I want the people I care about to know me deeply. I want them to be curious about what matters to me and to care about what I need and how I’m feeling.
At the same time, I’m often hesitant to share about myself. When someone asks how I’m doing or what I’ve been up to, I sometimes give a surface level answer or deflect the focus back onto them.
There are plenty of reasons we might hold back…
- We are uncomfortable with attention.
- We are afraid of being judged or that the more someone knows us the less they will like us.
- We carry a belief that having needs or taking up space will make us too much of a burden.
- We worry that celebrating or expressing excitement about our dreams will mean we’re arrogant, selfish, or trying to steal the spotlight.
- We have established patterns of giving to others without receiving in return.
Just because we want something doesn’t mean we’re comfortable receiving it.
While the answer is not to do the opposite and share the deepest parts of ourselves with everyone we meet, it is worth asking where we are maintaining healthy boundaries and where we are hiding out. If we want to hold equal space in our relationships, we need to occupy our share of that space.
It’s not fair to hold back from sharing vulnerably and deflect attention to the other person and then resent them for taking up more space in our friendship.
I appreciate that letting people see us is uncomfortable, especially if we’re more practiced at hiding. But protecting ourselves from the risk of being known by another only guarantees that we’ll never feel known. Our fear of losing the friendship keeps us from deepening it.
Deciding that we want to be more visible in our friendships doesn’t mean it will instantly be comfortable or easy. As with any skill, it takes practice to build our ability to show up differently. We don’t have to go straight from hiding to revealing every bit of ourselves.
Instead, we can pay attention to where we tend to hold back and choose where we want to share more.
Every time we let our friends see a little more of who we are and what matters to us, we grow our comfort with being seen. We grow our trust that others want to know us and can love us for who we are…and our trust that we will be there for ourselves if others let us down.
This might also mean not waiting for others to ask before we share something of ourselves. Not everyone is skilled at asking good questions of others or even thinks to do so. Also, if we’ve dodged or deflected questions in the past or if we tend to offer minimal or surface level answers, we may have led the other person to believe we don’t welcome their inquiries.
Try this: Notice how you feel and how you tend to respond when a friend asks how you’re doing or what you’ve been up to. How might you respond differently if you believed your friend cared about you deeply and you wanted to help them know you better?
As an experiment, try giving that response. Try this for a while and see what happens. What do you notice about how you feel in the relationship? How does the other person respond?
Similarly, what if you experimented with sharing a little about something you’re excited about or something you’re struggling with without waiting to be asked? Give it a try and see what you notice.
To take this experiment even further, try having a conversation with your friend about how you can work together to make sure you both feel seen and appreciated. Share what you’ve noticed about your own patterns. What feels uncomfortable? What do you hope for? How can they support you? In turn, how can you support them?