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Are You Willing to Let Other People Step in Your Shoes?

Are You Willing to Let Other People Step in Your Shoes?

Allowing another person to "step in your shoes" means letting them know what is really going on in your life. Studio 5 Contributor and Therapist, Julie Hanks, says that's a risk many of us are simply not willing to take. Find out how to break through false fronts and let people in.


Deep emotional connection with other people is basic human need. Sharing your inner world is risky business and can bring up feelings of fear and vulnerability. Whenever we allow others to "walk in our shoes" we risk being hurt, and it's the only way we can feel truly known, connected, and loved. I'm not just talking about sharing pain and burdens; it may be difficult for some to share their successes, joys, and accomplishments.

Honest self-disclosure is associated with higher levels of relationship satisfaction. When you share deeper experiences and emotions it often invites others to share their heart with you. Is a bonding, fosters closeness and intimacy.

Allowing another person to step into your shoes means letting them know what's really going on in your life. Easier said than done, right? Sharing on deeper levels with another person means raising the emotional stakes and means taking a risk: the deeper the level, the higher the emotional risk. I think of levels of communication in these 4 stages:

Level 1 - Doing (hands) Talking about action and external facts and events, like "What did you do today?" "I went to the store."

Level 2 - Thinking (head) Conversations focused on thoughts and opinions, such as "I think that you're a great mother" or "In my opinion, the only solution to the economy is..."

Level 3 - Feeling (heart) Sharing emotional experiences, like "I feel scared that I might lose my job" or "I felt so loved when you brought me dinner last week."

Level 4 - Being (core/gut) Sharing a deep, emotional connection with another person at the same time. This is when you feel "felt" - you know that the other person "gets" you. This type of communication is honest and genuine, deep, meaningful, and rare.

What prevents us from letting others walk in our shoes?

1) Fear of being hurt

"What if I open up my heart and they don't care, they leave me, they don't "get it", or they don't comfort me?"

After being hurt in the past, we learn to protect from being hurt again, but that also keeps us from being close to others.

Solution: Decide to risk anyway

If it's hard for you to let others "walk in your shoes" you have to make a conscious decision to take a risk to let others into on a deeper level. Honest self-disclosure is associated with higher levels of relationship satisfaction. When you share deeper experiences and emotions it invites others to share their heart with you. This invites intimacy. We all want to be known and loved.

Intimacy = into me see

2) Worry what others will think

"I don't want to appear weak. If I share vulnerability with someone, they may think I don't have it all together."

We live in a culture that values strength and sharing emotional vulnerability may be perceived as weakness. But is it? I truly believe that the developing the ability and willingness to share emotional vulnerability is one of the most important relationship strengths we can develop. It is the key to fulfilling relationships.

Solution: Accept that you don't have it all together

Everyone is weak AND strong. We need to lean on each other. When I get caught in the trap of wondering what others will think I rehearse this quote in my mind, "It's none of my business what others think of me."

3) Don't want to burden others

"People have their own struggles. Why would they want to hear about mine? Do they really care anyway?"

You may be aware of the burdens of your loved ones and want to protect them from additional stress.

Solution: Share, don't dump

Sharing is opening up your heavy backpack and letting someone else see and feel the contents. Dumping is sharing the contents of your backpack and then trying to get the other person to carry your backpack for you.

4) I don't know how

"That's just not what I do. I wouldn't know where to start to let some one really know me."

From birth we are born to emotionally connect with each other, so you do know how to be emotionally vulnerable on some level. As you developed you may have had experiences that taught you to guard your tender feelings. Some families are better at fostering deeper sharing of emotions than others. If you've never been in a relationship where you've been able to be yourself, it may be time to open up, just a little bit at a time.

Solution: Start small

Ask yourself, "What level am I sharing from?" and then see if you can move one level down. This is the crux of what I help clients with in therapy -- to identify their internal experience and to share it in a meaningful way with loved ones.


Julie de Azevedo Hanks, LCSW is a therapist, self & relationship expert, media contributor and director of Wasatch Family Therapy. Visit www.wasatchfamilytherapy.co m for individual, couple, family, & group counseling services designed to strengthen you and your family. We treat mental health and relationship problems in children, adolescents, and adults. Now open in Provo!

For additional emotional health & relationship resources connect with Julie at www.juliehanks.com.

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