Emotional Authenticity

This post is the start of something new here on the blog.  It’s the start of expressing myself and my feelings as I truly am.  It’s the beginning of not hiding parts of myself because of how I perceive others will respond to them.  

Right now as I type this I am feeling a sense of sadness.  It’s a sadness that I can feel in my eyes.  It’s a pressure in my eyes and a heaviness in my face.  I feel sad for all the times when my life was a manipulative performance where I contorted my needs and wants to meet what I thought others wanted from me.  I feel sad about having lived so many years of my life trying to caretake the needs of others.  I feel sad because I lost myself along the way.  I want to mourn the moments where I was hyper focused on the needs of others and felt compelled to sacrifice my own needs, wants, and desires to be a “good person” or “nice” in the hopes that doing this would get me the deep connection and belonging I have always longed  for.  The reality is that living like this resulted in depression, anxiety, and feeling alone in the world.   

Living my life with the responsibility of making others feel good about themselves,  feel seen and worthy,  feel smart, and living to meet my perception of others’ needs, is exhausting.  It’s sapped my life force over the years.  It’s also an impossible task.  No one can make anyone feel something or make someone happy.  Even after having been in therapy for 12 years for anxiety and OCD and exploring my inner world and trying to take care of my own needs and implementing so much self care, I have been completely oblivious to the ways in which I have betrayed my own needs to try to make others feel a certain way.  While this may sound compassionate, it’s really just a veiled form of manipulation and control.  It’s basically saying “l’ll act how I think you want me to act and you give me the connection I want.”  That’s not a connection at all.  I have betrayed my own needs because as an adult human I didn’t feel like I could cope with the emotional lives of others or with my own unpleasant emotions and body sensation.  Only by being my true self can I learn that I can get the connection and belonging I yearn for not in spite of my imperfections and emotions, but because of them.  These cracks are the beautiful parts of me that make me human just like everyone else.  That’s where real connection starts and ends. 

The most painful part of all this for me is that taking care of others needs (or more accurately my perception of others needs) means that I learned to hide my emotions. I decided at some point that expressing my emotions and expressing my true self might be detrimental to getting the connections I long for in life.  I felt afraid that If i expressed myself fully others might be turned off or feel burdened by my emotions.  Since I want love and belonging like all humans, I decided that the best way to get love and belonging was to offer a version of myself to the world that was “safe and “ cool”.  Cool people pretend they can’t get hurt but they never truly live either.  

After years of trying to live like this and seeing how it doesnt work, I am finally ready to move on.  It just doesn’t make me feel good.  I can never feel at home with myself and at home in my body living like this.  It doesn’t even work as a viable way to live some of the time.  I don’t want to think back on my deathbed that I never expressed my true self to the world.  Sure, I might be able to form some ok relationships living this “nice”, “pleasant”, “no needs’ version of myself, but I will always be feeling like it was never really love.  I want to be loved and seen for all of myself… for all my parts and for all my emotions no matter how messy they may be.  I want to share myself with the world so that others can also feel comfortable sharing themselves with me knowing that I wont judge because they see me as an imperfect, emotional human just like they are.  

In the past,  I made the decision unconsciously that in order to keep others happy and feeling worthy (which obviously I don’t have the power to do), I needed to only feel “good’ and “happy” emotions and that I needed to always be on guard to make sure I don’t burden others with emotions that may be deemed “too strong” or “negative”.  This is really sad typing this because emotions are largely how I see the world and how I relate to the world.  I have always had strong emotions since I was a kid.  As an adult I have explored them alone, yet have continued to stuff them down in interpersonal interactions.  It’s a lifelong practice but I am ready to take the leap into trusting that I can belong even if I am sad, angry, or afraid.  It’s too painful to keep hiding my true self to others and to the world.

We really come alive when we can cry because the sunset is so beautiful while a friend is right next to us watching it with us.  We don’t have to try to wipe away our tears because we are afraid they might be a burden or because it’s not the “right” way to act.  We become alive when we are moved to tears and can emote them safely in the presence of others. 

 I have practiced for many years now telling my story and sharing information with others in a vulnerable way, but this isn’t enough.  It’s sort of a vulnerability-lite way to be with others that shares a little but stays safe by not sharing too much.  What I really long for is to share all of myself with others who have earned the right to hear my story.  This story must include my emotions because they are very meaningful to me.  I feel sad right now and yet it’s really hard for me to actually cry.  To actually emote my sadness and let the sounds reverberate into the world.  Somehow I have been living believing that crying isn’t ok and isn’t safe.  I long to just let my body express what it really feels and that’s my goal going forward on this blog .  Real emotional vulnerability means expressing and feeling one’s emotions fully in the presence of oneself and others.  This means not increasing and dramatizing them and not suppressing them either.  The goal for me is to just feel my emotions with others and let them be seen.  This means letting others see me when I am angry or afraid or sad and letting whatever happens happen.  

