As gay men, we have heard many times that we need to “put ourselves out there.” This seemed to be the mantra I heard the most after coming out and beginning to interact within my city’s thriving LGBTQ community.
I don’t know if you’ve been challenged with that idea before, or how you might have interpreted it. From my experience, I know a lot of people attempt to put themselves out there by joining dating websites or downloading apps. Others try to frequent the club scene more often, and I know many people go the route of volunteer opportunities or community involvement. All of those options provide some type of value and may be a perfect fit for a particular season of your life.
As a personal life coach, though, I’ve found that not all ways of “putting ourselves out there” lead to wholeness. Many clients think it’s helpful to get their platform in front of a large audience of people or to make sure everyone knows who they are. While that might seem appealing and be mistaken for the path to success, going viral or becoming a well-known socialite can’t fill your soul.
What our souls crave is intimacy – a close relationship, not with an entire city or scene or community, but with a circle of people who know us and love us.
Sadly, even though this is the most fulfilling way for our souls to exist in the world, this is also the option we tend to choose least often. We’d rather put ourselves out there through a selfie on Instagram than a meaningful conversation with a neighbor or friend. There’s less risk, less commitment, less vulnerability in going the route of publicity rather than personal interaction.
But today I want to suggest that putting our hearts out there in individual relationships is worth it.
Last year, I was in the middle of a spiritual crisis. I found myself struggling to figure out what I believed and valued personally, recovering from the toxic environment I had grown up in and attempting to find a spirituality I could call my own.
In the middle of this journey, I came across a blogger who seemed to put into words everything I had been feeling. When I read his about page, I found out he had just moved to my city. In that moment, I made a choice to put myself out there.
I didn’t demand the attention of millions or attempt to be validated by the general public. But I sent one person a quick email, asking if he had any time to grab coffee. Over the next twelve months, this blogger’s entire family became dear friends of mine. They showed me what family was all about. They gave me the opportunity to experience unconditional love for the very first time. I honestly look back on that time period in my life and say that this family saved my life.
I’m so glad I put myself out there. And as I reflect on that choice, that email, that cup of coffee, I realize now the personal choices that change us the most are often the ones we don’t even notice or recognize at the time.
I didn’t know how badly I needed that family. I had no clue how intentional my coming across that blog had been. No one prepared me for the events that were about to transpire in my life, so I couldn’t have known I needed a young couple and two toddlers to get me through them. All I knew was that it was worth the risk to put myself out there – one choice at a time, one person at a time, one moment in which I made the decision to open my heart one more time.
That is the real work. That is what changes us. And that is how we get to an abundant life of connection, intimacy, and love.