The other day I read a friend’s Facebook post that really touched me. Firstly, because it was beautiful – in a dark but also hopeful kind of way. And secondly, because it reminded me of an incredible valuable lesson I’ve learn in recent years – the power of showing weakness.
The friend who posted this is a very, very close friend of mine. She is an absolutely amazing person who has achieved so much in her life already. She is smart and strong and has this amazing can do attitude towards life. She has been a huge inspiration to me. Often when I feel low or when I’m facing a difficult situation I find myself wondering what she would do – which, in most cases, is as simple as ‘get on with it and make the most of it’.
To me, she is one of those people that have life figured out. She has the right priorities and goals. She cares a lot more about real relationships, experiences and personal growth than about materialistic stuff and artificial relationships. She solves problems by taking action and changing herself instead of blaming the world and feeling sorry for herself.
She’s eternally curios, loves traveling and meeting and getting to know people from all walks of life and has been on more than one big adventure. For the last few months she has been cycling in South America. Together with a friend she set off at the very southern end and cycled all the way to Argentina – through snow and ice, gales of rain and wind, over mountains and through extremely remote areas. She met amazing people along the way who invited her into their homes and shared their meals and stories with her – because that’s the kind of person she is.
But now she is back in New Zealand, her home, the place where she was born, grew up and where her family and friends are. And she feels lost. After cycling through an unknown continent for months, never knowing what the next day, the next hour will bring, she is back in the place she knows best, with the people she knows best – and she feels lost.
She wrote this beautiful Facebook post about what it is like to be back in the ‘real world’ after an adventure like that. With a beautiful honesty, she shares how she feels like she doesn’t know where she belongs in the world and how her home doesn’t feel like home. She shares how much she longs to find her place in the world, her tribe, to know where she belongs.
She is an amazing person who is living an extraordinary life. But in many ways, I think what she feels right now is almost ordinary – in a unique way.
One of the most valuable things I’ve learnt over the last few years is that everyone feels lost, lonely, confused, insecure and sad at times. Even people like my friend who, from the outside, is this amazing person with an incredible life.
Last year, I got a chance to get to know someone better who, until then, I had only known from the distance. Not knowing her very well, I used to think of her as this incredible beautiful and popular person. More than once did I hear guys admire her looks, she has a great boyfriend who adores her and she always seemed like one of those people that walk into a room and just connect with everyone. She is beautiful, popular and just a really nice person.
So it kind of came as surprise to me when I got to know her better, that she struggles with the same insecurities and doubts I do. To me, she seemed like the last person that should ever question if she’s beautiful and popular - but she did in much the same way I do and the same way so many other people, especially women, do.
Another friend of mine has done extremely well in his job over the last few years. He’s climbed up the ladder and created a very successful name and brand for himself. Almost everyone that has worked with him speaks extremely highly of him. He’s considered very smart, hard-working and committed. Now he is thinking about his next careers steps and he feels lost. He doesn’t know what he wants to do and he doesn’t feel like he has a lot to offer.
All these examples seem a little crazy, but at the same time kind of comforting. The girl who has the most inspiring attitude to life and who has just cycled 1000s of kilometres through South America feels lost in her own home. The girl I thought was beautiful and popular is just as insecure about her body as I am and the guy with the big career success story doesn’t feel like he has skills to offer…
We all feel lost, confused and insecure. All the time! All of us!
The real question is, what we do with it. Whether we let those negative feelings control our lives or if we draw motivation and inspiration from them and take action.
I think one of the most important steps is to realise that you’re not alone, that pretty much everyone feels this way sometimes.
For the better part of my life, I felt different. I used to think I was weird because I didn’t feel like I fit in, I didn’t feel like I belong anywhere. I used to think that everyone else’s life is so much better, easier and happier than mine. That everyone else knows what they want. That everyone else is confident, happy and comfortable in their own skin. Because that’s the world we live in. We all seem to have this desire to fit in and be happy – to the point where we pretend we do even if we actually don’t. We are all tuned to portray strengths, confidence and success because that’s what is valued by the society we live in.
The result, is a world where we all look at each other and assume the other person is happier, more confident, more popular and has the more exciting/meaningful/successful life, while deep inside we’re all doubting and questions ourselves.
I consider myself lucky because over the last few years I’ve learnt that real happiness and sense of belonging comes from showing weakness and being vulnerable. This is not something that comes natural to me. Probably due to a combination of personality, upbringing and just the society we live in, I really struggle to show weakness and vulnerability in front of other people. My default respond always is to look strong and not to depend on any one but myself. But what I’ve learn is that when you open up and share your insecurities, doubts and weaknesses with the right people they will do the same in return and you start to realise that their lives are not that perfect either and that you’re not so different.
Now, I’m not suggesting we should all walk around and share our deepest, darkest feelings with the random stranger we met on the bus or the guy/girl we buy our coffee from every day. But I think real connection and that sense of belonging with your closest friends and family comes from sharing weaknesses and being vulnerable – with the right people.
I often used to think that opening up is something you do once you have that deep connection with someone. But what I’ve learnt over the last few years is that it’s actually the other way around – opening up to people is what makes them feel comfortable to open up to you and that is what creates that connection and sense of belonging because you start to realise that everyone has their doubt and insecurities. Everyone feels lost at times.
In a world where so many people are striving for strength, independence and portraying confidence, my goal is to show more weakness, to be less independent. It’s a work in progress and often easier said than done but I’m really starting to notice the difference it’s making in life. I feel closer to my friends (my tribe) than ever and, for the first time ever, feel like I’ve found my place in the world.
And this is how I know that my friend who just got back from her big adventure and feels lost will be alright and will find her place in the world. Because she’s not trying to hide it and look strong and happy in front of everyone. She is embracing the darker things she is feeling right now. She’s sharing it and drawing inspiration from it. And that’s what will help her find the connections she’s looking for.