June 22, 2021


I woke up feeling especially insecure this morning. Two days ago, I shared deeply personal information about myself with a friend. It was information I rarely share. It was with a new friend, someone I’ve only recently been getting to know.

That I’d be so open with this person at this stage of our friendship is incredibly rare for me. I’m a very private person. I’m learning to let go a bit, but still… sharing what I did put me very far out of my comfort zone.

So, for the past two days, I’ve been feeling particularly vulnerable. I really like this person – a lot. I cherish our friendship tremendously. What must they think of me now? How is their impression of me different, and has it become a negative impression?

And also… what should I do? Should I pull away? Act cool and pretend I never said what I said?

My insecurity forced me to overanalyze my interactions with this person since. If it took longer than usual for them to text me back, I would wonder what it meant. I’d feel the urge to perseverate over whether they were losing interest in our friendship, or if they were turned off by me.

It’s hard to know what to do in these situations. It’s hard because uncertainty is hard, and when you really cherish someone, really crave their friendship, and then choose to be vulnerable, feelings of uncertainty are automatic, even if the other person responds reassuringly. Either you haven’t let yourself be vulnerable like that before and aren’t really sure how others might really feel about you (despite what they say), or you have been vulnerable in the past only to have others shun you, criticize you, or use your private information as ammunition against you (despite what they initially say).

In other words, you either have insufficient information or too much negative information. In whatever way your information is poor, it’s bound to create the anxiety that comes with uncertainty, as well as the compulsion to jump to conclusions – about yourself (“I suck”), about others (“They don’t like me”), about the world (“It’s brutal”).

Our discomfort with uncertainty leads us to find meaning in things that may mean nothing, make sense of things that aren’t possible to make sense of, or see connections between things that are not connected. The struggle to find sense or meaning can make us feel off kilter. Once we have an explanation, we feel better. Even if it’s the wrong explanation, the type that causes us to make decisions (like pulling away from friendships) that could harm us in the long run.

Anyway….

I decided to go on a hike and take a break from thinking about my friend and my vulnerability. I needed perspective.

I hiked about 50 minutes to a lake where I sat for a rest. Looking into the lake, I noticed what looked like a salamander or lizard under the water, close to the shore. It hovered there under the surface, crawling across the sand mostly, occasionally pushing itself off the ground to float right under the surface for a while before it softly landed.

There were tiny fish-like creatures swimming around the lizard. The lizard would wait patiently until one of them swam close enough, at which point it would lunge with mouth agape, trap it in its jaws, and swallow it whole.

Sometimes the lizard missed. Sometimes it didn’t. Whatever it did, one thing I am pretty sure about is that it didn’t judge itself. When it caught its snack, it didn’t likely think, “Damn, I’m amazing.” And when it missed, it probably didn’t think, “How could I be such an idiot?!” It did what it did, and whatever happened, it just kept on doing it.

Humans aren’t so lucky. We’re cursed to find sense or meaning in things, even when it compels us to judge our actions in ways that aren’t necessary. Sometimes, the judgment comes with shame. And when we’re ashamed, we hold back, close ourselves off, deprive ourselves of decisions that could take us to a better place.

On the hike back down from the lake, I slipped on a rock and nearly fell. I could have thought “How could I be so careless?” Instead, I chose to think nothing. I chose to simply walk on.

Vulnerability can make you feel like you’ve slipped. But it doesn’t have to mean that, nor does it have to mean anything else. Sometimes we share more than we’re used to. Sometimes we stretch outside our comfort zones. Sometimes doing so turns out great, and sometimes it doesn’t. Either way, we can simply keep on going, knowing that in the end, true friendship is impossible unless we make the choice to be vulnerable.

I said what I said to my friend. I set myself up for the best chance possible at building a meaningful relationship. The rest is up to them.

Me? I just need to keep on going.

That is all.


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