No man is an island and we all need other people to navigate life. Once you accept that you can’t do this thing called life on your own you must determine who your tribe is going to be. Who will hold space for you? I first became familiar with this phrase in 2015 while reading a book by Brene Brown titled Rising Strong: The Reckoning, The Rumble, The Revolution. I was newly divorced and trying to determine who I was going to be now that the image I had for my life was gone. This book, and many of her other books, has helped me give a name to what my soul was searching for. At the heart of my pain was the sense that I would never have a partner who I could lean on in times of trouble, share my joys and my fears, raise my child and grow old with. That fear was crippling and caused me to subsume who I was and what was best for me in a misguided attempt to maintain the illusion of a life that really didn’t exist. Ultimately what we all want is someone who will hold space for us. Unfortunately, many times we go about obtaining that connection in many ways that may not always be what’s best for us.
There are several different definitions of holding space but at its core it means that we are willing to walk alongside another person in whatever journey they’re on without judging them, making them feel inadequate, trying to fix them, or trying to impact the outcome. When we open our hearts, offer unconditional support and let go of judgement and control we are holding space and letting that person truly be themselves in a safe environment. Once I embraced this idea I started looking at my life and realized that I have often held space for other people but that I didn’t have very many people who held space for me. It wasn’t that there weren’t people who were willing to do it was that I was too afraid to really let anyone completely close to me, including my ex-husband. In order to have someone who can hold my space I have to first give it to them which requires trust and trust at its most basic level is nothing but vulnerability. Growing up as the youngest child of a divorcee with an older sister who was often in trouble or causing stress I made it my life’s mission to not ruffle feathers, not make too much noise, get good grades and be what everyone else wanted me to be. It seems that this caused me to also not allow myself to be vulnerable with my thoughts and emotions. I internalized much of it in order to not make waves. Sure, I am friendly and can talk to anyone about anything but I have always held something back out of fear of not being accepted for who I am. I can only imagine how difficult it can be for someone to care for me if they sense that I am holding back. I know how I have felt when I was trying to care for someone who wouldn’t let me in so it is really no wonder that many of my friendships have felt hollow or that many of my romantic relationships have ended with the other person feeling confused.
Once I started on this vulnerability journey a couple of years ago I realized that if I want to have a more fulfilling relationship with myself and other people I needed to be willing to be hurt. Well as one can imagine that didn’t seem like such a good idea, in fact it seemed like the opposite of progress. However, the more I opened myself up to my own thoughts, fears and truths no matter how ugly they may be, I was able to find a level of peace that I have never experienced. I have become a much better parent because I am able to show my daughter how to rumble with her emotions and to walk them out. I have deepened my connections with my inner circle because I have trusted them to care for my wounded sprit. By bestowing that trust upon them they have surprised me by not only accepting my feelings but embracing me and helping me become my best self. I have been able to be my authentic self when I meet potential suiters or go on dates. I have found that I have been able to weed out people who would not be a good fit quickly in the dating process because I have found that many people don’t really know what they want and it seems that my clarity about who I am and what I am looking for has kept me from wasting my time with people who are not a good fit for me. Lastly, I have been able to function more effectively on my job by being clear with my manager and co-workers about my goals and having the courage to walk them out.
If we really want to live our best lives, we need to be willing to be vulnerable because without risk of disappointment we are not living out best lives we are just existing. I am a work in progress and I have moments of fear of not being accepted or fear of being hurt but I have found that by allowing people to really see me and taking that leap of faith to see who is worthy of holding space for me I have been able to be my best self every day.