I was having a conversation with a friend recently about a date she went on.
She really liked the guy a lot and had a great time. She got the impression that he did too, since he kissed her at the end of the date.
Then she agonized over whether to text him the following day that she had a great time and would love to see him again. Because what if….he didn’t feel the same?
Another friend of mine was sharing with me about his recent break-up and how much he missed his girlfriend. There are things he still wanted to say. Mainly that he missed her.
But he adamantly refused to let her know that. Because he didn’t want to come across as pathetic and what if…she didn’t feel the same way?
And my colleague got into a fight with a close friend a few weeks ago. She was feeling horrible about it, realizing that although she was hurt about some of the things her friend said to her and some of her recent snubs, she could also see that she was partially to blame for what was going on in their friendship.
I asked, “Why don’t you reach out to her and let her know you’re feeling bad about what happened and just own your part of it?”
She shot back with much pride, “Well, I’m not going to be the one to reach out to her. If she really cares about our friendship, she can call me.”
Wow. How often do we do this? Pride, ego, our own guilt and shame hold us back from expressing feelings or apologizing to others who we actually, truly care about.
And we wonder why so many potential relationships never happen, family members stop speaking to each other for years on end, or friends part ways over something minor that could have just been talked about if one of us had been willing to put our egos aside for just a moment.
I am guilty of all of these things. Sometimes embarrassed by my own behavior, I’ve hidden my head in the sand with shame instead of reaching out to someone to say, “I was wrong. Can we try to fix this?”
Or my fear of rejection, looking stupid or God forbid, being vulnerable, reared its ugly head so I refused to express feelings I had for someone I really cared about.
Then there’s the old, “Well, they should be able to figure out what I feel without me telling them.” Which basically requires others to read between the lines of our text messages and other non-committal behavior, putting everyone in this maddening guessing game of trying to figure out what the other person is feeling.
My plan is to stop this nonsense in the new year.
Life is too short to not say what we mean and mean what we say.
Why are we allowing ourselves to go through life not telling people we love them? Or that we miss them? Or that we’re sorry?
Why do we need a guarantee that they feel the exact same way and are going to reciprocate our sentiments?
In some instances I notice people withholding feelings as a way to punish the other person. “Well they hurt me, so I’m certainly not going to be the one to reach out to them and try to fix this.” or “He hasn’t returned my text, so I’m not going to text him again.”
Either we want to connect or we don’t. We either want to salvage relationships that are important to us, or we can allow our pride and hurt feelings to destroy them. It requires us to take chances with our heart. When did we become so afraid of being vulnerable? Or so stubborn that we refuse to let 20-year friendships go over misunderstandings and hurt feelings?
I don’t want to go through life wondering, “What if?” Or being afraid to explore my own complex emotions. I want to live an authentic life. One where I fully express myself, my needs, my desires and my feelings.
I’m okay telling somebody I think about them and miss them. It doesn’t mean I’m asking them to feel the same way. Or that I want anything from them. I’m telling them what is there for me. Simple, raw, genuine emotions of missing their presence in my life. That person could be thinking about me and missing me too and wouldn’t it be comforting to know that we’re both in the same place?
I don’t want to walk away from potential relationships that might be meaningful or help me grow in some way because I’m afraid to be the first one to put myself out there.
I don’t want to not apologize or tell somebody how I feel because they may still be angry at me and not want to mend the fence. When you break it down, what is the worst thing that can happen if you express your true feelings?
Embarrassment? Rejection? The possibility that the person is not in the same place as you?
I think we need to stop living in fear of this. We need to be braver and take more chances. Only good can come from being real, honest and forthcoming with our own emotions. Think about how much lighter we would feel if we just released our real emotions into the world instead of holding back and bottling them up.
There is love out there for us. Relationships to be explored. Friendships that need more nurturing and honesty. Family dynamics that can be improved with just a little courage to dare to express our feelings first.
As the old saying goes, which has never rang truer, “In the end we only regret the chances we didn’t take.The relationships we were scared to have and the decisions we waited too long to make.”
Author: Dina Strada
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Lee Haywood/Flickr