When I was 18 years old, living in the dorms at the University of Kentucky, I liked a boy. He was cute and fun. We sat outside in one of the common areas one night talking until 3 or 4am. I opened up fully. I told him about some of the things that had happened in my life. Some of the pain. Some of the sadness. Some of the things that I didn’t wear outside for everyone to see. I was open, honest and vulnerable about who I was.
The next day he ghosted me before ghosting was a thing. I don’t even remember his name, he was a flutter of a butterfly’s wing. An insignificant moment in my life, but today I was reminded of that moment when I was thinking about how over time we are taught to hide our true selves. To bandage over our wounds without healing them because if we show them, which is necessary to heal, we might be rejected.
I was always ashamed of my past when I was young. Of not having a what I considered a “normal” family. Spending high school living in a two bedroom apartment with four people, a dog, and a cat. Growing up on and off of food stamps. Having to answer the question “What does your father do?” in college with “I don’t have a father.” Always awkward…
And honestly, these are just the superficial things I hid. The real shame came from much deeper wounds.
I just wanted to be like everyone else, so I pretended I was as much as I could. My truest friends knew of my struggles to make peace with and reconcile the parts that stayed hidden, they saw me struggle to support myself financially and emotionally at 18.
I’m sharing this because it took me thirty years to start to be able to share the truth of my life and then four more years to do it easily and effortlessly. We all have these moments where we open up to people and we get wounded or rejected. What happens over time is we start to “learn” that if we are our truest selves we won’t be loved, we’ll be turned away, that it won’t be enough.
Everyone has these moments that shape the filters we put on our lives and I can tell you that the courage to be fully seen is the number one thing that sets people free.
No matter how small or how big the moments were that made you feel like you couldn’t be exactly who you are, know that exactly who you are is perfect.
You, exactly as you are.
With all the things you hide in the shadows.
Your scars show your strength.
You are enough.
You are loved.
And if you can’t find the space inside of you that knows this is true, I hope you’ll reach out to me. This is the most important work of our lives—to know that we are as we are on purpose. Our lives are on purpose. Rich with struggle AND meaning.