Loving people and connecting in meaningful relationships is a huge topic. There are so many interconnected themes and it is a lot to cover so I’m splitting it into two posts, divided between giving love and receiving it. This week I’m talking about letting people love you.
Many of you will know, and maybe even fondly remember, the Ne-Yo song “Let Me Love You”. It’s about a guy who wants to love a girl who doesn’t recognize how great she is. It was one of the few songs that helped me survive the brutal playlists from my days working at The Bay. However, when I talk about letting people love you, I don’t mean in that context, I mean you need to let people know you so that they can love the real, authentic you.
Vulnerability is a popular term these days, at least in my social circle. I’ve been reading a lot of books and thinking about this theme of relationships quite a bit so before I get into my opinions I’ll lay the ground work of some people whose ideas I admire:
Jamie Tworkowski : is the founder of TWLOHA and author of If You Feel Too Much which is a collection of stories that celebrates hope in the face of difficult circumstances. He writes about life, grief, healing, and the importance of loving people, in a way that feels so authentic it makes me want to buy copies for everyone I know.
In his book he wrote: “In the event that we live to be old, I doubt our last days will find us aching for success or achievements. I doubt we’ll ask for bigger names or Internet followers or virtual friends. .. We will look back and smile at the moments that were real, the people who knew us and the people we knew, the relationships and conversations… We will consider the moments when we were allowed to show our beauty and our mess and the miracle moments when we were embraced by people who loved us even at our worst.”
Dr. Brené Brown: says “connection is what gives purpose and meaning to our lives” and that vulnerability is a necessary tool to connect with others. She also suggests that the unwillingness to be vulnerable stems from shame and a fear of not being worthy of connection.
She describes people who have a sense of belonging and worthiness as “whole-hearted people” and through her research found that these individuals are willing to be imperfect and to share who they are with others which results in developing meaningful connections; “as a result of authenticity, they were willing to let go of who they thought they should be in order to be who they were”.
Donald Miller: has written many books, including Scary Close, which speaks to the idea that having meaningful relationships stems from a willingness to let down our guard and let people get ‘scary close’.
One of my favourite passages from the book is: “It’s true I’ve been hurt a few times after revealing myself. There are people who lie in wait for the vulnerable and pounce as a way to feel powerful. But God forgive them. I’m willing to take the occasional blow to find people I connect with. As long as you’re willing to turn the other cheek with the mean ones, vulnerability can get you a wealth of friends. Can you imagine coming to the end of your life, being surrounded by people who loved you, only to realize they never really knew you?… How can we be loved if we are always in hiding?”
The “Behind the Scenes” of Your Life
My friend Allison has a great saying about not comparing your behind the scenes to someone else’s highlight reel. I want to take that idea one step further and suggest that we should not only avoid comparisons, but also be open about the reality of our behind the scenes. It’s hard to let people see our “behind the scenes” because sometimes it can be uncomfortable to be vulnerable. The other day my friend Emilia was over at my house and my bedroom was a mess. Clothes scattered everywhere, piles of old textbooks I need to sell – it was a little embarrassing for me to show her. I pleaded with her not to judge, but she just looked at me and said “You know I don’t care what it looks like, right?”. I think we need a reminder like that in our personal lives too, the people who love you don’t care about how messy the behind the scenes of your life might be.
I’m not suggesting you should to be vulnerable with every person you know, but with your community of friends, the people who you trust, I think it’s important to have those real conversations about where you’re at, how you’re doing, and what you’re going through. This link is to an interview between Brené Brown and Oprah if you’re wondering who you should or shouldn’t be vulnerable with, my favourite quote from the interview is: “You share with the people who have earned the right to hear your story”.
Privacy, Perfection, and the Difficulty of Letting People Love You
The other day I was driving down my street and I noticed that the blinds were pulled down over the windows of all the houses. People are comfortable with their privacy- and it’s true that privacy does have its place but even in our private lives we need to have community. We need to be willing to open the blinds to our friends, because the truth is in hard times if we cover the windows and keep people out, we also block out the light. Privacy is seen as safe, but it poses vulnerability as unsafe. People can see you and know you and it can hurt to be known and not properly loved, but the best thing we can do is open ourselves up and have faith that the love we give comes back to us.
Not only do we like our privacy, but so many of us are also perfectionists. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to reveal things until I’m done. I think a lot of us do that – we perfect and we would rather wait to show off a masterpiece rather than a work in progress. The problem with that is that if you wait until you’re perfect to open yourself up to people you’ll be waiting forever. Not only is it okay to be an imperfect work in progress, but thats how you should be, because thats how we all are. Nobody is perfect and life is an adventure of continually growing, building, and developing ourselves.
C is for Community, Courage and Connection
I’m not saying vulnerability is easy. To borrow words from Brené Brown, “To let ourselves be seen, deeply seen, vulnerably seen … to love with our whole hearts, even though there’s no guarantee — that’s really hard”. I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t wondered if being vulnerable was always worth it. But I do believe it’s true that vulnerability is necessary for connection, having the courage to say how you feel is what takes surface-level relationships and makes them into deep friendships. So yes, being vulnerable is a risk, but I think it’s worth it because it’s the door to community.
I had my heart broken once, and what I discovered through that experience was the immense amount of love people wanted to give me if I would let them. Maria Goff wrote in her book Love Lives Here “Sometimes in the most difficult times God sends us a friend – not to fix us, but to be with us” and that is how I felt. It was almost comically overwhelmingly how loved I felt at that time when I needed it most. It amazes and humbles me to see how willing people are to drop what they are doing to support people they love. The kindness, encouragement, stories, wisdom and love came at my life like a tidal wave which showed me something very special about community. When you let people you trust into your life to see behind the scenes, even when you’re not at your best, you have people on the sidelines to cheer you on when your life flourishes.
Sometimes letting people love you means asking for help, calling your best friend when you’ve had a bad day, letting the kind words of your friends wash over you, it often starts with acknowledging a need for and accepting support from others. The important part is letting those people in and honestly telling them how you are doing. Vulnerability can be challenging, but these types of deep relationships only succeed when you open yourself up, are willing to be a little vulnerable, and let people love you.