Everybody needs to been seen. To be witnessed. Everybody.
And it's a healthy need. It means we desire connection to others and the relationship, and energy shared between us matters.
Age doesn't matter —babies, toddlers, school kids ("look ma, no hands!"), 'tweens, teens, adults, elders — we all need someone to bear witness. To our struggles, to our accomplishments, to the magic of our lives.
If we are blessed, we find such witness in our most intimate relations - our partner, parents, siblings. For the large majority of us, it takes attention and work towards cultivating relationships with others that provide the reflection we so crave.
Ideally speaking, relationships provide us a mirror. Through our interconnectedness with others we see ourselves reflected back.
And in all honesty, our reflection is the only way we can see ourselves as others see us. By relating with others, we learn more about ourselves and through this knowledge, we grow.
So when it comes to a desire to be seen what we’re really asking for is a reflection to grow from.
I'm so aware though of how easy this sounds and how difficult it can be. The paradox! Being seen, though we crave it, can sometimes also be so incredibly difficult to remain receptive to.
What happens when we don’t like our reflection?
The people in our lives are our mirrors, but there’s no guarantee that they’re going to offer a pretty reflection. One of the scary things about being in relationship is that when we don’t like our own reflection, we often can feel judged by he other. Sometimes we feel to scared to disappointed another that we retreat from the relationship.
We retreat in the form of lashing out, turning away, shutting down, and withholding ourselves from connecting deeper. By doing we also, inadvertently, shut down our own ability to grow beyond where we are in the moment. We retreat then, not only from the relationship, but also from ourselves.
Releationships aren’t accidental.
We pick our partners, friends, therapists...based off of the reflections we receive and how they make us feel. That feeling determines how well we fit together. We've all experienced good fits and bad fits. Whether we are talking about a pair of jeans or a certain someone, we know when things feel just right. And when things feel right, when the relationship fits, we are more inclined to remain receptive and open to our own growth.
I'm completely imperfect. I have flaws and plenty of room for growth. We all do. That’s the beauty of our shared human experience. We never stop growing. My kids and husband will often desire more of my attention and connection. All of my relationships and yours will, for all the days of in our lives, provide us with a constant opportunity to see ourselves in reflection to others and adjust.
Everybody shares the same desire. Everybody wants to grow in connection with others. Our interpersonal dances all share a common theme; that play between enjoying our autonomy and thriving in connection. We need both, but too much of either and we start to feel stuck.
Allowing ourselves to be seen is often the magic that unsticks us.