I took an art class as a college elective. The first assignment challenged me to communicate the divide between who I was and who I thought I was supposed to be using only a black marker to draw basic lines and shapes on a four-inch square of white paper. As I brainstormed ideas in my sketchbook, a small, stylized stick figure imprisoned in a bold spiral was the closest I came to depicting the words I’d scrawled across the page:
My body keeps going through the motions of life while I retreat further inside myself . . . Can I bridge the distance and become whole again or will I disappear entirely, leaving only a hollow body? . . .
At the time I was focusing all my resources on fortifying my outside, making it strong and impervious like an exoskeleton. Behind the facade of perfection I hid the parts of myself I was afraid wouldn’t measure up, trying to starve them out of existence. Even my creativity, curiosity, and originality were too risky. People might not like what they see.
Trying to protect myself from rejection isn’t worth the loneliness.
Recently I was flipping through my old college sketchbook when my doodles and laments caught my eye. For a moment my insides started to shrivel and fade until I realized, this time I didn’t have to disappear.
Those many years ago, the longer I hid the less I knew who I really was. So I’m on a journey now towards healing and wholeness. Before I can live as a whole person, I must learn to see and embrace who I actually am. I’m digging deep to reconnect those parts of myself I shunned as unworthy and hid away.
I’m making time first thing every morning for journaling, reading, and a big mug of tea. I treated myself to a new sketchbook and a colorful box of chalk pastels. I’ve uncovered growth, connection, and creativity as my top core values and am trying to support others in their own journeys out of hiding through sharing my stories and listening well.
As I awaken and reclaim the parts I’ve hidden away, I am expanding to inhabit my body more fully. I think most clearly while I’m walking and my fingers transcribe my stories into shareable form. Even though I’ve been too straitlaced for such silliness, I dyed the tips of my hair purple and dance to my favorite songs. As I speak with my mouth and wrap my arms around those I love, I’m using my body to express instead of disguise.
When a friend asks what I’ve been doing my impulse is still to hide behind safe, responsible tasks like laundry and dishes. Throughout our conversation I hunker down and watch her interact with a person who is not quite me. I get stuck talking about grocery shopping and freelance projects when I really want to discuss ways to find freedom from perfectionism and people-pleasing. Voices of self-doubt beg me to stay hidden until I can prove I’m worthy of being seen.
Trying to protect myself from rejection isn’t worth the loneliness. Slowly, incrementally, I’m letting my outer shell soften and stretching my hidden parts tentatively toward the surface. The first time I had a guest post published I finally found the courage to tell my friend I had started writing again. A few weeks later I admitted my disappointment when a different submission was rejected instead of hiding the failure away. Maybe soon I’ll share with her one of my stories that is still too personal for a broader audience. Now when we hug goodbye I feel her embracing all of me.
Being myself is not about which parts of me are worthy to be seen. Denying parts of myself won’t make them go away. I’m tired of trying to cover my scars and hide my weaknesses. I’m not always who I want to be, but only when I learn to accept who I am do I dare bring my whole self into the light where there is space to grow.
As I inch out from my hiding place I’m offering myself with all my hurt and all my hope. I’m not perfect, but I’m worthy of love. I have something to give.
This is who I am. I’m becoming visible.