Most of us go through life with varying relationships with family members, friends, colleagues or neighbours. And most likely we all have, or had, at least one best friend, be it mother, father, a playmate, school friend or lover. With them we feel at ease; we trust them with our deepest thoughts and feelings; we reveal much more to them than to anybody else.
I had two such friends in my life. As a small child I had a ‘best friend’ that I spent my pre-school years with. We were exploring ourselves and life together with uninhibited curiosity and joy.
That ended when our parents sent us to different schools. Apparently I was a ‘bad influence’ on my friend – too wild and free. I was heartbroken and withdrew into a previously unknown shyness that I found difficult to let go of for a long, long time. It still holds me in shackles from time to time, even though I have healed most of the hurts from my childhood.
After that hurtful experience, I never had another friend, let alone a best friend – until I met my loving partner many years later.
With him I started opening up and trusting again, slowly and carefully letting myself be seen. And after many years of testing the waters with him, I learned to open up to more and more people.
My story is probably familiar to many people. We start off as an open, joyful child with free expression and no fear of consequences, then we experience rejection and judgement, grow up and build up walls of protection around us. We then feel separated from everybody, except from our best friends, if we have them. And even those best friends will most likely not get the full version of our true being any more, as we have learned to adjust to the ‘adult’ way of behaviour, which is measured and tainted by all the hurts and disappointments of our childhood and teenage years.
The ‘adult’ way of life – being very reserved with people we don’t know, smiling only to our neighbours or people that fit our criteria of what good people should look like, but looking away when strangers look at us, being very polite and friendly but showing no honest interest in the other person, being uncomfortable at parties or gatherings where we don’t know most of the people, where they are all friendly and familiar with each other and we feel like an outsider. All this is not the connection we really want, but we pretend that all is good when inside we feel disconnected, protective and lonely.
But what we all crave deep within is that intimate connection to others that we had as a child. We don’t want to be held back by our self-consciousness and fears. It feels like a prison; it makes us sad and lonely. Our own holding back actually hurts much more than a negative reaction of another towards us. That is just one moment, but our holding back is with us all of the time. It’s a structure that holds us in a certain energy even when we are alone.
So why are we so afraid to let our guard down? What does it do to us when somebody doesn’t like what we do or say, or what we look like? Apart from pressing all the buttons and reminding us of past experiences and bringing up those hurts again, it then reaffirms the held belief that we are not good enough just as we are.
I had that belief for so long that, even when I had addressed those old hurts, I still found it hard to believe that I am actually a lovable person; that the sweetness, goodness and love that I feel inside is good enough and of value for others.
So many of us feel that way, but what do we do about it? Mostly, we wait for others to first prove to us that they will not hurt us. Do we really expect that other people, those strangers that we hold so far away from us, will come to us and tell us that they like us and they would love to see and hear the true version of ourselves, and that we don’t need to feel afraid because they will love us no matter what? We all know that that will not happen, but somehow we still hope. So why don’t we give what we hope to come from others to ourselves, love ourselves no matter what, then make the first step towards the other – by just being open, not holding back – and offer our true sweet nature and see what happens?
For me, the only way out of that deeply held belief in the lack of self-worth, the shyness and sometimes crippling self-consciousness, is to come out of my perceived safe haven.
Step by step, I do what feels possible, trying out different avenues to meet and connect to people and open up more and more. With that comes the experience of how people respond or react to me and it has been the most wonderful journey. People are actually all pretty much the same. They all have a goodness and loveliness inside them and most of them love to share it. I never had so many friends before, even if it is just for a moment.
We can have an open and loving connection with anybody, instantly. We just have to hold ourselves in our natural essence, just be who we truly are deep inside – whether there is a sweetness, tenderness, joyfulness or just a willingness to be present within us – and then keep our hearts and minds open, welcoming the other into our presence and receiving theirs. There is no need to perform, or do or say anything in particular, just allowing ourselves to express what comes naturally in any situation. Sometimes just a smile or simple “hello” opens the door to another heart. You can see it in their eyes – it’s a wonderful light, so beautiful equally in everybody.
I often feel like a child; simple, innocent, joyful and filled with love. And with the experience, wisdom and awareness of the grown woman that I am now, there is an understanding that we are all very similar inside. Everyone is love and has their own way of expressing it. And if they don’t show it, it is no reason for me to feel inhibited in any way, but to understand that everybody is on their own chosen path in life.
If we would only allow ourselves to be what we deep inside know to be true, we can live and connect with each other in this free and intimate way that we secretly all crave for. It’s the easiest, most natural thing in the world.
By Regina Perlwitz, housewife, 60, Mullumbimby, Australia