This isn't my typical tips and tricks blog post. This is my first in what I hope to be a series of posts more focused on catalyzing conversation. Where I show you more of me and ask you to let me see more of YOU.
Being seen, really BEING SEEN, is the most powerful, scariest experience I can think of. For example, public speaking, is so scary that it has been shown to be the number one fear, even over death! So, how do people do it - showing up to be seen and heard? Why is it so enticing to share your message? Meeting new people - that's another thing that can be very intimidating. How can you let more people in your life REALLY see you? Even those things you think you'll be judged for?
This topic came up for me first when I hired a dating coach 5 years ago to help me discover why I was alternating between physical and emotional closeness in my romantic relationships - each time meeting someone new that I lacked experiencing one of those elements with. I started to share sad, judgmental beliefs I had held onto as true for me - that I was unworthy of deep, connected, emotionally supportive, physically passionate love; that I was a failure; that I was terrified of being an abuser like my father. My coach, and the other women in the group accepted me for what I shared and helped me learn that it's ok not to be perfect as long as you try from a place of love. They reinforced new beliefs that I am human and therefore 100% deserving of the love I crave.
Another time I experienced being seen in an incredibly powerful way, was when I did a boudoir photo shoot. The photographer I worked with doesn't do glamour boudoir - he asks people to have no makeup, no fancy lingerie and just be in an open state of mind. We talked about how his perfect shot happens when he makes space for people to feel comfortable, be themselves, and really allow the camera to capture their natural beauty. His tag line is "I see people" and he really does. Case in point the photo above. Thank you, David Jaan.
Most recently this topic came back up when I went to CampGLP, a 3 1/2 day sleep away camp for creative, entrepreneurial adults where the age ranged from 25-75. It was an incredible space where people expected you to show up with your dreams, ambitions, and goals - along with your doubts, frustrations, and failures. It was among the most liberating 3 1/2 days of my life and solidified the concept that belonging doesn't mean doing anything special, but does mean being yourself - in ALL your glory and challenge. I went from not knowing anyone there to feeling deeply connected to about two dozen people (out of about 400). That's the true power of showing up authentically.
I hugged people I didn't know, I laughed, sang, and danced without restriction. I cried in front of people not needing them to dry my tears, but in a way asking them to just let it be ok - and they did. They observed the emotions I was feeling without jumping to change or fix them - honoring where I was in my own process.
The power of validating people's experience by just letting them be is life changing. We are more than our emotions, our bodies, our thoughts and when you find others who recognize and respect that, it's unbelievably profound.
So, the first thing to consider in beginning to approach that level of exposure is confidence. The belief that you are who you are and that is enough. The understanding that all humans experience the same emotions, so at least one person in your life, in this moment, will be able to relate to your current state and offer assurance that your feelings as they are - are valid. That person who you may see as perfect and put together and in control - they've been in places where they've felt utterly out of control, lost and just as scared as you. The only difference is that they've accepted their experience and moved past it by expressing their feelings - letting at least one person in to truly see them. They've been seen and they have the confidence (at least with that one person) that whatever they revealed was ok.
The second thing to consider is trust. Trust is a choice. Trust is an ability to suspend control in the moment with yourself and another. You can choose to trust someone or not to trust someone - that's what you have control over. If they betray your trust, that is their choice, not yours. When someone can show you they will hold their judgements as their own (nothing to do with you) and be open to giving you space to share whatever you need, that is a divine recipe for a powerful conversation. When someone shows you they will judge you for your choices and judge you for what you have to share, it is not to say you can't trust them, but you might choose to change your approach with them and be more cautious with what you share. However, making assumptions about how someone else will react is what gets us in these cycles of hiding - of believing someone else would judge us, reject us, shame us for who we are, and even judging them - so we don't show up.
The third element to consider in being seen is vulnerability . This is sometimes the scariest element because many of us have learned to equate vulnerability to weakness. Vulnerability is nothing more than surrendering to feeling uncomfortable, afraid, exposed, and choosing to show up and be there anyway. You're not weak or strong, you just are. We don't connect through perfection, we connect through the cracks. You can lower the resistance to vulnerability by seeing if you put extra pressure or meaning into the relationships you want more connection in. You can do this by recognizing the other person is in your life to connect, and your vulnerability is the key to doing that.
So, taking confidence, trust, and vulnerability into your life practice and putting them into action - how can you use these to more fully show up in your own life? Is there something else you feel contributes to allowing yourself to be seen? What is the biggest obstacle you face in being more authentic in your own life? Share in the comments below!