We— and most of the people around us— have entire worlds, entire universes, hidden inside of ourselves that very few other people know about.
I think about this every time I hear somebody confidently say that a person they know “would never do (fill in the blank).”
Many of the people I work with every day begin sessions with a variation on the theme, “if other people ONLY KNEW (fill in the blank) about me…”
It’s not that we’re necessarily hiding things from the world because we’re ashamed…although that’s sometimes the case.
It’s more often just the fact that there’s no possible way the people around us could POSSIBLY comprehend the overwhelming array of fears, desires, ideas, feelings, urges, needs, fears, and other experiences that make us, us.
In fact, we OURSELVES have difficulty appreciating, let alone managing, all that goes on inside our heads and hearts. So, we do what we can to limit our awareness of the complexity and chaos within us— for no other reason than to avoid being overwhelmed.
All of which means that, when we’re dealing with OTHER people out there in the world…they often get the very edited, very abridged version of us.
We give other people the version of “us” that we think they can handle.
We give other people the version of “us” that we think they can accept.
We give other people the version of “us” we think is safest to give them.
And make no mistake, it’s normal and understandable that we do this…but in the long term it also leads many people to feel lonely and unseen.
It’s hard to feel connected to the world when you feel essentially unseen and unknown.
It’s hard to feel truly liked and appreciated, let alone loved, when you feel essentially unseen and unknown.
Why is any of this important to understand and talk about? Because it very directly impacts our ability and inclination to accept, respect, and love ourselves.
It’s hard to love yourself when you’re constantly thinking that the world only knows— and thus only accepts— an incomplete, heavy edited version of you.
It’s hard to love yourself when you truly believe that there are people in your life who would dislike and reject you IF THEY ONLY KNEW thus-and-such about you.
It’s hard to love yourself when you’re aware that there are parts of you that you’re actively ignoring, neglecting, denying or disowning.
A skill every one of us needs to develop is the ongoing skill of not making it harder to love ourselves.
The world makes it hard enough already.
We need to understand something important about both ourselves and the other people in our lives: not one of us is perfect.
Not one of us likes every single part of ourselves, our behaviors, or or pasts.
Not one of us DOESN’T have things they’d prefer to do over in their lives, or aspects of themselves they wish looked, felt, or functioned differently.
There are ways every single one of us is a mess— or thinks we’re a mess, anyway.
So we both limit our own awareness of ourselves, and we definitely limit the ways in which we expose ourselves to and interact with the world.
But here’s the thing: as broken, as wounded, as much of a mess as you think you are?
I guarantee you that the most confident, together person you’ve ever met feels something similar (provided, of course, they have a baseline level of self awareness).
We are all hiding ourselves from the world— and, to a certain extent, from our own awareness.
It’s a testament to how much we desperately need love.
And not just love. Acceptance, respect, kindness.
Yes, from the world— but also, more immediately, from ourselves.
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One thought on “We are all mysteries, seeking a sleuth.”
I salute you Doc for such an inspiring and beautiful article. Love is such and important word. Love, Respect, Kindness and Gratitude goes a long way. If everyone on this planet possessed even a fraction of these attributes, the world would be a much better place. Thank you so much for that article.