“We haven’t talked in a while.”
“Why am I always the one reaching out first?”
“This is just like the last time.”
“I guess I should prepare myself to be disappointed.”
“I’ve offered an invitation…there’s just never any follow through.”
I hate those voices that come unbidden in the quiet end of a long day, when I’m vulnerable and tired. They tell me I’m not doing enough in my relationships, I’m not wanted, or I’ve been foolish in lending trust.
When threat of betrayal latches onto a circumstantial trigger, the solitude I love can quickly become a torture chamber. Silence—a soothing space that makes room for thoughtfulness, courage and intentionality in my relationships—yields to clamoring.
If we give fear the power in our relationships, our spaces of self-care and differentiation transform into perceived isolation.
As an introvert, the shift for me is especially costly. Not only do I face discontent and distrust, but the thing that is most important to recharging and grounding me becomes the thing from which I flee. Quiet becomes my enemy.
Life becomes about noisemaking and comparison. I busy myself with TV and to-do lists to keep fear at bay. I succumb to social media stalking to validate my panic by highlighting all of the “other people” someone is enjoying apart from me. I attempt to write out my feelings and nearly all efforts yield polarized conclusions that assume the worst of the person I’m missing or the worst about me.
I still wonder what kindness to my fear looks like. I wonder how to be brave and how to build trust in a world where I’m broken, she’s broken, he’s broken; we’re all so broken.
During a season of counseling, I discovered that I can carry a lot of contempt for my strategies in managing pain and panic. I’m not a particularly soft person when I’m scared: I’m driven, perfectionistic, judging, micromanaging.
There is a lot to hate there, if I choose.
But the invitation I received in my counseling sessions, time and again, was to welcome and bless what I needed.
I came to discover that my management strategies, all about performance, are often an attempt to not need anything—to numb and accommodate my lack by seeking approval elsewhere or trying to fix my needs myself. But I came to see that as soon as I minimize my needs, I turn to the clamoring. I start depending on others to validate me or to tell me I am ok. And no one is ever going to be enough to make me ok.
Being myself, being grounded and kind and loving, is about accepting my needs. I can only love when I’m giving freely from within my limitations. Beyond the boundaries, I am “loving” out of fear—fear that if I’m honest about who I am, my own issues will be too much. All the while, I’m being pulled further and further away from my core.
That is an exhausting way to live, one I am still learning to walk away from.
But what if needing something didn’t mean I was too much? Too selfish? Unloving? Or unlovable?
Over the last year, I’ve found myself in the midst of a lot of quiet, and a lot of needs. I’ve grown familiar with the knowledge that sometimes what I need is disappointing to people. Sometimes doing “me” the best I can means acknowledging my lack and holding the weight that my best is going to leave someone else hurt.
I wish that was not the case.
Still, doing “me” is also the only way to give wholeheartedly to the people around me. My needs keep me connected to my heart, my priorities, and my own walk with God.
Quiet, when I’m not afraid to need things, creates breathing room: daily space to notice my feelings and what makes me anxious, to walk back inside my boundaries if the day got me a little off track, and to seek counsel regarding healthy risks that still honor my limits.
And I think accepting my needs helps lower my anxiety in the midst of a long day’s accusations regarding why someone may not have called. It helps me remember: we are all doing the best we can. There is grace and space for each of us. And it isn’t my job to hold it all or make everything alright. I get to stay myself, and to give love the very best I can.
Katy Johnson lives, dreams, writes, and edits in a messy, watercolored world. She’s a 27 year old, discovering her hope, her longings, and the wild spaces in her own heart. Her favorite creative project right now is called The Someday Writings, and someday, she may let those writings see the light of day. For now, she shares her thoughts here.
“If we give fear the power in our relationships, our spaces of self-care and differentiation transform into perceived isolation.” Oh my goodness yes, me too! I so relate to the painful fear that rises in the quiet, and love the picture you’ve painted with your words of caring for your needs with grace and kindness.
Thanks, Janet. I wish I didn’t know the doubt of it so well, and it feels very empowering to realize most of us carry questions like that inside, and we’re all seeking to stay kind together.
I so enjoy your writing! I, too, am an introvert and that quiet time is a often blessing but can also be a curse as my mind does what it does. I try to remind myself to not let others define who I am. And when I come upon verses like in Isaiah 2:22, I write them down in my journal and try to remind myself what GOD says. “Stop trusting in mere humans who have but a breath in their nostrils. Why hold them in esteem?” I often give others far too much power in my life and let them sway my emotions and define my worth. I become a wave tossed to and fro.
You wrote: “Still, doing “me” is also the only way to give wholeheartedly to the people around me. My needs keep me connected to my heart, my priorities, and my own walk with God.” is where I want to be also. Shakespeare may have wrote, “To thine own self be true,” but I’m sure God said it first.
Thank you, Barbara. I’m so glad you read. And such a great verse reminders, both from Isaiah and Shakespeare, thank you for sharing.
Katy! So honest and insightful! I’m sure it’s not the first time you’ve heard this, but you have a beautiful and genuine way about your writing… 🙂
Hello Amy! Thank you so much for reading and for your words about my writing. It’s such an important part of grounding myself, and it feels good to know it lands for others too.
Thank you so much for writing this. I can so relate to so much of it!
My pleasure, Bethany. Thank you for reading!
Your words reasonate with me so deeply. Thank you for sharing your story that inspires me to be brave as I walk a similar path leaning into kindness, compassion, and my own brokenness. Grateful to know that I am not alone as I once thought, and hopeful that I can bless my needs courageously.
Dear Kimberly, You are definitely not alone. Wishing you courage and joy in whatever the path ahead looks like for you.
Grace and space. Such an intriguing words you chose to frame this with Katy. I’m grateful to read it this morning where my quietness is giving space for fear. It helps me settle back in again to all of the not knowing and to just be.
Joanna, fear can creep in so quickly, can’t it? It’s sneaky like that. I am glad that you are finding space to settle. Thank you for your kind words about my writing. Sending you love.
I love every word and plan on meditating and journaling on your truths! So clear and brave and vulnerable and insightful! Your heart blesses others! Thank you so much!
Dear Sussy, Wow! Thank you for your kind words. I am grateful to have space to share, wishing you well in your journaling this week.
I so appreciate your real….refreshing and permission giving ! You’re such a wise young woman.