I’m not going to lie. I’ve had some times in the last few weeks when I just needed a hug.
First there was a DJ performance at a networking night that just went abysmally. Then there was the crippling feeling of being overwhelmed when working late, promoting and organizing two events and the flights for three trips, and failing to work on any of my own projects all culminated in a single week of deadlines, lost sleep, and stress headaches. And there are just life issues that crop up here and there that make you feel like you can’t win.
I know these things are surmountable. I know life doesn’t intentionally try to screw with you; it just provides winds that you can either let knock you over or harness to steer you toward something better. And I’m confident that I can handle these winds, and so can you.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t times I feel I just need a hug. And I believe that’s a GOOD thing – even as a fully functioning adult.
When we were kids, we needed hugs all the time – skinned knees, bad dreams, and scary, unknown experiences tested our resolve almost daily. If we needed a hug it usually meant we had run into a situation with which we were unfamiliar, or tried something that ended up being scary. Sometimes it meant we failed. But while the hug made us feel better in the short term, it was really just a symptom of something larger. We were learning, experimenting, taking risks and facing fears in order to learn about the world around us (and ourselves).
As we grow up, we learn how the world around us works. We learn lessons, we build assumptions, and we build an identity. None of these are bad things – we need them to become a real person, functioning member of society.
But I think some other things happen also. We find a comfort zone, and then we carve out a groove there. We become less vulnerable, less willing to put ourselves in a position to get hurt. We’ve had so much pain in life that as adults, we’ve learned ways to avoid it. We do what feels comfortable, we shield our passions, and we take fewer risks. In fact, there are studies that suggest that risk-taking decreases with age.
If you make yourself someone who never needs a hug, never needs a shoulder to lean on, then you’re self-sufficient, resilient, and strong. Right?
Yeah, maybe you’re those things. But guess what you aren’t? You aren’t excited about anything. You don’t have anything that really revs your engine. You’re OK with mediocrity because breaking out of it would require too much effort, too much risk.
I’ve seen these grown-ups. Hell, I’ve BEEN that grown-up sometimes. The type that know everything, the type that don’t need to try new things because they’ve apparently experienced enough of life to know what they like and don’t like. The type that are cynical or apathetic about everything. I’m not talking about selective apathy here, which is a great tool to keep your focus. I’m talking about general apathy. If you don’t care about anything too much then it can’t hurt you too much.
DON’T suppress that part of you. DO go after things that scare you. Test your limits. Learn to fail. Put yourself in a position to need a hug once in a while. Because the people that have not hardened themselves to eliminate all vulnerability are also the ones willing to take the necessary risks to achieve their dreams.