When she said it, I wept.
She is Lindsey. And together we were peers in a personal growth group.
It was a day that I usually looked forward to, a weekly group coaching call held by our mentor around lunchtime on Tuesdays. Easily my second favorite time of the week, I was almost always the first one to join each video chat. I’m the group coaching Hermione Granger.
This particular day was different. I was different. Things hadn’t been easy for me for quite a while and I finally couldn’t hide it. So I hid myself by turning off my webcam after a short bit on the call. I flashed it on for a brief second to answer a question (or ask one, I don’t remember now) and that’s when she caught me.
This group had been a lifeblood for me when I was drifting away. The coach was (is) my northstar but at that time I could barely see her in my ever-darkening sky.
I’m the classic example of “She wears her emotions on her face”. I’m expressive and I don’t try to hard to hide things because I’m not good at it. I thought turning off my camera was a clever solution – but when people know your typical virtual behavior I guess that’s the same as just letting my face out me.
I felt safer with my camera turned off, keeping anyone from reading me or asking me questions, or expecting anything from me like a smile. For the first time in a very long time I just had nothing to give. Hidden felt ok.
And then she said it.
My little chat message box dinged me and it had “From Lindsey” and the word (privately) next to her name. It was red – assuring me that her message was for my eyes only and none of our peers had been included in this exchange.
“I see you.”
Now, in some contexts that’s a creepy statement. Or a “you’re busted” statement like when my middle son drops a piece of chocolate on the floor doesn’t want to pick it up so he melts it with his heels and smears it across the floor so that perhaps I won’t see it. BUT I SAW THAT, KID. This wasn’t like that – it wasn’t a ‘gotcha’.
What she saw was ME.
She saw choked back sobs, slightly too-pink cheeks, pulled lips, and eyes that glistened extra from a wall of tears.
To be seen, really seen, in a moment of pain is like air.
To be acknowledged right where you are with no expectation of difference is like the sun finally breaking through the clouds when the wind is chilling you to the bone.
*I need to explain the “without expectation” part of that, because it’s what made this whole thing so important for me. Often when someone asks if you’re ok, they are looking for a response or engagement. That’s an expectation. IF someone asks “Can I do anything for you?” it’s also an expectation to determine what you need in a moment you may not be able to or want to. Saying “Cheer up!” is an expectation that the other person should stop being THIS and be something we see as better for them. Even saying “I love you” can create a heavy burden of reciprocity or of trying to express a deep feeling genuinely and convincingly in return that they may not be connected to right then.
Have you ever felt like someone else has truly seen you? Like they’ve been able to read your soul in a snapshot of a moment, and caught the absolute essence of who you are in that moment in time? Better yet, have you ever felt that way about another person AND TOLD THEM?
To have someone just hold space for you, in three simple words, is possibly the most powerful experience I have ever had.
I’ve told people close to me that I think those words might be more impactful than even “I love you”.
I wonder what would happen if we each tried to “see” one person every day? Look at them for the human that exists inside – feel their energy be that happy or sad, exuberance or pain, high or low… And for just a moment, share that space with them.
I see you.