“If I let someone in, they’ll hurt me.”
“I feel fenced in when people try to get close.”
“I am lonely even when I’m with others.”
“I often feel I’m hiding behind a mask.”
“I’m uncomfortable expressing affection.”
“It’s hard for me to depend on others.”
“Open expressions of feelings are hard for me.”
“I’m a chameleon; I change depending on who I’m with”
Do you want to be your real self and open up more fully to others? Do you feel isolated or lonely and unable to let others know you. The word intimacy comes from the Latin for innermost. Among our deepest desires is to be seen and known in the inner depths of who we truly are; among our deepest fears is to be rejected there. We oscillate between these two conflicting needs; trying to be seen and trying to hide. We fear we will not be accepted or wanted. “If they knew the real me…”
Fear of intimacy is common. When you open up to another person you risk being abandoned, exposed, or rejected. Relationships are vulnerable. You do not have control over whether or not others will care about you, accept you, take an interest in you, or judge you when you open up to them. Being authentic and intimate requires you to tolerate the discomfort of vulnerability. Vulnerability feels like anxiety; it is sympathetic nervous system arousal, and it is uncomfortable. You have the urge to avoid closeness so you won’t feel vulnerable. And yet the deepest, most meaningful, and most growth promoting experiences are interpersonal. We miss out on a lot if we cannot let ourselves get close to others.
Authenticity is the ability to be genuinely yourself in a range of circumstances. It is a sign of wholeness, maturity and mental health to be who you really are. Being authentic means finding out what you truly feel deep inside – not just living out ideas and expectations of who you are, or who you “should” be. Intimacy is the experience of allowing yourself to be seen and known in the depth and complexity of who you are. It is revealing your true self to another, “warts and all”, and letting them see you as you are. It is also deeply knowing another, accepting them and trusting them and allowing them in.
Intimacy and authenticity involve knowing what is true inside, being able to fully experience that, and feeling confident in your ability to share your real self with others. You are a beautiful, flawed, real human. When you grow your capacity to manage the sensations of unrest that speak to you of your vulnerability, you can open yourself to intimacy with another. You become confident enough to take the risk of knowing, being and sharing your real self.