Social Question

Earthgirl's avatar

How important is it to you to feel "known"?

Asked by Earthgirl (11159 points ) January 30th, 2013

I don’t mean as in being famous, although that is one way of being known and it may be important to you or not at all.

What I mean is having connections with people who really “see” you . They see what is in your heart, what drives you, what keeps you up at night.

When all is said and done, is this way of feeling known more or less important to you than making a “contribution to society”? So few of us will make any major accomplishments that will stand the test of time.

Is feeling “known” enough? Is it equally or less important to feel understood?

Thoughts?

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22 Answers

JLeslie's avatar

Pretty important. By your definition it goes along with feeling connected, loved, and valued I think. It bothers me a lot to be misunderstood or misperceived in my intentions, so I equate that with people understanding my heart and mind. No greater compliment then someone saying how much they like or me or that they see me as a giving and helpful person. I envy those people who are like bright lights of personality and goodness. Who make people feel welcome. I hope I come across that way.

marinelife's avatar

To feel known and understood and to know and understand in turn with a close circle of friends is very important to me,

janbb's avatar

It has come to be of great importance to me. The fact that I have one male friend, and many female, with whom I can be entirely myself and not feel judged, is healing many wounds from my marriage and my childhood.

thorninmud's avatar

What’s important to me is that people pay attention. I’m like everyone else: while I may have certain habitual ways of thinking and acting that make me look like a knowable “solid”, I have the freedom to let any of that go from one moment to the next and become the “fluid” that is my fundamental nature.

When people (or I, for that matter) form distinct ideas about what I’m like, that denies my fluid nature and freezes me into a certain mold. This is always a danger in relationships; one feels that he or she knows the other so well that they stop seeing the other as they are at that very moment, free and fluid.

So, I’d say that what’s important is that the people around me forget about what they think they know about me, and just see. This kind of open attention is what we all owe to each other.

janbb's avatar

@thorninmud As always, you go deeper than any of us. And it makes me expand what I meant by known. With this friend, I feel I can reveal all the “good” and “bad” parts of myself, the anxiety and the preening and have them be accepted and not judged.

KNOWITALL's avatar

Not for me, it’s not important. I’m a very private person, but I do open up online more than in ‘real’ life. These are cerebral relationships though, so it’s different for me.

Most of my life people haven’t understood me well, so I’m used to going it alone mentally and internalizing a lot. I’m kind of a hermit with my personal self.

picante's avatar

The concept of truly being known by another is of great importance to me. I can’t express it more eloquently than those above me, but I’ve come to realize that the “deep emotional well” that can’t be filled in me is exactly in proportion to my perception of how others don’t “know” me. I have a very strong professional persona (which is true to myself), but I feel that at a personal level, I’ve not found many true connections.

I also realize that, like many, most of my years were spent in pursuing goals that were set by society (high academic achievements; career achievements; the marriage, children and material acquisitions); and most of those pursuits have seemed to push me farther away from an idealized “self.” I’m not sure that made sense – I wish @thorninmud were here to write this for me ;-)

I suspect that’s why the freedom to participate anonymously in this forum has kept me here much longer and stronger than I would have imagined. I can be more unguarded in my expression of feelings. You can know me without really knowing me at all.

Shippy's avatar

What a lovely question. I am known by few, perhaps two at a push. Sometimes I am known by someone when I didn’t realize it. To be known is a fantastic experience. It is a depth of feeling and knowledge deeper than any thing I can describe. Sometimes I think it is a type of love, that can come from anyone. Thank you for this question I love it, and it is important. More important that being known ‘for’.

burntbonez's avatar

To be known seems to me to be different from unconditional acceptance, which is what it seems like some people are talking about. They are related. Being known and accepted is better than being known and rejected. However, I’m not sure which comes first. Are you accepted first and then someone comes to know you. Can you only be known through acceptance? Or are you known first, and then accepted?

Coloma's avatar

It’s nice but a rarity for most.
I am a very present and engaging type, but sadly for some years now I am lacking in kindred spirits to commune with on more than a superficial level.
Most people just sort of drift along, oblivious, finding other truly present and engaging personalities is a needle in a haystack undertaking.

