Let Them See How Much You Love Them

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On my writing desk, I keep a vase filled with small slips of paper. Each one contains a short phrase highlighting values I seek to live by, significant lessons I want to remember, and ways I want to grow.

Let them see how much you love them is a goal I’m working towards. This goal was inspired by meeting up with an old friend for lunch. I walked into the restaurant, and when he saw me from across the room, his face broke into a huge smile. “EMILIE!!” he shouted, and ran over to offer me a hug. It was unequivocally clear that he was excited to see me, and it felt awesome to be on the receiving end of his unfiltered expression of joy. Later, I wondered to myself, How can I be more like that?

As a socially anxious kid, teen, and young adult, I was constantly worried that other people didn’t like me. To deal with this fear, I put up a front of appearing unaffected, detached, aloof– I didn’t want people to see how much I cared about them, or guess how much I needed their support and connection. I was afraid that showing how I truly felt would repel the people close to me, and make the connection go away.

After a lot of work on myself (that’s a story for another day), that has changed. I no longer worry about trying to be liked. My life is full of meaningful connections. I trust they are here to stay. I have friends who I know like me, and whom I care for deeply. I’ve shifted my relationship with anxiety such that I no longer need to appear unaffected or detached to maintain a sense of internal safety– but it is still my default way of being to often appear unaffected, or expressionless.

Like so many deep-seated emotional response patterns, this one is sticky. I am working to change it. Outwardly expressing joy is challenging for me, yet it’s a form of vulnerability that I want to cultivate– I like the way I experience myself when the joy I show externally reflects my internal experience. I want to show others how much I love them, not just with words (that part is easy for me), but on my face and in my gestures. For now, I am practicing. I make conscious choices to notice when I feel joyful or happy inside, and to express it. With enough time, I’m hoping practice paves the way to a new pattern.

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