What Keeps You Safe?
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Regardless of who you’re voting for tomorrow (you are voting, right?!), it’s safe to say that safety has been top of mind for many people throughout this election—financial safety, personal safety, the safety of our children, our future, our way of life. Even positive change can leave us shaken or uncertain. Which is why it’s all the more important that we feel safe in our most personal relationships. I’m not talking about physical safety, though that is definitely a basic requirement. I’m talking about emotional safety. To feel “safe” with your partner, your family, your closest friends means that you can be yourself without repercussions. It means that you don’t live in fear of being found out for who you really are. It’s means that your needs, opinions and highest truth will be met with respect, even if they aren’t fully understood by the other party.
The opposite of feeling safe is feeling like you have to hide yourself in some way. It’s living in fear that if you got really honest with yourself or your partner, everything will fall a part. That you’ll lose something. And you will: You’ll lose yourself. In my experience, it’s up to you to define what you need to feel safe—and then be resolute and vulnerable enough ask for it. I’ve watched friends whittle away to mere shadows of themselves while suppressing their deepest yearnings at the risk of disrupting the status quo. I made myself sick for years by not being myself: as a sensitive teenager who twisted herself into knots to fit in; as an ambitious professional who chose jobs based on how “cool” or likable they would make me, not because they spoke to my soul; and in dysfunctional relationships that didn’t serve anyone.
But there’s a miracle that happens when we feel completely safe. Instead of being stuck or sad or going through the motions (the years I spent going through the motions!), we are so fully aware of who we are that we can no longer look away. And why would you want to? When you’re safe and supported exactly how you are, fear of messing up or of being imperfect fall away. Suddenly, life and all of it’s possibilities open up for us. For me, feeling safe means I can be sad with my people instead of being the life of the party. It means leaning on my partner when I need love or support, without fear that he’ll resent me later. It means getting real about what’s important to me at 39, even if it’s vastly different than what was important to me at 38. This shift, from holding it all together to letting it all hang out, can be scary and disruptive shit. But once you’ve created a safe space in which to do it, you won’t want to live any other way.