With animals it's so easy I never have to say a word they don't ask for explanations for the parts of me that are broken they don't hold me up to the image of who I was yesterday, last week, last year we are here together now, and I am loved for whoever I have to be today Their innocent, trusting, glossy eyes tap the glass of my most tender places they are the mirror of the best parts of me gleaming emblems of unconditional positive regard They are the guiding light to perfect peace humble teachers of how to be grateful reminders of the way life was supposed to be with the simple joy of full-bodied presence I stay far away from anyone who says they don't like animals god only knows what goes on beneath the skin of someone like that
I wish someone had told me to hold onto all the people I once knew. I wish I had some way of knowing what I was throwing away, or at the very least letting fizzle out, watching with disinterest as my many fertile gardens of companionship withered in the hot sun of time. When you’re young, it’s hard to realize what you have. Everything just feels like it’s always been that way, that it will always be that way. Friends come and they go without much fear of social isolation. There will always be new peers, new classmates, new friends to take their place. Every school year is a new start, a new chance to build connections. After high school, there is always college to find your chosen family.
Six years after getting my Bachelors and only now am I beginning to realize the opportunities I squandered for all those years. I would always hear people saying that high school doesn’t matter. That you’ll leave those doors and all the people inside behind forever once you graduate. Not to worry about those relationships, because there will be plenty more that are more important in the future. Looking back, I wish instead they had said those years don’t have to matter. I realize now this was a message for people struggling in school, the social outcasts, the kids that felt like they’d never fit in or find friends. This message was a beacon of hope for them, a call to keep their courage as they moved out into new avenues of life. The point wasn’t that I shouldn’t invest effort in maintaining the relationships I did have. It wasn’t about devaluing the whole idea of childhood friends.
At the time, it seemed like a waste of energy, pathetic even, to try to cling to old friends that were no longer around you everyday. After all, there was a whole new pool of peers to meet and mingle with. Why reach out to people from the past? I never really gave much thought to the fact that the bonds I formed in college would one day become less convenient as well. What then? It was quite a shock when I started working full time to feel the difference between a classroom and a work place. Not only were there far less people to interact with in general, but those people were vary rarely of an age that I would consider my peers. We had very little in common. I already had trouble finding companions within my age group, let alone outside of it.
All these years later, I often find myself looking back on all the bridges I burned, wondering if there is any way I could salvage them, or if the other party has already forgotten me. I never understood how precious a childhood friendship truly is until it was too late. There is an empty space inside the new connections I make. There was something so special is the knowledge that the other person really knew you. They knew all of you. They had watched you grow up and you had known them just as intimately. That’s something you can never have with someone else, even if they tell you about who they used to be. You are still only seeing it through their eyes, only getting the bits they want to reveal. And something aches inside of me when I acknowledge that.
If you don’t love yourself, you cannot love others. You will not be able to love others. If you have no compassion for yourself then you are not able of developing compassion for others.Dalai Lama
It feels like this sentiment has received a lot of backlash in recent years. People are offended when you suggest their lack of self-love somehow eliminates their potential to love other people. This quote is at the back of my mind a lot and I’ve thought about it in different ways at different points in my life. I believe both perspectives have validity to them. I don’t think it’s impossible to have love for other people if you don’t love yourself. I know the love I receive from the people in my life often makes it more possible for me to show myself love and compassion. But I don’t think that was ever the message trying to be conveyed. The message to me was that you can’t love others fully or as much as you would be able to if you loved yourself.
Relationships of any kind are very difficult for me. I do think it stems a lot from the way I love myself, or rather the way I don’t love myself. Throughout my life, all the relationships that have stuck were with people that are extremely open, loving, caring, and communicative. These people are the easiest for me to connect with, because I feel safe with them. And I guess to a certain extent, maybe they have the self-confidence and self-esteem to not take it personally when I am in one of my anti-social moods.
I’ve recently noticed how a lot of my other relationships break down over time. If the other person is not always openly expressing their good opinion of me or how much they value me and our friendship, I slowly start to convince myself that they don’t care about me. Because of this often mistaken perception, I pull away. They notice me pulling away, so they pull away. My suspicions are confirmed, and the friendship/relationship is dead. Without the presence of a palpable and verbalized unconditional love, I don’t ever feel secure enough to maintain a relationship with someone.
