After taking the Love Languages Quiz, my languages are listed as follows: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch.
It makes me feel on top of the world when the people I care about hold space for me, actively listen to what I’m saying, then let me know that they are hearing and processing and empathizing and holding space. When they affirm my feelings or my progress and spend quality time with me after to make sure I’m well.
However, one of the most recent conversations I’ve had with my therapist caused me to realize then articulate that a lot of the people I hold space for don’t hold space for me. It’s been a super hurtful realization, but maybe not for the reasons one might think. It was hurtful because I realized that I had spent a lot of time trying to make myself feel deserving of being listened to, checked on, and supported, instead of actively pursuing people who naturally hold that space for me. This resulted in me feeling rejected by those I call friends, when I should have just realized that I cannot force others to be who I want them to be. Believe it or not—there arepeople who naturally hold space for you in this world, even if you haven’t met them yet.
This manifested most recently in a conversation I had where people asked me what was going on in my life and I stated that things had not been going well for me. Then…nothing. They didn’t ask me to elaborate—an opportunity I always give someone before I open up and vent to them—they just replied passively and that was it. I was admittedly hurt and expressed that to them, after which they followed up and asked for more information. But at that point I felt like the damage had been done and I was now begging people to hear me out. I shamefully took this opportunity to share with them instead of remembering I don’t need to beg others to empathize with me and didn’t feel any better after sharing with them.
After, I took a step outside of the feelings of rejection and hurt and realized I wasn’t even upset with them. It was my own fault, in a completely non-self-flagellating way, for knowing that there are people in my life I hold space for who are incapable of doing the same for me. That doesn’t make them bad people, or even bad friends, though others might disagree, I just simply realize now that they are who they are, and if that works for them, I can’t and won’t try to force them to “fix” what clearly isn’t an error for them. The error is within me—I’m the one who frequently falls into relationships with people who don’t hold space for me out of desperation and low self-worth.
I don’t wish to guilt anyone or make them feel bad, I’ve simply committed myself to doing the work to remember to hold space for myself. I’ve gotten into journaling again; it’s made me a lot more careful about the ways I engage with others, and it’s made me an even better listener than before.
Obviously, most empaths can’t, won’t, and shouldn’t hold space for just any person, because we would constantly be weighed down by caring for and empathizing with the trials of others.
There’s nothing I dislike more on the topic of conversation than when I’m talking and someone’s commentary becomes reduced to “mmhmm,” “wow,” “omg,” etc.
Writing more than ever recently has made me become the kind of person who listens to every word someone says with intention. I choose my words carefully and consider every syllable before committing to them. I completely do not expect others to adhere to that, nor do I want to make others feel like there is some kind of list of rules they have to follow or cues they have to express to let me know they’re listening, but I do think it’s important to gently remind others of the importance of holding space genuinely for the people they love, and being an active, genuine listener.
In a world where many people decide not to be here anymore because of the fact that they feel like no one cares what they have to say, it’s crucial.