In the past I would always suppress my emotions around others because I didn’t believe that I could be loved and have strong emotions at the same time.  I didn’t believe that others would love me if I wasn’t happy all the time.  I didn’t believe that I could be angry with someone and it might actually strengthen the connection in the long term because of the vulnerability required by both parties to be present with the anger.  I never felt safe expressing fear in the moment because I was afraid others would see me as weak or women would be turned off.  This is the opposite of courage.  This is the opposite of living true to oneself.  The true courage is being who you are and allowing others to take it or leave it.  By doing this we filter through many people to find the ones that really connect with us on a deep level.  By being emotionally vulnerable we can be seen for all parts of ourselves.  Not everyone is going to like all these new parts, but the beauty is that we will attract the people who are looking for the same things and who have similar values.  

I notice that when I am not looking out for the needs of others there is a part of my brain that hates myself.  It literally says “I hate you Ryan” and stimulates this intense sadness.  I am trying to take care of this part and let it know that everything is safe now and that I am starting to take care of my own needs.  I am letting this part know that I don’t have to spend my life filtering everything through the lens of what I think others want.  That way of being in the world is exhausting.  It keeps the body on hyperarousal.  As I care for this fearful part it’s starting to quiet down and is open to me taking more risks in the world.

My first responsibility in this life and in the world is to myself and to my own unique needs.  Even just writing this I notice a little bit of guilt that comes up.  However, as the guilt comes up, I notice that the sadness is still there.  The sadness of betraying myself and my needs won’t go away until I start living more authentically.  It’s really wise and just reminding me over and over that my life matters and that it’s time to start living that way.  The sadness, if I can truly feel it, is the cost of listening to my mind and all it’s stories and not listening to the wisdom of my body.  It’s only by valuing the importance of my own needs that I can truly care for and value the needs of others.  Otherwise other people’s needs are just a reminder that I am not getting my own needs met.  If I don’t value my own needs, then every time someone else expresses a need, it will feel to me like their need nullifies my need.  But if I am safe and comfortable valuing and taking care of my own needs, then when another person expresses a need it will have nothing to do with me meeting my own needs.  It won’t feel like either/or.  I will already be meeting my own needs throughout my day, which will allow me to help others get their needs met from a place of love and compassion.  That’s a beautiful way to live.  Valuing my own needs allows me to truly listen to other people’s needs, wants, opinions, and desires without them triggering my own unmet needs.  

For years I have wanted some expert to tell me it’s ok to listen to my body.  My body’s saying to do something and I wanted to find some book to confirm it.  I lived in doubt for years.  To truly heal I must dig deeper than simply turning towards fear and using mindfulness based techniques.  I must get in touch with the world of emotions and my true story.  The story of who I really am and what makes me unique and what I truly long for in life without all the shoulds.  

It’s exhausting and depressing to live a life for others.  Of course I want to help people and give back, but it must come from my own body’s spontaneous desire and not from expectation and  fear.  What I really want is to act out of genuine love for the world, for people, and for myself.  

As I move forward with this blog I hope to incorporate a broader range of healing topics that interest me and that I have benefited from.  I will attempt to integrate them.  Instead of offering prescriptions I hope to offer some ideas about how you may explore your own healing journey and move towards a life of authentic expression and authentic meaning in the world.  I hope that by sharing my story openly and authentically I can provide some inspiration for others on their journeys towards living their best lives.   

Living an emotionally honest and vulnerable life is going to be bumpy.  Others are going to approve or disapprove, but I have realized that not living a life true to my feelings is a cause of emotional and physical illness and distress.  It’s simply not worth it for me anymore.  The price of living in a box isn’t worth it.  The safety was really just a facade. 
It’s really about caring for the little hurt child inside of me that didn’t know how to feel his emotions and get his needs met and about understanding that I am an adult now and that I can meet my own needs and care for the little child within.  I can handle the emotions of others.  If I can handle the emotions of others and not feel responsible for them then I am truly free to live according to my own values.  If I can let others feel and be themselves and have their own values and opinions without taking responsibility for them or feeling blamed by them, then I am truly free to be myself in the world.  If I am moved by beauty or awe or wonder, I don’t want to censor that any more.  It’s too painful to live a lie and way too painful to live an emotional lie.  If I am happy and excited about something I will start to express it as I really feel it instead of checking in with the other person to see what I assume they want.  I will let others tell me what they need and trust they can handle their own emotions.  

Only if I believe my needs and emotions really matter, do your needs and emotions really matter.  Only you really believe your needs and emotions really matter, do my needs and emotions really matter.  Here’s to a life where all parts of all of us matter more than we know!

2 thoughts on “Emotional Authenticity

  1. Bravo Ryan!
    I too, have struggled with being the “people pleaser” and putting on my “happy face”.
    Happy that you have come to these realizations….some go their entire lives never even realizing it.

    Thank you for what you are doing!


    1. Hey Mimi, thanks for reading and for your thoughts and openness to share! I was thinking yesterday about when I smile when I don’t want to.. so i can relate to the “happy face” .


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