I guess I always wanted to present myself as TheIdeal. No, I wasn’t society’s ideal of a perfect girl or woman, but I wanted to present myself as my version of Ideal.
It looked something like this: smart, hilarious, strong, talented, independent, and slightly quirky (and also good with kids and pretty good at baking). The less I was a “stereotypical girl,” the better, because aren’t girls dumbed down and needy and weak and dependent and unthreatening?
So me and sharing feelings? Me and being weak? We didn’t mix. I thought that would not only lessen others’ idea of me…I thought it would disqualify me from a relationship with the kind of guy/man I wanted to attract (which was someone who appreciated all those things, because they are who I am, too).
Yeah, there were boys that liked me, but it always ended the same. It ended me with getting scared and having feelings that I didn’t feel safe verbalizing…so I stonewalled. I dropped off the face of the planet. I gave little explanation. I couldn’t voice my fears or concerns.
When there were challenges or stresses, I didn’t really trust anyone. I didn’t want to burden them. I didn’t know how to express them. I didn’t want to risk having my junk shared. And, regardless of how many probing questions I asked others, very few people flipped it around and asked me anything probing. Why is it that the people who are so often good at supporting can live so unsupported?
Here’s the thing: The people that you think are strong…may just be better emotional stonewallers. If I didn’t want to talk about it…I didn’t.
Which is how I got to be 25 with lots of suppressed emotion.
I cracked because I couldn’t take it any longer. I took the mask off with a few friends.
It was the best thing that happened to me.
Ten years ago, I would have been terrified of behaving in a relationship like I sometimes do now. One where I’m sometimes insecure, where I voice personal fears, where I cry more than twice a year, get hormonal, am a little chunky and burn dinners.
Truth be told, maybe it’s just a thing with being older, but I don’t feel like I have my best in any area to offer. I’m no longer toned. No longer as happy-go-lucky. No longer as fearless. No longer sure how the process will go to have kids. I guess I’m more emotionally mature. But maybe the best isn’t as good as real.
Here’s the thing.
I didn’t realize that as I shut the bad in, I shut the good out.
My aversion to vulnerability kept me from deepening relationships with safe people.
Because the guy I’m dating? I almost dated back in 2008. He was one of the guys I never shared my feelings with out of not wanting to hurt him. It turns out that in not sharing, I hurt him and myself.
And there’s just all this trust, stability and certainty because of all the grace and patience he demonstrates when I allow myself to be vulnerable with him. When I’m real and not a façade of TheIdeal, he gets to support me in a real and deep way. The way his love does not depend on my perfection is freeing. The way his kindness but firmness leads me to repentance is encouraging to be my best, most holy self without being enslaved to it.
So I guess what I’m saying to my twenty year-old self is this: kick in TheIdeal. Stop trying to be a strong girl all the time if you’re not feeling all that strong. It’s so so uncomfortable being vulnerable (and usually will start with me saying “I don’t want to talk to you about this, but I prayed about it and it’s still not better, so I think I’m supposed to talk to you about it”), but do it anyway. Open up to God, to that friend, and when the time comes and a man (+the relationship length) has proven himself worthy, appropriate and safe, open up to him, too.