This stems directly from the way I feel about myself. I don’t believe I deserve friendship or love. It makes more sense to me that someone wouldn’t like me. I seek out cues to reinforce this belief whether they are there or not. It takes a LOT of weight and evidence in the opposite direction for someone to counterbalance my negative self-perception. Which can understandably be an exhausting dynamic for anyone without the predisposition to interact that way.
This is what I think it means when someone says you have to love yourself first. No, I’m not incapable of having meaningful, loving relationships. I’m fortunate enough to have several that I deeply value. BUT I would be available for forming close bonds with many different types of people if I had a higher amount of self-worth. My self-loathing makes it far too painful to be vulnerable with anyone that I’m not 100% certain will receive that vulnerability with positive regard and support. I’ve already rejected myself to such an extent that seeing that reflected by another person, whether real or imagined, is unbearable.
I don’t think you have to love yourself to love other people. But it does make it a hell of a lot easier.
Open Heart, No Fear
Raincloud of relief the sky opening like my heart to soak in the cool, tranquil feeling of overwhelming gratitude I am exactly where I need to be I don't need to change my surroundings to bloom into my highest self the fertile soil of love surrounds me Utter bliss, staring out past the rolling fields and softly drifting cloud formations of home there is no future to fear, there is only right now and I am so happy and filled with peace and purpose Nothing can strip me of this joy the essence of my soul revealed no longer burdened by the looming pressure to sacrifice what I hold so dear Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you for this perfect, though impermanent gift all fear has fled from the recesses of my heart I've made the right decision
Beggars can't be choosers but when it comes to connection I can't bear to settle for surface level I want to be seen only by souls that can understand my unique style of sin Finding friends can be exhausting when you feel the need to pretend to put on a pleasing face for strangers to push through the small talk to taste the bittersweet fruit underneath It used to be so effortless falling into spaces where I belong classrooms filled with all kinds of candidates exceptional people swelling around me like the sea transformation ignited by togetherness That electric energy of engagement and laughter has been slowly phased out of my life leaving solitude and silence in it's wake curiosity curtailed by fear of rejection I shy away from all opportunities for connection
Suffering in Silence
I learned early on that tears and tantrums are bad behavior. Showing these emotions causes displeasure and annoyance in those around us. Our first subconscious lesson to swallow those big emotions and keep them inside, those first seeds of unworthiness, are planted when we are very young. A lesson that others don’t have time for us, are not interested in our distress. Some of my most painful and poignant memories from childhood emphasize this lesson.
Looking backward in my memory I see a tiny child retreat to her bedroom when the world becomes too much. Perhaps an easily disregarded issue to the adults around, but a great source of pain to one so new and small. I see her shut herself away the first few times with a confidence that her mother will come to her, show compassion and concern for her suffering. It seems like hours as the child waits in the darkness for someone, anyone to show her that they care, that her presence is missed. Fits of crying come and go, some intentionally exaggerated to ensure they are heard. Still no one comes.
No one ever came. Many occasions like this ended in crying myself to sleep, feeling utterly alone and unloved. Even though I now understand this was so as not to encourage this behavior (i.e. crying and sulking in order to get attention) it doesn’t make the internalization of the initial message any less harmful. Nor has it helped to have this message reaffirmed throughout life.
I had bouts of extreme sadness in my high school years. I’ll never forget the week my first serious boyfriend broke up with me. I fell silent, kept my head down, hidden in my arms as I fought back tears for days on end. I wasn’t looking for attention. I wanted to disappear. But the realization that this would be so easy, that I would be utterly ignored was a sobering one. I quickly learned the meaning of the term “fair weather friend” and that most friends fit this definition. My best friend at the time did not try at all to console me or hold space for my sadness. She did not even seem to look in my direction that week. It felt as though I could drop off the face of the earth and no one would notice or mind my absence. Understandably this response served to compound my sadness ever further.
It’s not as though no one has ever extended a hand to me in my darkest hours. The best friend I have now is always there for me, through laughter as well as tears. I’ll never forget the day one childhood friend of mine made her boyfriend drive over to get me as I sat on the sidewalk in abject despair. She took me with them to Denny’s and did all that she could to make sure I was okay. These instances have pierced my soul in the most beautiful way. I’m so grateful for them even now.
Intellectually I understand that being present for another person’s suffering is hard. It’s not always that those around me don’t care, but they don’t know what to do. They are just trying to avoid their discomfort. They may even feel guilty and ashamed deep down. That being said, it doesn’t change the way it feels, especially when I am already so low.
