I’m someone who is very in-touch with my emotions. I do a lot of journaling, praying, and applying different songs to my feelings. I live by Aristotle’s “know thyself” in that I spend so much time inside my head, thinking and analyzing to understand the depths of my convictions and passions and talents and fears and experiences.
Understanding gives me peace. And feeling understood by the people in my life is more important to me than feeling cared for or loved. My personality is very detail-oriented and so I crave this feeling of depth in my relationships with other people. But I don’t often get it. I’m an extrovert and I’m very expressive, but so often I feel like people don’t care. People have good intentions, but they’re busy or not curious or maybe scared of digging deeper to really discover and understand the core of another’s identity.
My sophomore year of college I dated a guy who was equally intense as I was in communicating with depth. We had the longest conversations about our religious and political beliefs, what we were learning in our classes, injustices in the world, and how we were interacting with God. He was inspiring. And he dramatically changed how I think about the world. For months and months after we broke up, I had this persistent discontentment of not feeling known. I felt so misunderstood because I had lost the one person in my life who interacted with me with so much meaningful depth and who treasured me for that. Adjusting to life post-break up is so disorienting and painful, but I didn’t expect it to feel lonely too.
Maybe people like my ex are rare. Or maybe I’m too intense in thinking of conversations and life so seriously. But I don’t think so. I don’t think any of us were created to be superficial and to not think deeply about our lives and about the world. I think that all of us have an underlying desire for depth in our lives. Maybe sometimes people don’t realize what they’re missing or don’t know how to get to it, but I think everyone is craving it. I think everyone needs to feel known.
I find it tragic when I have friendships with people where we don’t grow and change, because we aren’t thriving off of discussing ideas and emotions and spirituality. It’s like this meaningless pleasure that shouldn’t be a normal way of being friends with someone. Something my ex shared with me back when we were best friends is a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt, “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” At the time I remember loving the quote so much, but the one thing I don’t like about it is how it seems to categorize people, like we’re each born with a specific type of mind and stuck there. I disagree with that. I think we can shape our souls and our minds by what we think about and talk about and what we focus on.
If you want to have meaning and depth in the relationships in your life, know that you already have a great mind. So start discussing ideas. Start asking questions to your friends about parts of their lives that matter to them. Start focusing on being a good listener. Start loving people by making them feel known and treasured.
I think change happens in the most natural way with love. When a specific type of love is shown to someone and then they desire to give that back to other people— that’s when the most powerful change happens. My hope for this world is that we would desire to learn something in every conversation, that we would crave depth so much that conversations would be used to understand and to make others feel known. Create this change with me by talking less and listening more, and in so doing you’ll inspire the people around you to do the same.