I recently spent the weekend with a friend and felt an amazing connection. This is someone I have met only twice before, yet it felt like we’d known each other for lifetimes. It felt strange and odd feeling so connected with someone I barely knew, with nothing sexual about the relationship and no neediness from either of us. Just the simple confirmation and joy of a deep connection with another person, and reflection from an equally beautiful woman.
Part of what made this connection so strong was a natural intimacy between us. There. I said it. Intimacy! That little word, so loaded with ideas and expectations. It got me pondering why I’m so uncomfortable with the word intimacy, and also the relationship that I have with it, and myself. I’d only really ever associated the word ‘intimacy’ with its euphemistic references to sex, and/or sexual relationships, and I hadn’t ever considered before whether I could be intimate with a friend, regardless of whether they were the same gender as me.
It felt strange to even think that I might even consider myself as intimate with someone who wasn’t my partner and for whom I had no sexual feelings, without it feeling at best, totally weird, or at the very least, a little bit ‘mushy’ and gross.
But isn’t intimacy – that close connection with another person – what we all deeply crave?
What felt uncomfortable was the idea of opening myself up, being all of me, without hiding or holding back. Allowing myself to be truly seen for who I am, not who I think I should be, or think that the other person wants me to be.
In spite of my uncertainty, allowing myself just to be me without holding back or measuring, was so easy, and so much less hard work than trying to be a certain way for other people. When I stopped measuring, calibrating, holding back for fear of upsetting the other person or fearing being judged by them, the conversation just flowed. The way we expressed to each other was with grace and understanding – like a sort of dance, just sharing whatever was there to be felt and said. It was a totally different way of relating to someone and quite different from the usual way I relate to people: from my head, saying what I think needs to be said for us to get things done but never rock the boat.
It felt so natural and easy to share all of me with her, without holding back, and without fear of being judged or criticised. I had a sort of ‘wow’ feeling, where I felt, “wow – imagine if I could be this way with everyone!” And then, “why aren’t I being this way with everyone, when it’s so straightforward and fun? Why am I constantly calculating, reading, assessing and measuring…afraid to be who I really am in case someone reacts?”
It’s kind of exhausting, like leading a double life, having different versions of myself for different people and different situations.
In allowing myself to just be all of me with this friend, I got to feel how much I hold myself back and hide behind a mask of who I think I need to be to ‘fit in’ and be accepted. And, how much I’ve been waiting for other people to validate who I am, or who I thought I should be.
If we choose to be less than who we are, or to be the version of ourselves we think we should be, if we’re waiting for permission – for someone else to tell us it’s okay to be ourselves – then it’s like we’re wasting ourselves and our lives. Some may react when we choose to be all of ourselves, and others not. But what’s worse than others’ reactions is that feeling of suffocating ourselves by trying to fit some uncomfortable mould that we’ve poured ourselves into.
To open ourselves up to another, to fully share ourselves with them and the world, feels a little terrifying. What if they reject us or hurt us? What if the world has a meltdown at us finally being ourselves?
But it’s also our only true way of being in the world and in relationships, and really what the other person wants us to be, too: our true selves, honest and real, warts and all. No hiding.
Because how can we take our relationships to true intimacy, the level that we all deserve, if we’re not truly being ourselves and only brave enough to share portions of us at a time?
And what if truly being ourselves allows others to be all of themselves, too?
by Bryony, London, UK
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