I did have a friend say to me recently that what she likes about me the most is that I know what I want and am strong in my conviction to self.
Knowing ourselves is, of course, a prerequisite for knowing others.
If you don’t pay attention to your self how can you possibley really pay attention to others?

I guess she has paid more attention than I give her credit for. lol

wundayatta's avatar

I have been searching my whole life to be known. The more I am known, the more I want to be known. And when I say known, I mean in the biblical sense, for I feel that is the ultimate way to be known. I don’t think you can be known very well without being known in that sense. It is all together and it can’t be separated out. It is emotional and physical and cognitive all at once. And truly being known is a transcendent experience.

Pachy's avatar

I like being known by my friends and feeling understood by a few very close ones. I also like being known by waiters at the restaurants I frequent often.

I don’t like being known by telemarketers.

I’ve never been famous (though at certain points in my life I fancied myself so a bit), but in my career I’ve met some truly famous people and envied the talents and accomplished that earned them fame.

downtide's avatar

It’s important to me. I’m a very social and extrovert person with a full and active social life outside of home & work. I’m widely known in the local LGBT community and I like that. I can walk down Canal Street on the average weekday evening and in the space of about half an hour I’ll usually see at least half a dozen people who know me.

YARNLADY's avatar

If you mean by strangers, not at all, but by family, very important.

KNOWITALL's avatar

I’m a little surprised at all the answers of ‘wanting to be known’, very interesting. @Eaerth
Any insights into why you ask?

Mariah's avatar

Just knowing that people know what’s happening in my life or how I’m feeling makes me feel better. It can even just be on Fluther. I don’t know why it should matter so much. Just feels like the problems not all trapped inside my skull.

Bellatrix's avatar

I remember watching that programme “Who do you think you are?” and seeing the stories of people who have done amazing things in their lifetimes but within a couple of generations, unless they were exceptionally well known, those achievements have been forgotten. They are lost in time. Perhaps only one or two people, usually in the person’s family, remember them and the things they accomplished. It made me aware of how fleeting the memory of us can be.

In contrast, I remember the number of people who my father touched emotionally in his life. He was a fairly quiet, steady man but he had a huge heart and he would help people when he could. He didn’t promote himself. That wasn’t his nature but people recognised and saw the goodness in him. I guess you could say they ‘knew’ him. After he died I remember thinking how important it is to reach out and touch the people we meet in life. Not in a physical sense but in a way that makes a difference, even a tiny difference. I’m not sure I live up to this revelation as often as I should but I would hope I am ‘known’ by those I connect with as a positive influence on their lives. Mostly I hope my children and close family ‘know’ me. It seems to me, in the end, that’s really all that matters. How those I love ‘know’ me.

wundayatta's avatar

Hmmm. @KNOWITALL, I’m a little surprised at your reaction. I picked you for a person who would want to be known. Another guess going in the wrong column.

For me, the desire to be known is very deep. It comes from formative years when I felt alone and uncared for. My parents thought I was doing fine and I didn’t need any attention. No one ever told me I was doing ok. They just assumed I knew.

So I grew up feeling inadequate, and worse, that nothing I could do would ever be good enough. So this idea developed within me that if people really knew me; if they could understand who I was at a very deep level, then they might like me and approve of me and want to spend time with me. Even better, they might love me.

But it was more than that, even. I wanted to be loved in such a way that loneliness was banished. I wanted to be so known that there would be no barriers at all between me and the other person. It would be like having sex, only instead of just our bodies being inside each other, our minds and souls would be together in this way at the same time.

Indeed, before I ever lost my virginity, I had this idea that when I had sex, I would enter my partner’s mind, and we would know each other completely with no barriers of any kind.

I would actually still like to do that. I know it isn’t possible, but that’s how lonely I have been and that is what it would take for me to feel that complete sense of connection that I crave.

I have met some others in my life who understand this desire. Most of them are pretty edgy people. Artists. Some of them are mentally ill, too.

