Openness is the ability to allow someone to understand who you are. Complete openness is revealing all and hiding nothing. It is sharing who you are, your thoughts, emotions and motivations, without reservation and without holding things back. It is being able to reveal what you have done in the past, as well as what you hope to do in the future.
Being an open person is like living in the sunshine. You feel you have nothing to hide. You feel confident about revealing who you are because you like yourself and believe in yourself. You are not afraid to open up the dark corners inside you for others to see. You feel comfortable about revealing who you really are to those who can accept it.
Openness has both a doing side and a knowing side. The doing side is being able to reveal who you are. The knowing side is knowing when it is wise to be open with a particular person. Just because you have a strong ability to be open does not mean you can be open at all times with all people. Openness is not something people can demand of you. You don’t owe it to all people to bare your soul to them. Being open is similar to being intimate or being committed in that it is a gift you give to certain people when you want to. It must be this way because these are the things that create bonds between people, and you have the right to choose who to bond with.
Not all people are capable of accepting it if you are completely open with them. You have heard people say “I didn’t want to know that”. You continually estimate how much others are ready to accept, and how much they really want to know about you. If you reveal something about yourself, and you find out afterwards the other person didn’t really want to know it, or couldn’t accept it, then it could be said that you have imposed the information on him against his will.
If you find it difficult to be open, it is because you are afraid of the repercussions of revealing who you are. You hide the things you are ashamed of and don’t like about yourself, because you fear criticism and humiliation from others. You reason, sometimes falsely, that if you don’t like something about yourself, you can hardly expect others to be accepting of it. When you can’t be open, you tend to withdraw from people, and this makes you feel lonely and isolated. Also, you sometimes have trouble being open with yourself because you don’t want to deal with those things you don’t like about yourself. You push them aside and this keeps you from growing as a person.
The ability to be an open person and “wear your heart on your sleeve”, depends to a large extent on how well you like yourself, and how comfortable you are with yourself as a person. The best way to like everything about yourself is to not have anything to dislike. Think of the things you don’t like about yourself, and work on changing them. Obviously, you can’t change specific events that have occurred in the past. But you can change the way you operate your life so you don’t make the same mistakes again. And, strangely enough, if you know something is in the past, and is not part of how you operate now, that is often all it takes to feel it is no longer necessary to hide it.
Another thing that helps openness is learning to choose your relationships carefully. In choosing a personal relationship, one of the biggest favors you can do yourself is to make sure you are comfortable enough with each other that neither of you feels there is anything to hide. Openness is essential for a solid long term relationship, whether it is a friendship or a love relationship, and each of you must be able to accept what the other reveals about himself.
In any relationship, a person’s feelings for you are based on who that person believes you to be. If you don’t reveal who you really are, his feelings for you are not based on reality. If you find yourself in a relationship with someone you can not be open with, you know that if he says he loves you, he doesn’t really love you because he doesn’t really know you. He only loves who he thinks you are, and you have not allowed him to fully see that. This is why it is so important to get into relationships only with people you can really be open with.