Typically, children have dreams of becoming astronauts, teachers, doctors/nurses, firefighters, cops, veterinarians, entertainers… and the list goes on. When I was a little girl, I quickly decided that I was going to be an author when I grew up. That’s a weird thing to aspire to be as a first grader, right? I have always been fairly quiet and reserved—never hoping to be seen or draw unnecessary attention to myself. I would bury my face in books, and wander off into worlds that were distinct from my own. Soon, I’d developed my own style of writing and ways of bringing new realities into existence. My earliest pieces of writing tended to be works of fiction (or so I told my teachers). In actuality, my writing had the intention of showing others a small glimpse into my perception of the world. I took pieces of my life that were too painful or scary to share with others, and I created characters to replace me. I learned early on in life that this was a way to share my deepest secrets. I gave my stories to my characters so that I wouldn’t have to explain certain events in my life. It was my method of getting my story out so when I was asked how I conjured it all up, I could just shrug, smile shyly, and say, “I made it all up.” I didn’t want to own my story. I didn’t want to accept that the experiences that I burdened my characters with were actually things I suffered from, struggled with, and was forced to live with every day.
I kept to myself almost the entirety of my life—a perfect example of a loner.
I grew up not speaking unless spoken to. I found this to be the best way to keep things inside that weren’t supposed to be let out. However, it’s difficult to connect to others or make friends when you don’t speak or share anything about yourself. I decided it was best not to let people in too close because I could risk being misunderstood, rejected, or persecuted. While this helped me be more observant, aware of the details of world, and led me to be introspective, it made for an extremely lonely life. I strayed away from allowing other people to get to know me as a person, and I have come to believe that I did the world a disservice by remaining nearly silent for all these years. People didn’t get the opportunity to hear my deepest thoughts or feelings. Not only because I thought they wouldn’t understand me, but also because I didn’t think it mattered if I shared what was within me. Who cares? What difference does it make? They’re not going to listen, anyway. These were all reasons I gave myself anytime I thought to raise my hand in class, was asked to share my thoughts during group discussions, or thought to speak up in social interactions with my peers. I’ve come to learn that these were not reasons, but rather excuses. They were excuses I made up so I didn’t have to make myself vulnerable enough to say what needed to be said. I deprived other people from learning from my perspective and experiences. I allowed fear to alter what I could offer the world by expressing myself.
Guarding myself and putting up walls was much easier than letting others see me for the person I am. Who can judge a book if it never opens to let you read what lies in the pages within it? All I ever was to other people was a cover of a book, and I gave them permission to make up their own stories about who I am—“Oh, she’s quiet, shy, depressed, stuck-up, or has nothing to contribute”. I let people think what they wanted, and I didn’t care what it was that they thought about me. While I thought this attitude made me stronger as a person by helping me develop thicker skin, I understand now that not demanding that my voice be heard was unfair to me, and it’s unfair to others.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” —Marianne Williamson
I am 25 years old, and I have just come to realize that I need to stop doing this to myself and allow my inner light to radiate to touch other people. I have found that by hiding my struggles as a human being, I have been delaying and hindering my opportunity to impact and change the lives of other people. We live in a world where everyone walks around in metaphorical armor. We wake up everyday and put it on to conceal all of our scars and flaws that come with our experiences because we fear vulnerability. Can you imagine a world where people actually said what needed to be said without fearing the consequences? Who benefits from silencing your story and keeping it all to yourself? If sharing my writing recently has taught me anything, it’s that people are connecting to me in ways I never imagined. By being vulnerable, opening up, and sharing pieces of myself, I can help guide others in their own journeys and help others realize that they are not alone in their experiences. We all come from different backgrounds and have different stories, but we have a lot more in common than we think. All it takes is being vulnerable enough to share your story to realize this.
I share my heart in hopes that others will follow my example.
It’s time to take off the heavy armor and let yourself be seen as you are. Embracing and owning your story means to accept yourself. In turn, others have the opportunity to be in awe of all your beautiful imperfections and can begin to embrace you and give them the courage to show their light as well. I’m finally ready to own my story and be seen by the world. Are you ready to light up the world with me?