As an adult, I really struggle with expressing myself due, in large part, to these experiences. When I’m struggling, I usually suppress the urge to reach out to anyone. I shrink away from the whole world. I choose to suffer in silence and put on a mask for everyone. It’s simply too painful to feel people pulling away from me when I need them most. It’s easier to pretend I don’t need them. My inner voice whispers, “No one cares what you’re going through. Don’t burden people with your problems. You’re only worth anything when you can make other people smile and laugh. If you show them how you really feel, they’ll all abandon you. Just keep it to yourself. Stay quiet.”
Not only does this perception greatly increase my pain and sense of isolation, it also pushes the people that do care away from me. I’m always in a weird spot when a negative event occurs in my life. I usually can’t muster the courage to tell anyone unless I absolutely have to or they directly ask me. I’m so afraid of their reaction, I’m so ashamed of making myself the focus of the conversation, that I just pretend everything is normal. But then when/if people discover what’s happened and realize that I didn’t share it with them, it makes them feel like I don’t consider them a friend. Which is understandable. I like to be kept up to date on the important events in my friends’ lives too. It does feel like a slight when they don’t confide in me.
I never want anyone else to experience the loneliness and pain I have gone through. I never want anyone to feel like no one cares for them when they are suffering. That is what I must believe all of these moments have been teaching me. I’m definitely someone that has the tendency to panic and avoid people that are crying or going through a tough time. I don’t know what to say or do. I feel awkward and uncomfortable. But this feeling I know so well, let it be my inspiration, my motivation to push through that fear and be there for others in their time of need. It doesn’t matter what I say or do. Just being there is the greatest comfort, just acknowledging that pain, sharing it, holding space, that is one of the few gifts I can offer. Let my own suffering give me the courage to do so.
It’s an incredible feeling to be devoted to someone or something. There are many causes that I feel passionately about: environmentalism, feminism, veganism, etc. There are far less people that can illicit that same feeling of motivation and energy in me. When those people do come along, I am captivated by them. There is nothing more spectacular to me than having a relationship to such a magnetic, awe inspiring person.
I think part of the reason that these charismatic figures in my life take my breath away so easily is because of the comparison to all the other people I encounter. It’s no secret that I am not a big fan of the human race. I find our species to be particularly vile in most aspects. In addition to that, the vast majority of the population seem utterly dull to me, exhibiting no personality whatsoever. So when I meet someone that draws me in so completely, I can’t help but be amazed.
In general, I view myself as a pretty spineless, selfish, stingy, resentful person. I usually do what’s best for me and don’t feel compelled to help others unless I have a good reason. This small group of special people that have been sprinkled throughout my life have a transformative effect on me, though. It’s as though they inspire me to be who I’ve always wanted to be. I genuinely want to go out of my way to be of service to them in any way that I can, despite any personal inconvenience. The mere thought of their acknowledgment and praise brings me such pride. It brings me immense pleasure to be positive and helpful to them. But somehow it’s even more than that. It’s honestly a sensation that I can’t adequately describe.
I am so grateful to have known even the handful of these people that I have. I am grateful to have a few of them in my life right now. For someone that has a difficult time relating to most people, it is a special kind of joy that I feel in response to these deep, meaningful bonds. These relationships are some of the most cherished parts of my life. Few experiences rise above them. I feel there is almost a spiritual, cosmic connection that we share. Something so genuine, so unique, simply beyond words.
I am so moved by my encounters with these people and the devotion and admiration that arises in my heart for them, it makes me reconsider my perspective of human beings all together. I’ve been considering the way that some people view Pit Bulls as viscous, violent dogs that should be banned. However, just because some Pit Bulls are trained to fight, and all have the potential to cause severe physical injury to others, does not make them inherently bad dogs. This seems so obvious to me and I have nothing against Pit Bulls due to the ones that have been raised to be aggressive and dangerous. Why then is it so hard for me to apply this same logic to my own species?
Why do I hold humanity down to it’s lowest common denominator rather than it’s highest potential? I guess I’ve just been raised to give more agency to a human than a dog, despite now knowing that we are all equally a product of our genetics, environment, and experiences. When it comes down to it, even human beings have very little choice or “free will.” And this is just another area in which those I am devoted to help me strive to be a better person.
