We cannot choose our destiny, but choosing the people around us is a very close way to do it.
I heard this phrase in the This is Us series and I loved it. This time of “pause” has given me the opportunity to speak with my favorite people, who don’t often have the time to speak. I started to think that, despite the fact that life has crossed me with people whom I have found myself in as a piece of a puzzle, I have not always been lucky enough to live close to them and still, I have managed to maintain friendship or even, fall in love with them.
I don’t know if it’s due to being as faithful as I am to the people that at some point in my life have done great things for me, if it is simply how free I have felt around them or if I really am only faithful to the nostalgia of past moments. Whatever it is, it has kept most of my friendships for a long time. In my head there are no “I don’t have time to speak”, “it didn’t cross my mind to ask how you were” and much less “if that person doesn’t speak to me, neither do I” when I have found myself in a person, I don’t let go. When I see something valuable in it, something that inspires me or makes me feel in a positive way, I don’t. Because not everyone is lucky enough to come across valuable and authentic people. There are so many people wanting to be so many things that just a few allow themselves to just be with others.
Everything starts from authenticity, but there are things to take into account before risking being authentic …
My favorite people are many things, they have many versions of themselves that I have had the opportunity and luck to see. They have great ideas, stories and above all, lessons. Life has taught me to see them as teachers with mirrors and I say it that way, because we have grown up with the idea that the people around us are there to give us something and they are not; all that we believe we should receive in life is directed to the wrong sources; We believe that others should give us what we are looking for, when in fact it can only come from ourselves.
Some things are learned from the people around us, they are there to teach us something. They might not intend to do it all the time and sometimes the lesson they are giving us is not clear, but it is always there. They always carry mirrors to see ourselves in them, in their experiences.
The only way to really connect with others in order to see what they can teach us in life, is through what we know about ourselves. You cannot see in others what you haven’t seen yet in yourself.
When you know so little about yourself, you hardly genuinely connect with others. Maybe externally and in a less profound way you do, but not in the long term. For me the secret to maintaining a connection with our favorite people is through empathy and vulnerability. I can’t help but mention Brené Brown in all of this, for her empathy is, feeling WITH people. Many times we confuse empathy with sympathy. When someone has a problem it is not the same to say “What happened to you is really sad, but at least it wasn’t worse …” because we minimize the other’s feeling instead, that to say “I am listening to you, maybe I don’t understand you, but I let you be and feel whatever, with me” The other part is vulnerability, she is the goddess on this. I love it because thanks to her research in personal relationships we have learned that there can be no deep connection with others without vulnerability.
We all want to be more human and when we find people who are willing to do the same, we connect, the thing is that not everyone dares. We have become adept at hiding how badly we feel, our worries, our shortcomings. We have became used to being competitive with each other and this makes it scarier to be vulnerable and therefore authentic. As Brown says,
Connection and that sense of belonging can only come when we let go of that idea of ”we should be” and embrace who we are.
Having a good relationship with someone is not just about having fun and laughing out loud — although obviously it is important to laugh as much as yu can — but having a good friendship is not just about living the good times. Connecting in good times is very easy and fast, but not always lasting. Finding connection in people who genuinely want to understand what is going on in your world, who have gone through similar things or who are just open to share a little of their fears with you to see if together you find a solution or at least feel fear together is great and indeed sustainable.
However, as much as this idea sounds pretty good, it is very scary still, especially if we are used to being so hard on ourselves, if we don’t allow ourselves to be alone how will we allow ourselves to be so in company? It is a matter of practice and small challenges, pushing yourself little by little. Although we all live differently, there are things that unite us, such as fear. I don’t know a single person who’s not or has been afraid of something, because it is human. Everything that is human has to do with being vulnerable. Vulnerability is basic for any relationship, be it family, love or simply friendship. It is about being able to share the most human part we have; allowing ourselves to be without masks and letting out all the energy we have to give, it is also about making a space for the person to be while also are and get rid of all the “shoulds”.
- Who are your favorite people?
- Do they inspire you?
- Do they motivate you to be something through their authenticity?
- What have they taught you?
- How much do they allow you to be and vice versa?
We rarely question our personal relationships and sometimes it is worth visiting the ideas around them, many times part of what limits us is hidden there. Questioning this part has helped me see the ones I love the most as people too, and not as my idea of what I would like them to be so that I can objectively choose the people I want to be a part of my world.
The people around us are also information that we hear repeatedly and like everything we hear or see repeatedly, we learn and adopt as a habit; unconsciously we adopt many habits of others by frequenting them as the great author James Clear says in his book Atomic Habits, we are the average of the 5 people with whom we live the most … What are you?
Knowing how to accept yourself vulnerable is to be as you are, this doesn’t mean that you will not be afraid of being judged, but that being able to be freely authentic without repressing yourself, will weigh more. I am glad to know that I can be me and not made-up stories from someone else, I am what I think is aligned to my authenticity and that’s what’s important. It is true that destiny cannot be controlled, but it is also true that we are drawing a path when choosing who we surround ourselves with because we may run into people who in the end, also want to be.