“When a relationships's strength is determined by the willingness to see and be seen"
I find it interesting to think we live our whole life never seeing our own face. Of course we can see our reflection through mirrors and photos. But even when I look in the mirror, I feel my self-perception is warped. I magnify my flaws while some areas of my face are left completely unnoticed. I have my own narrow, biased perspective of myself.
Maybe this is why, for the longest time, I’ve looked at relationships as my mirror. How do others perceive me? Do they see something I don’t? As a child, I would see my reflection through the approval and love of my parents. Then, I would see it through my classmates, teachers, and eventually my friends. But as I got older, it became harder to really be seen as my whole self.
Because to really be seen, we need to let down our guard. We need to feel safe showing our scars, our flaws, and our vulnerability. We also need to feel supported to show our shining, successful, and brilliant self. Aristotle said it well, “Friends hold a mirror up to each other; through that mirror they can see each other in ways that would not otherwise be accessible to them, and it is this mirroring that helps them improve themselves as persons.”
This is what makes a friendship so satisfying. In today’s age of social media, it’s easy to accumulate Facebook friends and Instagram followers, but it's also more important than ever to think about what a nourishing friendship looks like for ourselves.
John O’Donohue writes about the old Celtic term anam cara, which directly translates into “soul friend”. He writes, “The one you love, your anam cara, your soul friend, is the truest mirror to reflect your soul. The honesty and clarity of true friendship also brings out the real contour of your spirit.”
Although it may sound like a lofty ideal, a “soul friendship” begins when there is a mutual witnessing of each other that holds space for all that each of you is — flawed, incomplete, and beautiful. When we see ourselves through the eyes of another and feel truly understood, we will also feel a sense of belonging. Our willingness to see and be seen is what allows us to stay deeply connected for the long haul.