Heart on Sleeve – How do you Wear Yours?


Around two months ago a reader set me a challenge to explore what it means to wear your heart on your sleeve in this postmodern era. To be honest I wasn’t totally sure where to begin with tackling this topic but I’m not one to back down from a challenge, so I started to ask a few questions.  I’m a conversationalist by nature so asking questions to myself and those around me helps when I’m in a bind (to be honest I think we’re losing the art of conversing, hence why so many of us are lonely and struggle to form meaningful relationships, but that’s for a future post).

Apparently the classic idiom of wearing your heart on your sleeve was official recording in writing by Shakespeare in his play Othello.   Also, during the middle ages before a jousting match knights would tie a token of affection from a lady of the court around their sleeve. This would indicate to spectators that the knight was defending the honour or vying for the affection of a particular lady. The symbolism attached to wearing your heart on your sleeve is intended to send a message of transparent affection to the receiver.  However, in the case of Othello the villainous character of Lago hatches a plan to fake openness and vulnerability in order to bring about the demise of Othello.

Wear heart on sleeve

So was there a general consensus from the conversations I had around this issue?

Well…the overall vibe was wearing hearts on sleeves in this day is rare because we don’t know how to live in the present (mindfulness), fear of rejection (no big surprise on the rejection front) and a lack congruence between our ideal self and real self.

Let’s quickly break these conversations down:

  • Many of us operate from a future past standpoint; what do I mean by this?  We use the experiences of our past to map out future plans, with little analysis of our current situation. And what does this look like when it trying to send a message of transparent affection to our intended?  We want to vie for the affections of someone here in the present, but due to experiences from past relationships (this includes platonic relations, particularly primary relationships with parents and siblings) we struggle to be vulnerable, open and honest.  We then begin to overthink and construct countless ways of how displaying the way we feel could possibly go wrong (as if we’re time travellers).  This then gives rise to fears of rejection, which then leads to talking ourselves out of whole situation and opting to follow our intendeds every move on social media  instead.

Wear heart on sleeve


  •  In an era of self-interest we seem to distrust our own intentions when it comes to showing affection to others. We don’t trust ourselves not to destroy the affections of others because we have a tendency to put our wants/desires first.  We therefore judge that everyone else operates from a self-interest standpoint, and as such opt for plan B (yep you guessed it), follow our intended’s every move on social media instead of pursing meaningful interaction.

Wear heart on sleeve

  •  Not wearing our heart on our sleeve is the ultimate defence mechanism for those of us who are struggling with issues of self-worth. An individual who knows their intentions are pure, who understands their weaknesses, and has little to no gap between their real self and ideal self does not fear wearing their heart on their sleeve. Those of us who are just not there yet, find more solace in hidden gestures and hazy conversations. In these cases, our real fear isn’t necessarily rejection (although we may believe this); or real fear is that the person will accept us when we haven’t yet accepted ourselve.

  • Additionally, some of us are far too lazy and weak-spirted to deal with the responsibility of taking care of the spiritual, emotional and physical well-being of others. If we’re not at a stage where we can overcome potential rejection then we need to be careful about vying for someone’s affections, because even in playing at being vulnerable (as the villainous character of Lago) we can cause some serious hurt to others.



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