who am i, darling, to you? who am i, darling, for you?
-Ben Howard, Promise
[note: you should totally scroll down and play Ben Howard’s Promise then come back up and start reading. it’s good background music. and a pretty amazing song. …just a suggestion. okay, carry on, friend.]
So I had my supervisor ask me once (…recently) how my friends would describe me. This came after I struggled to answer how I thought my clients experienced me in the therapy room. Both were surprisingly tough questions to answer. In all my efforts to better myself and be the best version of me possible, I often (…always) look internally to figure things out. That kinda leaves little room to wonder about how those close to me experience me in an interpersonal sense.
I did my best to give it some thought (as much thought as sitting across from someone who asks you a question in a small room with the 50-minute time limit quickly ticking away allows). And I answered what came to mind:
I think they see me as someone that they can always talk to who won’t judge them and will always be there to listen when they need.
Really, Clouds? That’s all you got?
…I think that reaction came a bit hastily. but also, my answer saddens me a little bit. Here’s why:
I believe what I said is true. Or I really really hope it’s true, that that’s how my close friends (…and almost all people I interact with) experience me. But I also hope there’s more to me than that. I’m guessing (…hoping) there is. I just don’t know what that is.
[Sidetrack: A month or so ago, I was doing some spring cleaning and came across one of my old make-shift yearbooks from middle school/early high school. In it were the the oh-so-personalized messages the cool kids left to each other. you know which ones I’m talking about.
don’t change 4 n-e-one!
…bring back memories? let’s all take a moment and be thankful that we survived middle school and high school and came out of it intact…mostly]
Anyway, I get that those messages were perhaps as personalized as a 13- or 14-year-old can get. But really, I don’t think many could have written anything more. I smiled. I was quiet. I was nice. That’s about it.
Fast forward to me as a 20-something and it sometimes feels like not much has changed (…hence my current resolve to increase boldness).
Over the past week, I had the opportunity to learn how others experience me (…in more articulate ways than the 13- and 14-year-olds could express). One moment was as I left a professional training setting where I worked over the past 9 months, challenging myself past discomfort, growing, and sometimes choosing to do so alone, hiding as I grew (…can it really be called growth if no one sees it?…maybe. I don’t have the answer for that one). A card signed by all the staff left messages noting my smile and work ethic. One on one interactions revealed deeper experiences of me as always thinking more than I spoke, being courageous for being there when it would have been easy not to, and being a joy to work with.
The other experience was from my weekend away, which was actually prefaced by about 3 months of working intimately with a group of faith-filled women. This past weekend, they shared their reflections of me as quiet and kind, and a gentle spirit, always smiling. They added that I was courageous and brave for sharing my story.
As I write and reflect, I get the sense that I am answering my own question, discovering who I am to others, which helps add to my truth (…this usually happens when I write so I’m not sure why I’m surprised at the moment. I’m slightly exhausted still so that could be why). Anyway, I guess I had always looked for more concrete experiences others have of me to define who I am for others. Funny. Audacious. Bold. Something! …I don’t actually really know what I am looking for at this point. I’ve always known some basic truths about me: I’m not judgmental. I am authentic in my belief in the goodness of others. I don’t (…rarely) get angry/upset/overreact. I’m quiet. I just don’t know what I DO….if that makes any sense.
Romantic relationships always scared me for the same reason. I never knew what I was doing. Kind souls would cook for me, take me out to a winery or brewery ((I’ll take craft beer or wine over jewelry or flowers any day please and thank you)) buy me dinner, show concerns for my needs, all while I was just there. Okay, okay, I know that that’s not the entire truth. I had to have been doing something to make these people stay and treat me with such kindness. I just never knew what it was.
I kind of still don’t know. But after writing, I’m okay with that.
I guess maybe it comes down to simply being and trusting yourself enough to know that others will experience you as they will, which reflects not only what you’re putting out, but also what they are willing or able to take in. The intentions in my heart are and have always been kindness and love and maybe that’s enough.
no, not maybe. It is enough. That’s it. Wondering who you are to others isn’t the problem. The problem comes when you use it to question your worth; questioning whether you’re doing enough becomes synonymous with questioning whether you’re enough.
and we both know the answer to that (…or at least we should).
You are enough. I am enough. Let’s not forget that.