When I make music with the band, we sometimes enter that space where we are four or five people who are no longer separate. We are one. We all think with the same brain. We know what everyone is going to do before they do it.

I think this is because we have played together a lot and because we understand music very well. We know how the music turns, and we listen carefully for the signs of the turn, and then we all jump on the turn at the same time. It’s like magic, but it isn’t magic. Similarly, it is like thinking with the same brain, but isn’t thinking with the same brain. Still, if I could do that all the time, I would. Well, with breaks for sex with my lover.

Dancing can be like that, too. You pick up the nonverbal cues with a person, and all of a sudden you are a complete intimate with them, even though you just met them. Again, it has to do with knowing bodies and knowing dance and knowing people and being open to each other, and listening and tuning in. And if you were to mix this with love making and music making all at the same time, I think you’d get awfully close to the kind of connection I dreamed of when I was a virgin and before I knew any better.

So that’s why it’s important to me. It’s the meaning of life, I guess, for me. I suspect that it’s something like that for @Earthgirl, too, but she’ll have to speak for herself. There are others, as well, who think something like what I’ve described. But there seem to be a lot of people who aren’t into it, or who may be completely baffled by what I’m talking about.

Earthgirl's avatar

Everyone, thank you so much for the heartfelt and interesting discussion. I hope to continue this tomorrow! Now you’ll see by my response why I don’t ask more questions!

The kind of knowing that I’m talking about goes beyond acquaintanceship, way beyond. We all make choices (and feel choices forced on us) to put on various masks to the world-at work we may hide some of our less popular political opinions, depending on our social circles and how accepting of our true selves our families are, we divulge more or less information about our lives and our viewpoints and our feelings. To enemies we seek to hide our soft underbelly, that is, our weaknesses and insecurities. And then there are the people we want to impress! It may be because we admire them, or it may be because we need something from them and so, we need them to respect and like us. The more they see of our admirable qualities (and the less they see of our self-perceived faults, the likelier they will admire us in return or give us what we are looking for, a job promotion, an introduction, etc It’s a sort of role playing game. Many times it’s not fakery, just playing our cards close to the vest….not revealing our hand. Keeping our skeletons in the closet

@JLeslie Yes I agree, appreciated, loved, valued…but all of these are meaningless if we don’t feel understood as far as who and what we are. To me that’s what friendship is all about. It’s either on a deep, accepting level or it’s substandard and limited in scope. It’s hard for me to make good friends because my expectations are so high., I too hate being misunderstood and sometimes I take a stance of preserving my privacy because I sense that my real self would not be accepted. I’m not even such a rebellious, non conformist, not at all, but I do have some viewpoints that I feel passionately about that would rub some people the wrong way. If someone likes you based on your actions and your demeanor, and that flows from your real self, then it’s very fulfilling and life affirming.

@marinelife A close circle of friends is all I need also. I don’t need 3,000 Facebook friends who don’t really know me.

@janbb Not feeling judged is so important! How can one open up to people if there isn’t an atmosphere of understanding? I know I can’t.

@thorninmud You really get to the heart of things! So often the kind of knowingness that stops observing the flow and flux of a person is in their long term close relationships such as family.
“what’s important is that the people around me forget about what they think they know about me, and just see. This kind of open attention is what we all owe to each other.”

Feeling “seen” in the way that you speak of, is step one to feeling “known”. Without that, tain’t never gonna happen.
(excuse my vernacular)

KNOWITALL Oh, I understand being a private person. But I think most of us really yearn to feel “known” even if we have given up hope for it. In my life I have often kept things to myself out of shyness or feeling like no one really cared what I had to say so why waste my breath? But I know that I always yearned for it, wanted it and missed it when it wasn’t around. I kept plodding through life looking for it. Friends come and go and the older you get, the harder it seems to find that openness that leads to deep friendship. It reminds me of a Seinfeld episode where Jerry says something about when you’re older you’re not looking for new friends, you have friends, whereas when you were a kid it was all so easy, “You’re in my yard? You’re my friend!!”

