It feels nearly impossible these days to find that sweet spot of balance between confident and vulnerable.
I’ve devoted a considerable amount of my time and effort in the past two years to finding confidence. And I’ve been very successful. I genuinely enjoy spending time with myself now. I can travel solo, spend days solo, and accept rejection at face value relatively easily. I am setting and achieving consistent goals on nearly every level: financially, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, and that feels great. It’s an incredible feeling to have achieved, in many ways, what you have set out to.
Yet now I worry I’ve over-corrected a bit. In my development of confidence, I find myself needing people less. I’ve got a bit of a shield around me recently. There is some niceness about that, as I’m tougher, stronger, and more self-sufficient than I’ve ever been. And yet I appear more introverted outwardly to others, but I’m not. I’m social, I enjoy being involved, I like having things to do, I enjoy being surrounded by friends, yet I find lasting connections more difficult to come by.
In pondering why this is in my life, I look at recent circumstances, times when I have extended invites (often multiple invites) to others, and in many if not most cases they fail to answer or fail to show, and they almost always fail to reciprocate, meaning I’m doing the inviting but not receiving invitations. And inevitably, when this pattern repeats, I stop inviting, and thus I spend more time alone.
A similar trend exists for me in dating, rare though it is. I am pretty clear with my availability and expectations. I’m patient, low drama, and easy-going about most things. But I won’t allow myself to be lied to or manipulated, and when someone ultimately can’t meet me in the middle, it isn’t difficult for me to pull back into myself. Which also means more time alone. Ironically, I’ve literally been told that I’m “too date-able” by guys who say they want to date but then ultimately aren’t ready to date. And that all turns out fine because I would rather date those who want to date, and who meet in the middle, or just be single. The alternatives are ultimately too threatening to the careful sense of security.
Looking at potential remedies, I realize the course correction. It’s hard to find that balance between vulnerability and inner strength, between vulnerability and quick recovery, between available and clearly defined boundaries.
It’s tricky to be bold enough to start the conversation at the party, and resilient enough to not be bothered when that person doesn’t talk back, to be bold enough to invite the gym crush out for coffee and still centered when they say no. Rejection is terrible for all humans, and only the most resilient seem to be able to rebound with strength and tenacity.
Ultimately, I think all of us have a hard time with the difficult parts of being human. Vulnerability and pain, handling shame and guilt, grief, pain, rejection, failure, long-term goal-setting, loneliness, changing moods, depression, illness, fragility, aging, and on and on. And I suppose the very best work I’ve done on myself is to be kind and patient with myself, recognizing that I’m a changing creature over time, with all of those human conditions built in to the process. If we fight our very nature, if we are ashamed of ourselves for having needs and low moods, for not being able to freeze time in place, for sometimes being frail or sad or lonely… if we fight ourselves for our very natures, how can we ever find peace?
And I suppose that is exactly where center is, between This Way, and That Way, carefully on the intersection, willing to take a few steps in either direction so long as we know our way back to center, and finding peace with our very humanness along the way, knowing that needs tomorrow will be different than needs today and that is just fine.
So I’ll continue questing, finding peace with being me solo and with others, needing both myself at peace and to be surrounded by others (preferably others who are also at peace with themselves).
And the great human experiment continues.