THE INCREDIBLE JOY OF BEING MISUNDERSTOOD
There are people
who will never understand you,
agree with you,
or even like you.
Mothers. Fathers. Siblings and other family members. Bosses. Employees. Spiritual teachers. Therapists. Clients.
No matter how hard you try. No matter how much you change, rage at them, contort yourself, learn all the magic of this world, and attempt to become exactly what they want and need you to be. No matter how much you fawn and “people please”, they will never accept you, love you, approve of you, validate your path and life choices. They will never celebrate your successes with you, mourn with you, meet you in deep love and intimacy. They will never get to know you, the real you, the you you so desperately want to be known. You will always feel unseen, invalidated, misunderstood by them. They will live with their version of you, their image of you, their fantasy of you, a picture in their own minds, perhaps until they die, and nothing you can do, or not do, will change that.
You may exhaust yourself, trying to get someone like this to finally SEE you.
You may try “compassion”. Being more and more agreeable and empathic and understanding. Giving gifts. Acts of service. Compliments. Giving endless amounts of time and energy to them. Working on yourself. Being “available”. Trying to be “good” for them. Agreeing with them when really you don’t. Saying yes when you mean no. Saying no when you mean yes. Ignoring all of your own boundaries.
You may spend hours and hours trying to explain your position, your views, your path, opening and dissecting your precious heart. Listening deeply to them. Being open and empathic. Rephrasing, rewording, reconfiguring yourself, trying all kinds of different tacks, trying to break through, trying to get them to see.
You may cling to the hope that one day, one day, they will change.
“If they only got to know the real me!”
But no matter how hard you try, and no matter how long you hope and wait, they won’t budge. They stay fixed in their beliefs, judgements, narratives, opinions, behaviours. They may even refuse to self-reflect, look at themselves, or even consider the possibility of change.
Why won’t they change?
Is there something wrong with YOU?
Is it YOUR fault that things are this way? Are YOU to blame for this lack of connection, closeness?
Should you try even harder to be understood, then? Be even kinder, more empathic, more understanding, nicer, more spiritual? Maybe if you offer them pure unconditional love, they will transform? Maybe if you become the best, most compassionate, most selfless, most [fill in the blank] person in the world, they will finally soften, and their love will flow effortlessly to you? It’s a beautiful dream.
But it soon becomes a nightmare.
One day you realise, you are fighting a losing battle. You are at war with reality. You are trying to manipulate and control how someone else feels, what they think, their values, their reality, their inner world. You are trying to “fix” them, in a sense, control their feelings and thoughts, alter their path, and it’s an impossibility.
If you are honest with yourself, you are doing the same to yourself too. And you actually feel exhaustion, resentment, anger, despair, even fear, underneath the whole damn project.
You are powerless to change them. Where does your power lie? In presence. In being authentically yourself. In the truth of your feelings and desires, however painful. In your courage to look within.
You discover the lost child in you that just wants to be loved, but is innocently looking in the wrong places, to the wrong people. For as much as it wants to be loved, it is scared of really being loved. For love is confused with abandonment, or enmeshment which is also a kind of abandonment, and either way, true intimacy is a threat. And that’s why it looks to the wrong people. There’s no chance of ever being seen, and so there’s no chance of ever being destroyed. It’s safe, and unsafe, all at the same time. We long for God, and we fear God’s penetrating gaze.
Some of us have mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers who will never see us.
Some people choose partners who will never see them.
In the end, you meet yourself anyway.
You discover your own wounding. And somewhere deep down, you know that love is not something you have to fight for, manipulate yourself or others for, not something that has to be won, not something you need to prove yourself worthy of.
You tire of trying to get water out of a dried-up well.
You find an infinite and holy well of love inside yourself.
And you gravitate towards other wells that give water freely.
You open yourself to the sacred water of life.
It is such a relief to not have to prove yourself anymore. To anyone.
You don’t have to be liked. Others don’t have to agree with you. They are free to judge you, tell stories about you, distrust you and your motivations, or ignore you completely.
And you are free. You are free to engage with them or walk away. You are free to love them, AND find yourself moving away from them. Or not. You are free to speak your truth, or not. To set boundaries, lovingly, clearly. Or not. You are free to be you, to prioritise self-love and to let yourself be loved and seen by others who actually do have the capacity to truly love you, and see you. To find your true friends, your true family, those who actually want you. To discover your true place on this Earth.
When others don’t want you as you are, they are giving you a wonderful gift: the freedom of yourself. You may just discover this, if you are willing to plumb the depths of your own beautiful heart.
- Jeff Foster