We are social creatures. It would seem ridiculous to hide, but we do. Maybe we don’t build new relationships. Or perhaps we hinder the ones we have by wearing clever disguises, masking who we really are.
Why do we hide? Fear. When we allow ourselves to be seen, we make ourselves vulnerable. When we’re vulnerable, we’re open to acceptance but we’re also open to rejection. And rejection freaking hurts. So sometimes we hide.
We hide in many ways. Sometimes we straight up disappear. We stop returning phone calls, or we move away. (I moved to a country no one had ever heard of). We hide in our addictions – food, drugs, work, gossip, or exercise. We can even hide in our yoga. We hide in plain sight by pretending to be something we’re not. We don masks that protect us from being seen.
Behind these masks, we stuff our darkness. Mine stemmed from childhood sexual abuse. I hid all of my depression, anxiety, insomnia, and self-loathing behind a smile and “perfection.” When it came to relationships of all kinds, I struggled. I only saw two options. I could either fake “everything is fine” or unleash a flood of really heavy stuff. Between the two, hiding was easier and seemingly safer. So I hid.
There comes a point when the pain of hiding, of stuffing ourselves away, hurts more than the potential pain of rejection. So we finally choose to peek out from under our shells.
The longing – or rather, the need – for connection and realness keeps us going. It kept me in communication with my now husband. It brought me back to my closest friends, even after long intervals of silence. It nudged me to build new relationships.
Coming out of hiding has one first crucial, non-negotiable step: being real.
Person by person, I tested this whole “being real” thing. With each opening, I felt incredibly vulnerable and raw. It hurt, but in a “hurts-so-good” kind of way. Little by little, I found new footing in what felt like a more authentic version of myself.
This courage to be real saves us. There’s a happy medium where we can share how we’re really doing and who we really are. This always includes some combination of good and bad. By trying to hide our darkness we also hide our light. Admitting our darkness doesn’t overshadow our light. It allows us to shine brighter.
When I opened up, I was surprised that most people embraced me. I was even more surprised when many chose to drop their own masks. While it seems so obvious now, I hadn’t realized it. We are all just waiting for the chance to be real.
Coming out of hiding is a courageous act of vulnerability. Being real allows others to not only see you, but also love and accept you for who you really are. That’s as real as it gets.
I was afraid that coming out of hiding would be the end of me. To my sweet surprise, it was my beginning.