It’s funny how true words of wisdom have an inherent malleability that allows them to grow with you through the years and apply to each new stage of your life. It’s always a surprise to me when I revisit a quote that profoundly affected my narrow but widening view of people and relationships, only to find that it now means something wholly different. In my late twenties this quote from Maya Angelou rocked my view of love. “The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them.” In my late thirties it has suddenly done it again.
I was late to the love game. I was always a flirt with lots of dating options, but actual relationships eluded me. I couldn’t quite figure out the right balance of independence and allowing someone in. I think being overly independent led to me make some questionable choices in the men I fell “in love” with. I ended up angry with them for not being what I wanted when it wasn’t their fault. I heard this quote and the puzzle pieces fell into place. I was too scared to want someone who could really make me happy so I listened to my subconscious instead of the words and actions that they had always put out there. The realization was the lens through which I interpreted Maya Angelou’s words as a warning.
What happens though, if I look through the more mature and optimistic lens of my older, slightly more experienced soul? When I am honest and quiet the anxious chatter from my subconscious self, I can read those words from a radically different perspective. I see a warning, but it’s of a different kind.
This new perspective tells me that instead of being wary that someone I find to be patient and charming, honest and fair, interested and interesting might not be – I should believe that the person I experience is truly as they present themselves to be. After all, it wasn’t the fault of the men I chose in my youth, it was a problem with my listening skills. If my listening skills and self understanding have increased then perhaps, just as I have grown through my joys, mistakes, and bigger mistakes, the people I engage with have, too. Maybe I need to take those words, “The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them.”, and apply them to the positive relationships in my life.
I choose to believe that the person who shows me strength of character, who values honesty, who respects me and my opinions is indeed the person they are showing themselves to be. It is the ultimate act of trust and living in the present over the past.