That’s a question that we all have asked our friends, family and lovers a thousand times. And every time we ask, we hope to hear a resounding and emphatic yes. We hope to hear people gush about how wonderful we are, and how honored they are to have us in their lives. We want people to list all of our admirable qualities and share adoring stories about our contributions to the world. Honestly when we pose the love question, we expect to hear “yes”. And not only do we expect to hear yes, we expect to hear a h*** yes.
But do we really share enough about ourselves for people to really love us or to determine if they love us? Do we share enough about ourselves in ways that exposes who we really are? If we are honest, we will admit that we share the good stuff that makes us look noble, strong and successful. And if we are honest, we will also confess that we omit the parts that make us feel unlovable, unacceptable, undesirable and unethical. To some degree, we all keep our weaknesses, frailties and insecurities a secret and pray that the truth is never revealed.
But if you want someone to really love you, you got to let them really know you. You have to be open and disclose the parts of you that make you you. If not, how can someone know if they love you? The solution – be vulnerable.
Vulnerability may seem like a simple concept, but it is hard to do. The good news is that many of us usually know when we are not being vulnerable, open or forthcoming. We generally know when we are being covert; we recognize when we are hiding and masking who we are. But many of us are not so good at realizing when we are hiding from ourselves. Some of us have lied to ourselves so much and for so long that we have difficulty knowing when we are being clandestine, sneaky and disingenuous. We can’t effectively distinguish between emotional disclosure and emotional disguise. And, we vacillate between candidness and cageyness.
But if you want someone to truly love you, you must willing to share the REAL YOU. The REAL YOU - Not the façade that you present to the world. The REAL YOU - Not the you that masks your pain and frailties. The REAL YOU - Not the you that hides failures, doubts and weaknesses. The REAL YOU -Not the you who exaggerates your income and lies about your education/expertise. The REAL YOU - Not the you who constantly acquiesces and goes along to get along. I encourage you to share the REAL YOU. The REAL YOU who has a past filled with stars and scars. The REAL YOU who suffers from insecurities and feelings of inadequacies. The REAL YOU who has experienced success and failure, prosperity and poverty , and sickness and health. The REAL YOU who is authentic, honest and raw. The REAL, sometimes contradictory, sometimes inconsistent, sometimes strong, sometimes weak, sometimes confident, sometimes cute, sometimes quirky, sometimes balanced, YOU!
Why share? Because that real YOU is the one who desires a friend/lover to share life’s challenges, celebrations, issues and accomplishments. The real YOU is the one who needs hugs and encouragement when a loved one dies, or when a job ends, or when you feel discouraged. The real YOU craves a champion, cheerleader and a confidant to travel with you through life’s ups and downs. The real You longs for someone to rejoice with you in good times and be present with you in times of sorrow. The real YOU yearns for a sense of belonging and aches for connection and intimacy. The real YOU – the human you, the imperfect you, the wounded you - wants and desires to be loved.
Unfortunately the real YOU sometimes doesn’t show up. And if the real YOU is never revealed, how can others know if they really love you? How can they really know who are you are? Yes, important questions, but necessary questions that need consideration. Because often times we wonder if a person loves us because deep down we know that we are hiding parts of ourselves. We are keeping secrets; we are not being vulnerable. But vulnerability is important; it is essential in all relationships. It allows you to open your heart and soul so that you are known in ways that encourage honesty, connection and trust. Just think about it - It is hard to love and it is hard for someone to love you if you won’t share.
Vulnerability is critical but must only be practiced in the presence of two other ingredients – 1) courage and 2) discernment. Why courage ? Because vulnerability always involves risk. It involves risk of rejection, risk of betrayal, risk of judgment, risk of ostracism and risk of exclusion. And because of the risk, vulnerability requires discernment because some people don’t have the integrity, maturity or character to be honored with your vulnerability. They can not respect your openness nor maintain confidentiality. My grandmother said it this way – some people can’t even hold water with a cup. And yes, being vulnerable with someone and allowing someone to be vulnerable with you is an honor. It is sacred privilege to stand with someone in their truth and in their spiritual and emotional nakedness. And the more we respect the sanctity of vulnerability, the less willing we are to violate, minimize and degrade it.
Even though vulnerability involves risk, it also has transforming power. Why? When you realize that others have experienced the same or similar things, you realize that you are not alone. You realize that we are all humans traveling in this experience called life. You realize that your ability to be vulnerable changes how you live, love and navigate in the world. But most of all, your ability to be vulnerable increases your self-confidence, self-respect and self-acceptance because you will no longer feel the need to hide from others or expect others to hide from you.
So, do you really love me? A question that many of us will continue to ask. And, a good question to pose after you have allowed someone to really know and see you.
I look forward to continuing this discussion in the coming weeks. In the meantime, be vulnerable, be courageous and be discerning. Love awaits you.
I Can Depend On Me, Author