One thing that I used to take pride in is my inclination towards independence. My mother claims that I was her most difficult child to raise due to my desire to want to do everything myself. Stop me from wearing my Dorothy inspired red-glittered shoes everywhere I went (including camping)? She dared not.
There’s a part of me that loves my independent spirit because it gave me the courage to do things and experience life differently than some of my peers. It allowed me to try to go after my dreams at a young age and be unafraid to travel and wander alone. However over time, it also became a form of self-defense. A wall to keep people from getting too close. Hurt me? You can’t. I’m independent and will move on just fine. I remember when my boyfriend, who I was convinced was the love of my life, broke up with me. Inside, I was devastated and felt like my world was being turned upside down, but I sat still and silent without showing any sort of emotion. He seemed surprised by my lack of emotion and asked if I was even sad about this. “I’ll be fine” I said.
Sometimes the hardest thing to do is allow people to see our pain. We live in a culture where everyone wants to be seen as “strong” and “self-sufficient” to the point where we neglect and avoid our feelings and emotional needs.
This last year has forced me to come to terms with just how my desire to be independent was actually destroying me. When my niece, Abby, was born and the emotional rollercoaster of her life began, my first inclination was to pull away from my friends. I felt afraid, confused, and overall just a mess. I avoided my friend’s phone calls and attempts to hang out and used the excuse “I’m just going through a lot and I need to be alone.”
Translation: I’m not as strong as I thought I was and I don’t want you to actually see me.
Being seen is scary. Allowing another person to really see you – the good, the bad, the mess ups, the irrational fears, the mood swings, the failures and the brokenness can leave you feeling exposed. It’s laying yourself out and saying, “This is me. This is what I have to offer. Take it or leave it.” It’s allowing that other person to make a decision as to whether they are going to embrace it or walk away. I finally had to come to a point where I realized that taking the risk to be seen would be less scary than living in hiding for the rest of my life. A friend once said to me, “You can take a risk to be loved and I can’t guarantee that you will receive it. But I can guarantee that you will never be loved if you don’t take the risk.”
I took the risk. Thankfully, I have a beautiful group of friends that have the ability to see every part of me and take me as is. Being seen made me realize that my failures and shortcomings only made up a small part of me and that I was actually so much more than my mistakes.
Once I allowed myself to come out of hiding, that’s when I began to find myself.