I am an extreme introvert. I'm not ashamed to admit that.
I'm the kind that will take one-on-one time with a brand new person over a large party with all my favorite people. It's not that I especially like meeting new people; actually, I get nervous just thinking about it. And it's not that I can't handle all my favorites in the same room; that thought brings a big smile to my face!
It's the connection which occurs in those more intimate circumstances that thrills my heart. Those moments when conversations move from weather talk and get-to-know you exchanges to down and dirty, nitty-gritty, get-to-KNOW you exchanges.
It's moving from "How many kids do you have?" (That one is always a fun one!) to "I'm struggling with being a parent right now." It's moving from "My spouse and I spend time together... sometimes." to "I don't like my spouse and I don't know how to fix that." It's moving from "Sure, I enjoy what I do for a living." to "I feel inadequate and unfulfilled in my career."
Those moments when we dive deeper than pleasantries.
Not everyone is an introvert like me, but everyone wants a connection, some kind of common ground with the people in their lives. Someone who will say "me too."
"I like pizza with ham and pineapple."
"I'm afraid of flying."
"I really like old musicals."
Connection. It feels good! And there's power in it. Connection removes the sense that we're alone, that we're the odd one out.
Imagine what happens when we move past the superficial "me too's" into something much heavier, something that impacts our souls. Imagine what kind of connection could form it we'd allow ourselves to share pieces of ourselves we'd normally guard only to find another person in the same place.
The safety that ignites in our hearts when we meet someone with the same life experiences as us is powerful. Especially, when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable and authentic to who we are and what we're walking through.
"I have a deep fear of dying."
"I had to file bankruptcy."
"My child is failing school and I missed it."
When we keep things a secret, it creates shame. It may even be adding to shame that already existed. It could initially start out as embarrassment over a poor decision, but the longer we keep things hidden, the stronger the hold those things have on us. And, if you're like me, our thoughts run away from us, making embarrassment or mild regret turn into something far more controlling. Whether we realize it's happening or not, by not expressing what's on our heart or what's troubling us, we are giving shame power.
Speaking things out loud, however, takes away the control shame has over us. Speaking truth to someone else about our experiences can open the door to intense connections we wouldn't otherwise have. Every time we share with another person, those shame-filled moments have less of an impact on us.
With those tiny words come great power. The power of freedom.
I don't know how to trust others.
I felt unwanted by so many people.
I struggle with deep shame because of my past.
My husband's favorite Shel Silverstein poem speaks directly to the dangers of hiding our authentic selves.
So many times, we're too busy trying to hide our authentic self, trying to keep secrets, that we miss these beautiful opportunities to find connection in the "me too." Because we're afraid the person we're sharing them with won't be able to say them back.
That's OK! Not everyone will share the same emotions or experiences that we do and that's a good thing. They may not be able to say "Me too," but maybe they will put their arms around us and say, "Tell me more."
Those are good words too.