I suspect we all have a bit of fear about stepping into our fullest selves; of showing the world who we "really" are. Fear of rejection. Fear of ridicule. Fear of being ignored. Yet hiding our authentic selves leaves us with a constant feeling of being unseen and misunderstood. And always a longing to be fully known.
From an early age we learn what's accepted. From our first playgroup we are noticing what gets positive attention and what gets negative attention. So we shift and contort and make ourselves fit into the mold as we see it defined. We convince ourselves THIS is the way to belonging.
As adolescents we play with stepping over boundaries, trying on different ways of being, trying to distinguish ourselves from our parents and each other. We wonder, what makes us, US? At the same time, peer pressure is huge and the lines between belonging and ostracism seem more deeply drawn. We look for a way to settle into an image of ourselves that feels right.
Some of us are lucky and find a way to express our true selves early. Others of us find ourselves waking up later in life wondering who are we really (hello, midlife crisis?). Our longing to be fully seen and understood can no longer be denied.
It's a scary and sometimes painful thing, stepping out into the world as our true selves. Having close friends and family who already know us can give us a support system to make the navigation easier. However, despite the fear and discomfort, when we step out we feel a sense of relief.
And the gift we receive of being fully seen and loved as we are by those who are willing to see us is one of the greatest gifts of all.
I see this process of stepping into our full selves as a spiral. We slowly reveal parts of ourselves getting ever closer to our true selves at the center. It starts with awareness, settles in through acceptance, takes responsible action, landing for a time in sovereignty, and starting over again with a new or deeper awareness. In my own life, I've found curiosity and compassion key partners in moving me through these stages. They allow me to encounter the truth gained from my awareness with love rather than judgement and assist me in full acceptance before I take action. I'll be talking about this idea in more depth in the future, so stay tuned.
What would it look like to meet the awareness of the places you hide your full self with curiosity and compassion? How can curiosity and compassion help you build acceptance for those parts? Or for the part of you that felt they needed to be hidden? What responsible action can you make to move forward in a new way?
I wrote the following in a time when I was experimenting with stepping into my fullest self. I was attempting to capture the range of emotions I felt at the time. The fear, but also the support and relief. Perhaps you'll see yourself in these words.
She’s huddled in a corner. Unable to move. Something swirls inside her, begging to be released. But she cannot release it. If she lets it out, everyone will see the lie that she’s been. The game that she has played. Changing like a chameleon to blend into her surroundings.
It’s getting hard to hold. Pushing at all sides of her. No longer begging. Demanding. And still she holds it in. Even she doesn’t know what it is. What she will be if it escapes. If she’s not a chameleon, what is she?
As she huddles, head to knee, she begins to feel a presence. No, not one, many. She lifts her head to see she is surrounded by women. Patiently waiting. She feels their eyes digging deep inside her, reaching for the swirling. They smile warmly and one steps forward. It is the Midwife.
“You have forgotten. Let us help you remember”.
Remember? Remember what?
“We see you. You have forgotten who you are, but we see. Come out, there is space for you here”
The women wait. Calm. Patient. Loving. Kind. She feels their compassion and acceptance. Their unconditional love.
The Midwife holds out her hand. She takes it.
As she does, she feels the swirling rush through her body and she remembers.
She remembers the passion. She remembers the connection to nature. She remembers the quiet and slow. She remembers the animals. She remembers...
She rises, strong, shaking off the skin of the chameleon. Exposing the skin of a dragon.