It does get harder and the deepest of friendships are often kindled from a passionate mutual interest or cause, or from having lived some harrowing experience like an illness or traumatic event together. The bonds seem to form more easily when circumstance makes our masks drop and our humanity more apparent. In times like those we need each other.

picante “I’ve come to realize that the “deep emotional well” that can’t be filled in me is exactly in proportion to my perception of how others don’t “know” me.”
You totally understand what I mean. Fluther is a great site because people are willing to share so much of their inner life. Daily life doesn’t offer us as many opportunities to open up and tell stories and reveal our hopes, fears, anxieties and joys in life. It is so essentially human to want to share that. Sometimes it is profoundly touching.

Shippy “I am known by few, perhaps two at a push. Sometimes I am known by someone when I didn’t realize it. To be known is a fantastic experience. It is a depth of feeling and knowledge deeper than any thing I can describe. Sometimes I think it is a type of love, that can come from anyone.”
Yes, fantastic! It is the peak experience of life for me. Better than climbing Mt. Everest. Ok, it’s a little different, I admit, but to me, more important in so many ways.

burntbonez don’t think that we’re talking about unconditional acceptance being necessary. Of course, one hopes that when someone really knows and understands us, they will accept us. Sometimes it happens, most times it doesn’t. But the thing is, that is what I for one, hope for. Not so much unconditional acceptance but some sort of acceptance, recognition of who we are and affection. The first step towards this is the listening and seeing that thorninmud talks about.

love the term the psychotherapist Carl Rogers used for this in the therapeutic setting. He saw one of the prerequisites for a “helping relationship” as unconditional positive regard.. It doesn’t mean that I accept everything you think and feel as a human being as being good. It doesn’t mean that I agree with everything you say. It simply means that “we are free to be spontaneous without fearing the loss of others’ esteem.:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unconditional_positive_regard

Coloma I hear you! That is just it. So much of life is superficial. Deeper connection is harder to find. Presenting yourself as you are, no masks, no facade, what you see is what you get, is going to make it harder than if we twist ourselves into pretzels to be what others want, or expect. But when we do make connection, it is so great and so real it makes it all worthwhile.

Wundayatta “truly being known is a transcendent experience.”
Sexual connection can be deep and beyond words. It is a sensing of being known, and more of a feeling than a cerebral perception. I’m not sure it’s the deepest connection. It’s so essentially different from any other kind. But I do agree that when it works, it is a transcendent experience.

Psychderm in The Room To me, being known and being understood are almost synonymous.

downtide Do the people who know of you really “know” you? I’m weird in a way because fame doesn’t really appeal to me;

YARNLADY Strangers knowing you, that is, seeing you, could be a rush! It’s almost intuitive. But I agree that family and friends knowing our real selves and seeing us for who we are, and understanding us, is most important.

Bellatrix This knowingness happens in small moments of recognition and insight. It is sort of the old idea of someone recognizing “the cloth we are cut out of”. (pardon the tailor’s metaphor) Your memories of your father are what honor him and what he tried to do with his life so I guess you could call that his legacy.

tinyfaery's avatar

As I rapidly approach 40yrs, I have come to the conclusion that it’s almost impossible to really translate what I’m thinking/experiencing into a form of communication that someone will completely understand.

I’m not sure anyone can really know another person in the way you describe.

Earthgirl's avatar

@tinyfaery It’s impossible for it to last because we’re always changing…so yes, I suppose it’s something that comes in moments and over time can become richer and deeper. Also, I think others can see things in us that we don’t see in ourselves thereby helping us to know ourselves better, I guess it isn’t always, but could be, a form of insight. Openess and unguardedness help. Some people are really good at creating that feeling that they can be trusted. Sometimes they can, sometimes not. Paying attention, listening, caring all play into it.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@wundayatta @earthgirl Well, I’ve thought about it a bit since and I think it’s that most people here in my world don’t understand me, and perhaps being as private as I am, I don’t put enough effort into them knowing the real me because of past disappointments.

So I am revising my statement now, that I do want to be known, but I have given it up for the most part. There, that makes me feel more normal…lol

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