I have tried my whole life to be invisible. To keep my head down and just get by unnoticed. That’s how I learned to survive. My goal in life has always been to help people. I want to inspire them, uplift them, help them grow, and be a beacon of light where they see darkness. Now, that all sounds well and good, but it’s really hard to shine your light when you’ve put big black curtains up and every time someone catches a glimpse you pull them shut and yell, “Hey! Don’t look at me!”
I grew up in a house with a lot of yelling. Everyone was angry. Everyone yelled. My Mom and my Stepfather yelled at each other, they yelled at us, and my sister yelled back. It was her way of sticking up for us. My strategy was to be quiet, be good, and not make waves. Don’t draw attention to myself and maybe everyone will just be nice. It was the same strategy I took in school. Like most kids, I was picked on. I thought that if I kept my head down that people wouldn’t notice me; they wouldn’t be mean to me. I hated doing presentations, I dreaded being called on, and I never raised my hand, even if I knew the answer and no one else did. I was scared all the time and carried that fear with me all through my life. Even now, as I’m writing this, I am terrified that someone will actually read it–and at the same time, I’m terrified that no one will. That no one will care.
Why is it that we are so scared to show people who we really are? Why are we taught to hide everything? We don’t talk about money. We don’t talk about sex. We don’t talk about how we’re feeling, unless what we’re feeling is great. Why are we so afraid to say, “I’m actually feeling really shitty. I spent most of the morning deciding whether or not I wanted to get out of bed today. How are you?” We don’t say that because people would look at us with sympathy, like there is something wrong with us. When really what they’re thinking is, “Me too.”
Why are we so ashamed of the mistakes we’ve made; the poor decisions? Why are we so embarrassed by the times when are life was hard. Aren’t those things what made us who we are–helped us grow? We’re afraid that people will judge us. That they will think we aren’t worthy. If we’re on a date we’re afraid he/she will reject us, so we smile and put our best foot forward–until that becomes so exhausting that five years down the road you can’t put up the front anymore, you drop it, and take a deep breath. Then he looks at you across that table and says, “You’ve changed.” We’re afraid that being ourselves won’t be enough. So we pretend to be someone else. We wear a mask–one that we don’t even know we’re wearing. We convince ourselves we’re happy, and that this is who we are. We exert so much energy trying to keep our skeletons in the closet that we don’t realize that it’s so much easier just to let them out. But then one day it catches up with us, and all the parts of ourselves that we’ve shoved down deep, and all the parts we were told not to show to people, start screaming so loud that we can’t ignore them anymore. They say, “Let me out! I want to be heard! I have worth!” And when that day comes we have a choice. We can either shove them back in, or learn to love them. Learn to love them so much that it doesn’t matter what anyone else says, because they’re a part us and we love them. And everyone else can just fuck off.
In my fears surrounding this blog, I thought, why would anyone care what I have to say? Why does my voice matter? Then I thought, why does anyone care what anyone has to say? It’s because we relate to people. It’s because our experiences, though different, are all intrinsically the same. We all know what it feels like to be scared, to be insecure, to feel shame or sadness. If we’re lucky we know what it feels like to feel love or joy. Our emotions are universal. They don’t discriminate. They aren’t set aside for a specific set of people. Emotions don’t know race, religion, or economic class. They are what connect us as human beings.
I’ve been told a lot this year that I need to start taking risks–that I’ve lived my life being “safe.” Safe got me through childhood and through high school. But now that I’m a thirty-three year old adult (and I use that term loosely), I don’t want to be safe. I want to live. I want to express myself. I want to feel joy; I want to live in my truth. I want to show my authentic self. And I want that self to be enough. I want to let that little girl out of her cage and so she can say, “Hey world, what about me? I’m here!” And I think most of all, I want someone to look at me and say, “I see you.”