It’s inexpressible the gratitude and appreciation I feel knowing that these important people accept me for who I am. They’ve seen my many flaws, but I never feel judged by them. It feels safe to be imperfect. I feel seen and understood and empathized with in all of my complexity and eccentricity and idiosyncrasy. The idea that anyone could ever see who I really am and still love and respect me moves me so deeply. It makes me want to extend that same grace, that same compassion and forgiveness to others. To learn to see the good in everyone, rather than focusing on, and condemning them for what they lack.
At the end of the day, these rare people light a fire inside of me. They help me grow in so many ways. They help me see the world with fresh, loving, curious eyes. They give me hope. They make me yearn to some day be able to extend all that they’ve offered me to another person. To someday be that spark, that object of inspiration and devotion to someone else. To give someone else that same feeling of being seen, of being appreciated, of being understood, of coming home.
Questions to Get to Know Someone
I often have a hard time getting to know people. I’ve noticed that I tend to be very passive in my relationships with others. I am not great at coming up with good, open-ended questions to ask, nor am I forthcoming with my own personal information. For these reasons, I get along best with people who are very outgoing. The people that know me best are the ones that ask me a lot of questions. The people I know best are those that talk freely and openly about themselves, their likes/dislikes, their hopes and desires, their values, etc. Unless someone offers that information to me, I basically never find out. And if I’m not asked something directly, I don’t volunteer it.
I haven’t given this aspect of my social life much thought. However, now that I am dating someone who is extremely similar to me in values as well as behavior, I find myself in a strange spot. I desperately want to those conversations where you really get a good sense of who someone is at their core, but I don’t know how to initiate such conversations. Part of me is extremely frustrated by this. I want to pout or pull away from the relationship all together. But I’m tired of only doing what’s easy in a relationship. I think it’s time for me to be mature and put in the work. Besides it could be fun to learn how to get someone to open up as well as learn how to express my genuine self without waiting for others to pull it out of me.
So here is a list of questions I’ve been coming up with that will help me to discover the things I really want to know about someone:
- How would you describe yourself to someone who’s never met you?
- How do you think a friend would describe you to someone else?
- How would you like for the world to see you/who do you aspire to be?
- What about yourself (qualities, accomplishments, etc.) are you most proud of?
- What are 5 values that are important to you?
- What are 5 memories that you cherish?
- In what ways do you think you have grown and changed since childhood/high school?
- When you are upset how do you like to be comforted?
- Who are three people (famous or otherwise) that you admire? Why?
- What is one of your biggest regrets?
- What is one experience in your childhood/youth that you believe impacted who you are as a person? How did it change you?
- If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
- What qualities do you enjoy most in friends/partners?
- What does your inner voice sound like? What are some common phrases you say to yourself?
These are just a few of the questions that I’d eventually like to ask my boyfriend so that I can get a better sense of who he really is. I may end up just giving him the full list one day and maybe we can both answer the questions for one another. Even if it feels gross and artificial at first, I want to make an effort to step outside of my comfort zone in my relationships this year. I’ve always been a curious person, but I’ve never had the confidence or skill to allow that curiosity to guide me when it comes to people. My natural inquisitive nature is stifled by my social anxiety. I know with practice, though, I will overcome that and hopefully discover even more things that will bring me closer to the people in my life.
All my life I’ve admired people that are seemingly comfortable in any situation, amongst any group of people. In my experience these individuals are extremely rare. I’ve never met more than a handful in my whole life. Yet these are the people I feel myself gravitate towards. There is an indescribable energy around them that soothes me, that makes me feel seen. My inner most character unfurls before them like a flower, that somehow I know they will appreciate and understand.
I can’t put my finger on exactly what it is that these people possess. I’ve defaulted to describing them as charismatic and leaving it at that. My attraction to and preference for these individuals has come at a cost though. I seek them out to the exclusion of all others. I feel guarded and uncomfortable around most other people. Rather than pushing past that and making an effort to connect, I close myself off with the belief that they’ll just never “get me.” At times I even begin to judge and dislike others for lacking this charismatic quality that I so desperately need.
