You either walk inside your story and own it, or you stand outside your story and hustle for your worthiness.
How many times have you heard of someone who has intimacy issues? I think it’s the all-purpose label we use when things go wrong in relationships. I think it’s really one thing. Every time. In every kind of relationship.
I think we are desperate to be seen. I think we are terrified someone will really see us. I think those two urges do battle within each and every one of us, and depending on which one wins, we live or we don’t. We LIVE or we don’t. I am not speaking, necessarily, in terms of our hearts actually stopping- although that is sometimes the outcome. I mean we either move through life, or we live it. I’m not sure you can really live unseen, but really being seen can be a terrifying way to live.
When we talk about someone having intimacy issues, I think this is what we mean. Those two drives in conflict with one another. Our desire to have those we love the most truly see and hear us, fighting with our fear that if they do we will not be loved. We expose and protect, expose and protect.
How many times have your girlfriends, especially when you are young, told you the guy they’re interested in is sending mixed messages? Is it possible that, instead of being manipulative players, they are really just waging this subconscious civil war? And the reason this seemingly becomes less of an issue as we get older is we are hopefully figuring some of this out? That we are more comfortable saying, This is Me. Unarmed. Love me, don’t love me- either way, I am owning my story.
I think those of us who wrestle with shame spend a whole lot of time hustling. I am a life long hustler. As much as I have always wanted to really be seen by the people in my life, I was certain I was, at the end of the day, unworthy. If I’m being totally honest, while I was taken aback by my ex-husband’s conduct, I wasn’t all that surprised that he didn’t love me. That sort of made sense to me.
My God, that’s awful. I really want to delete those last two lines, but I am not going to.
Maybe that was the real problem, in the end. And I am truly just putting it together as I write this. We were two people who were sure the other would not love us if we were really seen. I was more able to forgive my ex-husband’s infidelity than he was able to forgive me for knowing about his infidelity. Maybe my seeing him for who he truly was- even though I forgave him- was the final nail in the coffin. Perhaps his need to be perceived a particular way was so strong, so vital, that once it was no longer an option he was done with our marriage.
I don’t know if I ever relaxed into my life with him enough to be still, to be seen. To stop hustling for just a second. I think that was a safe way to live my life with him, skimming the surface. I think I was afraid he would not love me if I laid myself bare to him. I happen to think I was right to be afraid, by the way. I don’t think those fears of intimacy are always irrational.
I have always struggled with being still, with allowing myself to be vulnerable with people. Even MY PEOPLE. My truest and best friends. My sisters. It’s another way in which my divorce was an absolute gift to me. Because it shattered me. I was so completely undone that I no longer had the energy to hold up that armor that I’d spent a lifetime forging. I was so undone that I had to let people help me. I was so undone that I allowed myself, finally, to be seen, in all of my broken, messy, imperfectness.
Nowadays, I am willing to say- Love me, don’t love me- either way, THIS IS MY STORY. I am finally in a relationship where I am seen for who I am, and loved exactly where I’m at. Now I am aware of how much work it is to exist the other way. I think any time you live in fear of being seen, you are hustling. And hustling is exhausting. I don’t mean it makes you tired, I mean it EXHAUSTS you. It depletes you, washes away your sparkle, what makes you YOU. I am more ME now. I’m the ME-est I’ve ever been.
That’s scary, too. There’s risk in that. But it’s good risk. It is, as Ms. Brown and President Roosevelt would say, Daring Greatly.
Brene Brown says people need to earn the right to hear your stories. I don’t know how I feel about that. Clearly. Because here I am. Telling my stories. Perhaps they DO need to earn the right to really see you, though. I don’t know. I’m still figuring some of this stuff out.
Love this, Laura. You are so right, there is such a vulnerable tension between desperately wanting to be seen and not wanting to truly be seen. When I think of the kids we work with at eastside academy, this is so much of the mixed message of hurt and shame that can be confusing to adults trying to help. But at the end of the day, we all want someone to just look in our eyes and say, “I see all of you and I love you right where you are at” . It is a gift to offer that to someone and I believe it is where healing can begin.
In Other's Words says
Daily Presents/Cadigan Creative says
I struggle with the Brene Brown idea of people having to earn the right to hear your story, too…that’s a puzzler. But I also think that being totally seen by everyone often means being open to and OK with a lot of judgment, which can also be exhausting and depleting. I don’t have the answers, either (obviously), but I love you. 🙂
i hardly know you but i already love you. i’m a lonely hustling valley girl who used to rant that all she wanted was a shred of dignity. but that won’t save me. shame never strays far from me. it makes me feel so unclean. thanks for this.
In Other's Words says
Then we met for a reason, no? xo
Keep living …. ?
Meredith W. says
I’m not sure how I like the way this makes me look at my marriage.
You’re really sort of brilliant…you know? Seriously- thank you.
“As much as I have always wanted to really be seen by the people in my life, I was certain I was, at the end of the day, unworthy. If I’m being totally honest, while I was taken aback by my ex-husband’s conduct, I wasn’t all that surprised that he didn’t love me. That sort of made sense to me.”
Was absolutely something I have felt in the aftermath of infidelity too. And I suspect many others have as well. And I’d bet money that with the following paragraph-
“I was more able to forgive my ex-husband’s infidelity than he was able to forgive me for knowing about his infidelity. Maybe my seeing him for who he truly was- even though I forgave him- was the final nail in the coffin. Perhaps his need to be perceived a particular way was so strong, so vital, that once it was no longer an option he was done with our marriage.”
You’ve probably nailed one of the critical determinants in the difference between successful and unsuccessful reconciliations in many post-affair relationships.
Looking forward to reading more.
Akire Bubar says
Yes. The part you quoted is the part that was a revelation to me, too. About how our inability to forgive ourselves ripples out around us and tears at those we love as well. Is this true in every context, not just the one you described? I think so. I need to sit with that thought awhile. Thank you.
In Others' Words says
I think any time you cannot forgive- whether it be yourself or others- you are in judgment and shame territory. Judgment and shame are poison, and they negatively affect everyone involved, regardless of the situation.
This has me feeling a little shaky, but also, dare I say, “seen?” My husband is the only person (the ONLY one, and I have wonderful parents, and siblings, and lifelong friends) who I’ve ever let really see me. I hadn’t thought about the fact that this might be a common condition. Everyone else always seems so much less guarded.
In Others' Words says
Ashby- you are seen. And if you need to tell your story, and aren’t ready to do it publicly, my email is email@example.com. I will read it and bear witness. I am so sorry that happened. If you look through the comments here, and on the other places our story has been shared this past week, you will realize just how not alone you were. Are. Be well, sister.