On Being Seen
The basics of authentically being seen
Most people have a fear of being seen for who they really are. People also typically crave attention of some kind, at the same time. This interesting combination creates an internal environment in which we behave in a slightly or extremely forced way to subtly manipulate the perspective of others around us. Being seen authentically by others is so important for the healing process, because we are so accustomed to hiding that this actually shows us who we really are. By being seen in an authentic way, we tend to attract people who yearn for truth and we drive away people who prefer to hide. By receiving the reflections of other humans, or other animals (such as horses, dogs, and cats), we perceive a more startling reflection than a mirror can ever provide us.
1. See Ourselves
Now that we intellectually understand the benefits, what do we do? The first step is always to see ourselves, because we may not yet believe it’s safe for the world to see us. We may have to come to terms with some uncomfortable ideas. We may have what we believe to be some sick and twisted ideas lurking around inside. From sexual or violent fantasies that we’ve shoved out of our mind, to dreams for something bigger and better that we don’t believe are really possible. All of these things are completely natural concepts, and certainly don’t make us evil for noticing that they exist. An easy way to start seeing ourselves more clearly is by making lists. Lists are always allowed. It is never evil to make a list. Even if it’s a list of people we hate – this helps us understand who we are. The list could be titled something that feels good, such as “Relationships that need healing”.
2. Filtering True Thoughts
This discussion of being authentic about our shadow sides in front of others tends to come along with the retort that people don’t want to hear the truth. Even loving and caring people may be turned off at the mention of a desire for violence or other antisocial activities. This means that we are responsible for what we choose to share, and with whom. On one end of the spectrum, a hired mental health professional wants to hear it all. On the other end of the spectrum, a person who is easily frightened and panicky may report your fantasies to the police. The middle of the spectrum is a very subtle place within which there is every type of combination of personalties that you can imagine. Someone who seems open minded may actually be quick to judge. Someone who seems stubborn may surprise you with their empathy. On top of that, many of our thoughts (particularly the ones that cause us pain) are not actually true! So how does one know when to filter?
3. Intentional Communication
When we think we have found the right person to be authentic in front of and we have an inner urge to share our shit, to unload our nasties, to vomit up our sickness onto other people – the best question is always to ask ourselves WHY. WHY do I have this urge? WHY am I saying what I am saying? How do I want the other person to feel? How do I expect to feel afterward? When all of these questions are answered completely, some may find that their urge has lessened or has actually completely evaporated. This may be because we find that we just wanted to push buttons out of arrogance, or perhaps we hadn’t considered whether the timing was appropriate for the person to be able to hear us and respond in a productive way. If our general goal is to have productive and peaceful conversations, it makes it much easier to deal with conflict as it arises.
4. Getting Vulnerable
Vulnerability is a hugely common trait amongst top leaders and anyone who is highly trusted. Leaders generally have faith that their mistakes will be forgiven, their weaknesses will be endearing, and their rawness will give truth seeking permission to others. True vulnerability can take the filters mentioned above into account, and still takes risks at the same time. Is it kind to say? If it is hurtful, is it necessary? If it is hurtful and necessary, is it said with compassion? If it is hurtful and said with compassion, the likelihood of acceptance is much greater than if it is said with fear of being rejected. Listen to the tone of your voice. It is appreciative? Combative? Clear? Muffled? The tone generally sends more signals to the listener than the words do.
Now that you know the process of seeing yourself accurately, communicating the essentials, and getting vulnerable you’re ready to shine. Be all that you can be. Experience the limitations of your participation. Experience the limitations of your kindness. Experience the limitations of your competence. Perhaps this is the permission you’ve been waiting for. Perhaps your customers, your family, and your friends have been looking forward to your reading this. How can you shine truer and brighter today?