We live in a time when it is easy for us to express ourselves through writing, visuals and audio. But are we sharing what really matters?
Our greatest human needs are to feel seen, heard and fully expressed. We live in a time when it is easy for us to express ourselves through writing, visuals and audio. We share our words, photographs, videos and audios, through social media, blogs, courses and books.
Our modern world gives us many options for self-expression, but often these options don’t fill our core needs. It’s not enough that we put ourselves out there into the noise. We have a deeply ingrained need to feel seen and heard.
Feeling Seen and Heard
There is no feeling greater than feeling heard. It amplifies our joy and diminishes our pain.
Think back to a time when you were absolutely elated about something; you wanted to share it with someone, but nobody had time to listen to you. Did you notice even a mild sense of deflation at not being able to share your story in that moment?
Even the best moments can be dampened when we don’t feel heard in our expression of joy.
Now think back to a moment when you were struggling. If you were lucky to have someone who made the time to listen to you, in a way where you felt safe to share your pain or fears honestly and openly, how much lighter did you feel after that conversation?
Our worst fears lose their potency when someone is willing to listen.
Our Deepest Desire and Greatest Fear
When we feel heard in our truth and seen for who we are in the deepest parts of our being, we come alive in a different way.
With all respect for Maslow, I believe that our greatest human needs are to feel seen, heard and fully expressed. To feel these things is to feel that we matter, that our life has meaning. We desire them in the deepest levels of our souls.
The paradox is that these are also the things we fear most. Because when others see or hear us for who we are, when they can see our truth, we are vulnerable to criticism, rejection and ridicule.
When we are truly seen and heard and fully expressed, we cannot hide.
No masks. No stories. No pretensions.
No choice but to stand in our truth. No option but to embrace our vulnerabilities and our strengths. No alternative but to own all parts of ourselves.
How we respond to this fear
This fear is so great that it often leads us to suppress our truth, putting ourselves out there in superficial ways that give the pretense of authenticity but do not truly allow others to see and hear us.
This is the world we live in today, especially online. Carefully curated and styled photographs and videos with pithy and witty captions convey a pretense of something real, but very often, it’s just a staged scenario, like some Hollywood backlot built to resemble the streets of New York City. Zoom out far enough, or zoom in close enough, and you can see the chipping paint on the plywood set.
We may do this for so long that eventually we can’t even see or hear ourselves. We have no shortage of ways to express ourselves: speaking, writing, recording, Snap-chatting, and so on. But what are we actually saying? What’s the message we want to convey? What do we want others to hear?
If we want others to hear us, we must first learn to listen to our own voices.
The Consequence of Incongruence
Many people take what we give at the surface level. They accept our glossy images as real, and our captions as the actual experience. They don’t seek to read between the lines. We live in a surface world.
How many times have you had this exchange in the past week?
How are you?
Great! Yep! Everything is great! …. See ya later!
Did the other person look up? Did you? This is our surface world.
We carry on about fake news, as we ignore that we are its biggest creators. Almost everything in your news feed is fake news. Everyone is selling a version of themselves that masks what’s real. Fake news is the commodity of our time.
Here’s the thing: we cannot deny our truth forever. The incongruence eventually pulls at us, like a loose thread at the end of a sweater. Slowly, it unravels us. And one day, we find ourselves standing naked, surrounded by a pile of yarn.
The Greatest Gift
Not everyone lives on the surface. Some people cultivate super powers: sonic hearing and x-ray vision that allows them to hear between the lines and see beneath the glossy images. They gaze into your eyes and see you in your truth. They hear the words you don’t speak and see the pain you don’t reveal.
They hold space.
When another person sees and hears us in our truth, and reflects back to us what he or she sees and hears, it opens the door for us to see and hear ourselves. In the presence of one who can hold space, the fear dissipates. In the presence of one who can give us this gift, we gain the confidence to listen to our own voice, to look deep within ourselves, and to stand in our truth. Our masks fall to the ground. Our walls crumble. Cloaked in truth, we no longer need such protections.
This is the greatest gift we can give to others: to hear them, to see them, and to show them the truth of who they are. In giving that gift, we help others meet their deepest needs, to feel seen, heard and fully expressed.