When I was first learning how to show up authentically in my relationships, I carried a secret fear: I was always worried that my boyfriend would find out how anxious and self-conscious I felt most of the time.
I assumed he wanted to be with me because he thought I was powerful and did cool things. While it was true, I did do amazing things and was powerful by any outside standards, in spite of it all, I walked around in a subtle, but almost constant state of anxiety.
On top of that self-consciousness was a paralyzing worry that I would be “found out”— that my boyfriend would one day realize what a scared, powerless, flawed, anxious person I really was. And obviously when he found out, he would be repulsed. And leave me.
Well, one day, I couldn’t take the pressure anymore. In a moment of true confession, I blurted out,
“Every time I’m with you, I am so scared that you will find out how anxious I am.”
I stopped breathing as I waited for my world to fall apart, for my boyfriend to subtly pull back—signaling the beginning of the end of our relationship—as he realized I wasn’t the amazing person he thought I was.
But do you want to know what he actually did?
He said, simply, “I know.”
In disbelief, I clarified, “I mean, I’m anxious A LOT.”
Again, he said, “I know,” like it was no big deal. As if I had just told him, “I have green eyes,” or said, “I am wearing a yellow dress today.”
Major turning point alert! This big, horrible secret I was keeping from him was not actually a secret at all. He could see through all my stealth efforts to appear calm, cool and collected 100% of the time.
Also, my big secret, which in my head, proved that I was unlovable (obviously) and would surely be abandoned, was actually not an issue for my boyfriend at all. The “problem” was only in my distorted thoughts.
This story illustrates how I made the #1 mistake that most women make in relationships:
I thought I had to act or be a certain way in order to be loved.
Have you ever done this?
It’s human nature to believe that if anyone really, truly saw that one thing about you that is so embarrassing, or so unattractive, that he or she would bolt in the opposite direction.
As women, we often think we need to uphold a façade, or hide our challenges in order keep a relationship. We believe if our partners knew that there was really something “wrong” with us, they would be repelled.
But here’s the thing: Trying so hard to control how someone feels about you, and prevent him or her from truly knowing you, is exhausting! It takes waaay too much energy AND you are actually cutting yourself off from the flow of love that could be coming to you.
When I found the strength and self-love to let my boyfriend see me, it opened me up to receive so much more love from him, which only strengthened our relationship. I could relax because I wasn’t trying to control his love, or hide the truth. Love and truth, by the way, are both the same thing at the end of the day.
Taking the risk to reveal yourself to your loved one is a risk that generates more love. The more you love yourself, the more others can love you. This is the gift of vulnerability.
If you are terrified at the thought of sharing parts of yourself that feel shameful or embarrassing, don’t worry… so are most people! Its easier to share when you remember that other people feel scared too. And I guarantee it gets easier and the things that once felt scary to share will at some point be as easy as saying “I have green eyes.” Vulnerability is a muscle and you can practice strengthening it.
How you can take this into your life: Start by practicing with someone with whom you already feel safe. This could be a close girlfriend or your partner. Take a risk and share something you haven’t revealed to this person before because it felt too personal. Share it openly and see what happens.
I have a hunch you will find that you are still (can you believe it?) lovable, worthy, and wanted.
What has your experience been of hiding or revealing a vulnerable part of yourself? And what has helped you make that leap to letting someone in when you felt scared?
Leave your comments in the blog. I’d love to hear from you!