human. We need connection. We need one another. We need someone willing to say, "I see your walls. And I'm totally cool with them. But if you ever want to let them down, I'd be great with that. And if you want help knocking them down? I'm your person."
CS Lewis wrote, "We need others physically, emotionally, intellectually. We need them if we are to know anything, even ourselves." That's what I've been realizing more and more the last several weeks. To be vulnerable is the scariest thing in the world for me. But only when I'm truly myself with others can I grow into the woman I was created to be. Only when I am willing to expose my flaws can I work with a community of friends to improve myself and the world around me. I am only one small person-an incredibly flawed person at that, but when I start to let my guard down, there is the potential for greatness.
Because we need one another. We weren't intended to be alone. We weren't created to only have surface level chats because we fear intimacy and rejection. We were created to support one another. To build one another up. To break down each other's walls and to let others inside our hearts. I still have a lot of work to do, but ever so slowly I'm learning to create an inner circle for myself. A circle where I am raw and exposed and willing to change and grow. Don't get me wrong... You don't have to tell your life story to the guy in line with you at the supermarket. You don't have to tell your physics professor your inner struggles. And your assistant doesn't need to know your deepest fears. But find the people worth investing in. Believe that you will be bettered by existing in community. Know that you won't be abandoned. Trust that you are worthy of connection.
Until next time,