I’ve often confided to these charismatic friends and acquaintances of mine that I feel like there are not very many people with whom I am able to have a deep, meaningful, insightful conversation as I am with them. Occasionally they will agree, but just as often I’m met with a look I can’t quite place. It makes me wonder exactly what these people are capable of. Maybe there are not special souls that read one another’s energy and their innermost unspoken qualities in an instant. Maybe there are just special people that can open themselves to anyone, thereby receiving that transparency and comfortable vulnerability in return. Are the wonderful conversations I have with these select individuals the types of conversations they have with everyone they meet? What a life that must be.
This also makes me curious how I might learn from these special people how to improve my own ability to connect with others. How, if possible, I might become more like them. I think I’m pretty good at winning over a room. I can crack jokes and make pleasant conversation with just about anyone. However, the difference is the level of sincerity behind my words and actions. There is an undercurrent of energy betraying my strenuous effort. I’m working very hard when I do this little dance and I believe that bleeds through a bit. While I’m funny, I’m not exactly genuine. While I’m friendly, I’m never vulnerable. Therefore these encounters of mine never go far beyond the surface, nor am I able to transfer this act into one on one conversations where I feel even more pressure to perform rather than be present.
I think the secret ingredient in interacting with charismatic people is their unflinching sincerity and transparency about who they are. There is just something refreshing about dropping all the charades and really being fully in the moment with another person who isn’t pretending, who isn’t judging. Perhaps that’s one of the things holding me back from creating this energy on my own. I’m a pretty judgmental person. It can be hard for me to accept everyone just as they are. I can’t even accept myself most days. And while I would never express these critical, possibly hurtful thoughts, they still have an influence on the interactions I have undoubtedly. Yet when I perceive that someone else sees and accepts me for exactly who I am, I finally feel unafraid, and I can’t help but become endeared by even their faults.
Charisma has a quality of bravery and curiosity. I hope that with time and practice I might come to embody some of those qualities myself. In general, I’m not very fond of people, but when I see the way my charismatic friends bring out the best and most interesting aspects of everyone they meet, it inspires me to look deeper. I’ve gotten into the habit of forming opinions and writing people off fairly quickly. I want to learn to keep my heart open to people so that their true character may reveal itself to me. It saddens me to think how many fascinating, lovely, interesting people I may have carelessly overlooked.
You Are Loved
Take a moment to consider all of the people that you love in your life. It doesn’t matter how many people come to mind. Everyone has at least one person that is precious to them, even if it’s your mother. Now concentrate on the emotions that bubble up and the warmth building in your chest when you think about these people or this person. Focus on your hopes and wishes for them to be happy, healthy, and successful. Hold onto that tender, loving feeling. Really examine it for a moment.
Now realize that there are people in this world that feel that very same way about you. No matter what you think or feel about yourself, no matter what you feel worthy of, or whether you think you deserve it or not, you are loved. Take a moment to contemplate how utterly amazing that is. Allow yourself to accept that love and self-less compassion. Float in the soft gratitude of that energy being sent your way at any given time of the day.
As strange as it may sound, I had never really thought about this idea until a few nights ago. Suddenly it just crashed into my awareness as I was lying down to go to sleep. It filled me with such wonder, such joy, and humble gratitude. I am loved. I repeated these words back to myself again and again in a state of starry-eyed disbelief. Not only that, I am loved by the people that mean everything to me. I am loved by the people that have stood by my side through decades of my life, who have seen the best and the worst of me. What could be more incredible? What more could I ask for in this life?
Notice what kind of emotions come up when you consider being loved. Does it feel good? Does it feel safe? Uncomfortable? Unreal? Undeserved? Or maybe a mixture of a lot of different emotions? For me it was pretty hard to wrap my head around, and it still is. I just can’t believe that I would be worthy of those warm feelings that I experience when I think of my love for others. It seems unbelievable that anyone could feel that way about me. Yet, logically, I know that there are lots of people that genuinely enjoy my presence in their lives. At the very least, I know my mother and grandmother love me unconditionally, probably in a deeper, more pure way, than I’ve loved anyone myself.
Despite a squirming sensation in my chest that tells me I don’t deserve it, that these people are wrong to love me, I’ve never felt more grateful for anything before. Not only that, keeping this in mind helps me to remember to love myself just as much as those who are dear to me do. I hope that adopting the perspective of your loved ones from time to time helps you do the same. The next time you are causing yourself more suffering or feeling self conscious or small, imagine offering yourself the love and compassion that your family and friends would want for you. If you can’t find the motivation or passion to be kind to yourself for yourself, do it for everyone else that loves you.