Many people see themselves as boring or not very interesting. As a result, they minimize social contact, or feel self-conscious and awkward when interacting.
Having a self-image of being uninteresting can lead to isolation and loneliness, while eroding self-worth.
A fascinating inquiry is to explore what makes us interesting. Is it our net worth, our accomplishments, or knowing people who are popular? Maybe these factors create a curious image that some people find appealing. But do we want people to find our image interesting or find us interesting?
The key to making us interesting is not what we’ve achieved (although this might have superficial appeal), but rather who we are as a person. We become more interesting as we know and show our authentic self to people. We bring more aliveness to our relationships as we notice and reveal our true feelings and desires. It’s not what we’ve done with our lives, but sharing the life that exists within us in this moment, whatever it happens to be — taking the risk to reveal our true emotions and desires.
Let’s say we’re on a date and feel an attraction. Do we communicate that or keep our feelings inside? If it’s the first date, we might bide our time and get to know the person better. But if we say nothing — if we reveal little about ourselves — how we feel about things, or how we’re experiencing our time together, the person may think we’re not interested in them… or that we’re not very interesting.
Nurturing a connection involves expressing our fears, hurts, hopes, and joys. We convey what delights our heart, what makes us feel alive, and what keeps us up at night. We take a risk to share these things. If we never reveal ourselves in a way where a person can “feel” us as a human being, we risk being boring. If we stay in our head or become overly self-protective, we remain isolated.
This is not to say that we should have no boundaries. We don’t want to scare people away with sloppy boundaries or make assumptions about how intimate they want to be with us. We need to gauge what we feel safe sharing and what might wait for another day — when more trust has grown.
Being Attentive to Others
We also become more interesting as we show genuine interest in knowing another person. How often does someone appear to be curious you! It feels good when it happens, yes? I would suspect that a person who extends attention to you and knows how to listen becomes interesting to you. Can you offer that same gift of listening to others
Deep listening means quieting our mind and being present to hear another’s feelings, thoughts, and concerns. Notice where your attention goes when you’re with someone. Does it wander off? Are you preparing your response? Can you return to the present moment and be curious about the person across from you? Can you ask them questions about themselves — and gauge your comfort level in asking more questions based upon their response?
Throughout the life of a relationship, we nurture connection by finding a rhythm between revealing our inner experience — and listening to others’ experience.
Relationships flounder or deteriorate when we withhold our important feelings from each other. I often notice how couples often offer their analysis, opinions, and criticisms of each other, but not their feelings and longings.
They might say, “You’re selfish and uncaring,” but not disclose the felt experience that underlies these hurtful judgments, which might be something like: “I’ve been missing the connection I once felt with you. I’m lonely for you. I feel scared that we’re drifting apart and worried that we won’t find our way toward each other.”
We become more interesting — that is, we create a climate for an interested and alive connection — when we expose our tender, vulnerable feelings. Hearing our partner say “You’re self-absorbed” is likely to push us away. Hearing “I want more quality time with you” or “I enjoy your company” is more likely to pique our interest and move us to listen and respond positively.
Approaches that help us connect with our felt experience, such as Focusing (Gendlin), can help us connect with ourselves more deeply. Our relationships can deepen by sharing our experience with others. But first we need to be mindful of what we’re experiencing and then find the courage to reveal it to selected people.
Becoming Interested in Life
A key to initiating and sustaining intimate relationships is to not be so concerned about being interesting, but rather pursue a life where we become interesting to ourselves and where life becomes fascinating for us. Are we doing what nourishes us, enlivens us, and expands us? Are we following our interests in music, art, dance, nature walks, gardening, yoga, meditation, or whatever might help us feel good? Are we living a mindful, connected life (as much as possible) or are we going through the motions — living what psychologist Tara Brach calls a “trance of unworthiness.”
As we become more engaged with life, we feel more alive. We live with more meaning and poignancy. We enjoy moments of good humor, joy, and laughter. We share our experience and are receptive to others’ experience.
We become more interesting because we are interested — in people, in life, and also in ourselves. We are interested in growing and living with more love and joy in our heart. All this attracts people toward us. And remember to be gentle with yourself. All of this takes practice. We don’t have to do any of it perfectly.
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