When I stopped hiding parts of myself I found freedom and true happiness.
When I was a child I was on the shy side. There were moments when I distinctly remember wishing I could be invisible and not have any eyes or attention on me. I just wanted to blend in, shrink back, whatever it took to ensure no one would look at me. I didn’t feel like this all the time, just in certain moments.
There were also certain parts of me that made me feel different. I spent a lot of time in my adolescent years trying to hide these parts.
Gifts of Imperfection
My teeth were one of those things. I have a space between my two front teeth and no one else that I knew had a gap like that. When I became conscious of this space, I would do what I could to cover it up. Whenever a camera came out, I would instinctively close my mouth and gently curl up the corners. That became my picture smile – a closed-mouth, half-smile. It was my way of protecting myself, so others wouldn’t see the part of me that felt different and imperfect. That slight gap between my two front teeth created a subtle gap between the world and my true self.
And then there are my feet. With bunions inherited from my lovely Grandma, my feet became another part of me that had to be hidden. No one else I knew had weird shaped feet like I did. So my side job as a teenager was keeping my feet covered up. When hanging out at my boyfriend’s house I’d keep them carefully tucked under a nearby blanket or underneath me. Socks were my friend and beach vacations a cause of stress. Thank goodness for sand that I could sink my feet into.
Little did I know that hiding these parts of myself, no matter how small, made me appear awkward and inauthentic. I was slightly distracted when I was with others. Instead of focusing on them I was consumed by my own insecurities. I realize now that I was doing myself a disservice and causing much more damage than what it was worth. I was hindering authentic relationships and connection.
What was I protecting anyway? An image of perfection? An image that I was just like everyone else?
The reality is that likely nobody cared about my feet or my teeth. In fact they may not have seen what I saw. I had created a perception in my mind of what I wanted or thought I should look like. When I look back now and consider the amount of wasted energy and attention that I spent on covering up these parts of myself, I feel a bit sad. But at the same time I recognize that it was just part of my journey. And perhaps it’s quite a natural part of growing up and becoming comfortable with myself.
We are all different and while at points in life there may be a desire to fit in and be like others, our uniqueness is what makes us special.
Letting Go and Accepting Myself
Thankfully, now I am grateful and accepting of my whole self, “imperfections” and all. I finally feel free to be me. All along, it was only me holding me back, no one else. My mind had created perceptions of what I thought my body should look like. And perhaps I had ideas of how others would react upon seeing the real me. But the truth is this was all in my mind. Letting go of the need to hide, cover up, and protect myself allows me to relax. I am comfortable with myself. I can connect with others more deeply as I am not distracted by my own insecurities. There is no longer a barrier to connection. When I show my vulnerabilities, it just shows others that I am real. That makes others feel more comfortable being themselves too. As Brené Brown says in her famous Ted Talk, The Power of Vulnerability, the key to happiness and connection is to let ourselves be seen (deeply and vulnerably seen), love with our whole hearts, practice gratitude and lean into joy, and to believe you are enough.
When I was hiding parts of myself it got in the way of my freedom and happiness. It was when I discovered how to accept myself fully and let go (part of my happiness formula in Good Morning, Life!) that my world really changed.
Courage and Vulnerability
I can’t talk about vulnerability without talking about courage, because I don’t think one exists without the other. While my examples may be relatively minor, I recognize that there are a whole myriad of things that could be holding us back from letting others see our full self. Perhaps it is a past failure, part of a family history, or a quality that society hasn’t yet fully embraced. Whatever it is, while it can take immense courage to be ourselves, especially when societal norms haven’t caught up with reality, the rewards of choosing the unhidden and vulnerable path is priceless – freedom.
We must remember that we are enough, just as we are. This includes all of our experiences and imperfections. These are the things that make us human and contribute to our own personal story.
What can you let go of and accept about yourself?
Let Go. Love. Gratitude.
To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.Thich Nhat Hanh