Be honest – how much do you truly show up in your relationships? Do you ever find yourself editing who you are, withholding or covering up?
If you find yourself answering yes to that question, you are not alone. Most of us try a little bit of image control or protection in our relationships at some time or other. I know I certainly did (and still do sometimes).
So, why do we do it? Perhaps it is because we worry that others might judge us, laugh at us, hurt us or reject us if they saw our true selves and so we attempt to show up as we think others want us to be or as we think we ‘should’ be.
The trouble is, editing who we are can be exhausting and it means that we are not being liked, loved or understood for who we really are. That can be deeply dissatisfying and can cause us to feel lonely and disconnected. It also impacts the depth of our relationships. The more we protect ourselves, the less we are able to truly connect with others.
If we want 2015 to be different and if we want to relate more authentically then we need to value connection over protection. We need to ‘dare to bare’ who we really are on the inside. But that won’t be easy for the less courageous among us, especially if we don’t have people around us who we think we can trust.
I have spent the last 25 years studying what it means to live and relate authentically. I’ve read hundreds of books, conducted research and watched those who are better at relating authentically than me and I’ve noticed certain characteristics in those who build great connections:
- They’re prepared to be vulnerable
- They are comfortable in their own skin
- They share their feelings, fears, challenges and hurts
- They listen without getting defensive or attacking
- They allow others to be themselves
- They invest time in others
- They admit mistakes and apologise
- They don’t blame, shame or attack others
- They take responsibility for their behaviour and reactions
- They are present with the person in front of them
- They don’t put unrealistic expectations on themselves or others
I don’t think any of us would manage all of those things all of the time because none of us is perfect but I’ve found it a great vision to aspire to. Why not try it for yourself this year? Be bold, be brave and be yourself!
If you want to discover how authentic you really are – you can take my free test here.
Bootcamp: Improve your connections
If you would like to explore how to improve your connections and live, love and lead more authentically then join the next Naked Hedgehogs’ Bootcamp which starts on 12 January. This 30-day online programme will provide in-depth teaching, coaching questions for reflection, daily challenges and a closed community forum for courage boosting discussions, support and encouragement. And at less than a cup of over-priced coffee per day, it could be the best investment you’ll make this year!
What’s more, Psychologies readers will receive a 15% discount. Put in the code NEW YEAR at the checkout. Sign up now to get instant access to the pre-course bonus material and join in the discussion immediately.
Sarah Abell is a Psychologies columnist and an expert on authentic relationships. She is the author of 'Inside Out – How to have authentic relationships with everyone in your life' (Hodder, £8.99) and has given two TEDx talks on authentic connections and is the founder of nakedhedgehogs.com