“Man stands in his own shadow and wonders why it’s dark.” -Zen Proverb
I’ve recognized that I come to my computer to write for one of two reasons:
Either I feel the need to explore something that’s relevant to my life, and in doing so, start a conversation about it; or there’s something bothering me that I haven’t fully addressed, and I’m hoping the conversation will make me feel better about it.
Last week an old friend wrote to congratulate me on my book. She started the email by joking that she wouldn’t “sell my secrets if the tabloids called.”
Though I doubt she was referring to anything specific, this struck a nerve with me because I’ve shared a lot of my personal experiences, but there are some stories I haven’t told.
Some of them I’ve worked through and simply don’t want to share; others I haven’t completely addressed, and I’m still working through them privately.
After I read her email, I started to write a post about the difference between authenticity and transparency. I realized three paragraphs in that my sole intention was to receive confirmation that I am not a fraud for keeping certain things to myself.
So I decided to sit with this, and give myself the reassurance and acceptance I hoped you’d give me.
I realized then that this same idea applies in everyday life, as we engage with other people and, consciously or unconsciously, look to them to give us what we’re not giving ourselves.
If we’re feeling down on ourselves, we may look to other people to validate us. If we’re feeling drained, we might look to other people to give us permission to take a break.
If they don’t give us what we need, we can end up feeling frustrated, and direct that at them. Ironically, even when people say what we think we want to hear, it tends to fall flat if we don’t truly believe they’re right.
What makes it all the more complicated is that we don’t often realize we’re doing this. It’s far more comfortable to search outside than it is to look within.
But if we want to fully feel the warmth of light, we need to first access our own. That starts with asking ourselves: What do I really need—and how can I give it to myself?
Photo by Wonderlane