I strongly desire the ability to be more authentic and open and thus honest or more transparent with friends and family. I don’t want anyone to know anything is at least OK but never that anything is wrong or struggling with stuff… how to I safely start to open myself up?
The only way to do this is to practice. To accept that it is uncomfortable, and that you feel exposed and vulnerable in doing so. Right now you believe that you are in danger when you open up and share. When you feel less than great, you feel the need to protect yourself. You feel weakened, unable to fully protect yourself, and so you do your best to hide the way you feel, so that no one can attack you in this weakened state. The fact that you believe you need to protect yourself from attack, only bring on more fear.
If someone were to attack you when you feel sad, or insecure, what would that mean? What would that lead to? If you feel insecure and share this, and the person you told then attacked you, what then? You would feel the need to defend yourself, or to protect yourself. Why? Because you still believe that others opinion or approval matters. If someone attacks you, it only hurts if you believe they are right. If you share your feelings, and they laugh at you or ridicule you for being so sensitive, it only hurts if you feel that your feelings are wrong, that sensitive is bad, and that they are right in ridiculing you. You have a belief that being sad or feeling low is a weakness. You have a belief that you must always be happy, because that is the right way to be. Probably that stems from the fact that in your society, in most societies, the expression of negative emotions can be difficult to handle for most people. When most people are not comfortable with their own negative emotions, and don’t know how to deal with them, they are also not comfortable with you expressing yours. If you express your pain or sadness, it triggers their own negative emotions. And in a society where children are taught that the requirements for being loved, is to limit themselves and their expression of their feelings, mostly the negative ones, these children grow up to be adults who still are uncomfortable with negative emotions. These adults still try to repress and hide their negative emotions, and they demand that everyone else does the same. Those are the rules you have agreed upon.
So then, how do you break that chain? How do you break the rules of engagement and expression? You do it by daring to be different. You do it by daring to express yourself. You do it by telling yourself that you have the courage and strength to be an example, to lead so others can follow. You do it by daring to be you, by refusing to masquerade, by refusing to limit yourself in order to make others feel safe.
You are not responsible for how they feel, how they react to your expression. Understand that their reactions are because of their own limiting beliefs, and their own insecurities and fears. When and if they attack you, it is because of their fears. And you can accept and allow that reaction to be, knowing that you have done nothing wrong. In their reactions to your expression, they reveal themselves. Their reactions, and attacks, make them as vulnerable and exposed as you feel, they just don’t realize it. Even if they don’t attack you, they might not know how to respond. Your honesty is so unusual! So they maybe just say “Oh, OK”, or they don’t know what to say. That also triggers fear in them, because they feel like they don’t know how to be in the right way, or how to behave correctly. Remember that this reaction is not because you did anything wrong. It is just an expression of their own inner struggles, and their own insecurities. Just like you need practice in being honest, they also need practice in being honest in their replies. Most people simply are not used to the honest expression of feelings. It takes practice. So give them the grace to be awkward, and accept that they struggle too. You can only control yourself.
In your exposure you are just feeling vulnerable. You are not dying. The feeling of vulnerability is there because you believe you risk something. But what do you risk? Ridicule? So what? That only hurts if you believe they are right. What else, really, do you risk? Their opinions are just different perspectives. It doesn’t mean anything.
When you can accept their awkwardness, or their fear based reactions to your honestly, knowing that it is a reflection of them and their own fears, most of the danger in exposing yourself will slip away. See it as a practice in accepting them and their exposure/vulnerability when they reveal their reactions to your openness. Allow yourself to express who you are, and simply watch the world react, without attaching any meaning to it. Watch them, and watch them stumble through their own expressions. You are no more vulnerable than they are, you are simply choosing to make the first step, and to take charge of your interactions. In this way, your openness is the more powerful act, and you are the one with the upper hand!