There’s plenty of things in life that scare us – from skydiving to finding a job to matters of health – but, perhaps nothing is more terrifying than uttering three little words: I love you.
Those three little words make us feel vulnerable and exposed, like we’re hanging on the edge of the universe for the few seconds it takes to say such a brief, but intense, combination of words.
The words I love you filled my head as he’d grab the extra blanket, placing it on top of me, knowing I’d be cold. The words I love you ran up the length of my spine as I gazed into his eyes for moments on end. The words I love you coursed through every fiber of my being, but they also clung heavy to the back of my throat like a huge wad of peanut butter.
As someone who is extremely vulnerable and open with her students and in her classes, I was shocked by the amount of resistance that came up with expressing how I felt.
Now, I didn’t question the feeling itself. I was sure that I loved him. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind about the feelings I have – something that should have been confirmation enough to voice how I felt. But it wasn’t. There I was straddling the line between my feelings and my fear: I knew how I felt and yet I was equally and absolutely terrified at saying those three little words.
Vulnerability – with anything – is never an easy road to cross, but when it comes to matters of the heart and confessing our love for someone, the stakes feel a lot higher. When it comes to love, we’ve got a lot more skin in the game.
When I began to unpack my hesitation, when I started to investigate my fear, I realized I was deeply triggered and afraid of rejection and hurt – not because I needed him to say those three little words back to me – not because I needed him to say it first – not because I didn’t feel loved or safe with him (I absolutely did and do). I was afraid of uttering the words I love you because in saying those three little words, I ran the risk of having my heart broken (again).
2018 was a tough year for me on all levels. Between career and matters of the heart, everything was falling apart.
Last November, my heart was broken in ways it hadn’t been in nearly a decade. Almost overnight the feelings went cold in this quasi, but not entirely defined, relationship I was in. As this person told me that they were “interested but not invested” in a relationship with me, my unworthiness and not enough story became very loud, sending me into a dark place that culminated with me lying on my bathroom floor in the fetal position sobbing my eyes out on New Years Eve.
Logically I knew, and I knew all along, that this person was not right for me – that it wasn’t what I wanted or needed in a relationship – but I got swept up in the intense feelings, the allure of it all. Looking back, I can see how this “relationship” opened my eyes and heart to all possibilities – how it taught me many things about myself, what I do want and need in a relationship, and what I’m not willing to settle for.
But, at the time, it broke me and I didn’t want to go back to that hollow feeling and so those three little words I felt so deep and knew to be true, the very words I so badly wanted to share, clung to my chest, begging me not to run the risk of having my heart broken again.
I’d argue, Saying those three little words is something that’s important for you to do. You talk about being vulnerable in class all the time and how we’re not guaranteed tomorrow. What if you never get to share that you love him? What’s the price you pay for not living by your values and speaking your truth?
My heart would counter, What if saying those words ruins what you already have? What if it pushes him away? What if it’s “too soon”? Do you really want to risk having him break your heart?
I went back and forth between my heart and my fear all week until I finally resolved that I would say the words I love you. No matter what came from it, I knew I was out of integrity and not walking my talk if I let fear run the game.
I decided that I would write him a handwritten note expressing my feelings for him as writing is an easy medium for me to express how I feel. In this card I also expressed my fears and hesitation. I pretty much laid it all on the table and bared my soul. I had planned to give the card to him at some point Saturday night and figured I’d give it to him after we got back from dinner with friends. But, just as we were getting ready to leave for dinner, he held me close and told me how much he liked me and how it’s funny we haven’t said the L-word yet.
Universe: mic drop
With the cue from the Universe, I gave him my card and told him that I loved him – and, what’s even funnier than this whole transpiration of events, the perfect Universal set-up, is that he also felt the same way, but like me, held back because of fear and not wanting to jinx anything.
It made me think:
How often do we hold ourselves back from the very thing we want? How often do we let fear run the show when it comes to matters of the heart?
It’s true, love is a risk and the price of experiencing love runs parallel to the risk of being hurt. Saying I love you doesn’t guarantee that the other person will say it back or even that they will reciprocate the feeling. Maybe they do. Maybe they don’t. Maybe it makes you grow closer in your relationship. Maybe it drives you apart.
You never know and you can never know. Nothing in life is ever guaranteed.
But, what I do know for sure is that you gain nothing from closing yourself off and putting walls around your heart. What we are willing to give is what we open ourselves up to receive and so if we only kinda sorta maybe half-assedly open up, we get that same experience back from life.
If we want to revel in the true depth of life – if we want to tap into levels of joy and contentment like we’ve never felt before, we have to open up fully and completely. Above all, we have to remember that love isn’t about giving your heart away. It’s about sharing how you feel and opening room in your heart to let someone in.
Where does fear hold you back from opening up, using your voice or taking initiative?