It’s hard to stop hiding when you’ve been doing it most of your life. You might not even remember when you started or why.
You label yourself all sorts of things to explain your desire to deflect attention. You even wear your smallness as a badge of honor. But deep down you know something’s missing.
Failing to show up as yourself has dire implications for your relationships. It denies you the chance for intimacy and to be seen and known as your true self.Failing to show up as yourself has dire implications for your relationships. It denies you the chance for intimacy and to be seen and known as your true self. Click To Tweet
With these terrible consequences, why do we hide who we are from others? Here are a few reasons.
Fear of what others will think
We decide not to share our feelings and opinions when they’re different from our friends and family. We don’t want conflict and we fear being labeled an outsider.
Not going with the flow feels threating because we fear abandonment from those we love. We’re scared if we don’t agree with people, they won’t want to be around us.
If your parents ignored you or made you feel like a burden, they conditioned you to stay invisible to earn acceptance.
Since parental abandonment feels life-threatening to a child, she’ll do anything to avoid it. That includes shrinking to fit their expectations.
Emotionally neglected children give up their own needs in favor of their parents’ need to avoid intimacy.Emotionally neglected children give up their own needs in favor of their parents' need to avoid intimacy. Click To Tweet
They learn to cater to their parents’ emotional deficiencies by staying small and needing very little. As a result, they lose touch with who they are and wear a mask instead.
Maybe, like this author, your friends turned on you in high school. That made you stop trusting, so you no longer felt safe showing up as your authentic self.
Traumatic experiences don’t have to be earth-shattering to change you. A look or comment can make someone decide to stop showing up because the rejection was so painful.
How to stop hiding
If you’ve abandoned yourself most of your life, it can feel impossible to stop hiding. So, how do we go from shrinking to showing up? What are some baby steps to help us remove the mask and be ourselves?
Express thoughts and opinions
Rather than stay quiet when someone expresses a dissenting opinion, share yours. Instead of stifling your thoughts and judging the person silently, speak up.
If done gently, discussions like these can bring people closer. Ask why the person feels the way they do, then explain why you disagree.
If they’re the type to leave you over a disagreement, then that’s information you needed. This is how we test our relationships and see if someone is really there for us.
Talk about yourself
Practice offering information about yourself without being asked. Rather than giving a quick answer, spend time telling them who you are, your likes and dislikes, what you’re into.
If you are unsure about your personality, it’s time to learn. Get alone with yourself and start journaling what you like to do. Then spend more time doing it. This will give you material to share with others.
Tell the truth about how you feel
Rather than avoiding your emotions, talk about them. You may have been raised to stuff your feelings because they inconvenienced your parents. But you’re an adult now and can parent yourself.
If you have the courage to tell someone how you really feel, your bonds will run deeper. You will feel seen and heard and the other person will open up to you in the same way.
What other strategies do you have to stop hiding?