What Do The Parts Of Ourselves That We Keep Hidden Need The Most?
It might be said that to be human is to hide. Thousands of generations ago, danger told us to do one of three things: run, hide, fight. When we look out at the landscape of our lives today, we may see novel representations of those three words, as far from their original behaviors as we are from those who lived all the way back then. We still run, though now it looks like telling our partners we just need to spend the weekend alone. We still fight, though now we argue with colleagues about how right we are. And we still hide, but now instead of in a cave or behind a rock we hide behind lies, obfuscation, and the avoidance of showing parts of our history and personality with others. From a young age we’re even taught to hide. No one wants to hear you complain; You need to be happy around your family; Come on it wasn’t that bad. The messages we got growing up were told to us in the hopes that we would become a part of the community, the world. And for the most part it works very well. Not telling the cash register how sad I am about a recent break up helps me navigate the grocery store with minimal problems. Yet hiding has become a rule and many don’t even know they’re hiding. The belief underneath so much of this hiding is that if people saw the real us, all our mistakes and weaknesses and embarrassments, that we would be unlovable. We tell ourselves this story many times per day, often when we feel criticized or exposed. I know the story of hiding because all my life I’ve known how to hide.
Growing up I was told, both implicitly and explicitly, to contain my emotions and that boys don’t cry. And in the interest of honesty I’ll admit I was an emotional kid – still am! So I learned to hide those parts of me, including excitement. I have a distinct memory of getting into the sixth grade (auspiciously the time I began to notice girls for the very first time) and realizing with somber clarity that it was no longer acceptable for me to run through the halls to get where I was going. The freedom and joy of simply running was transformed into a symptom of my differentness, my uncoolness. I had to look cool, and running in school was not cool. No one told me this, I figured it out all on my own. Later, when attending college I learned to hide my interest in poetry and my curiosity for the human spirit from my teammates on the soccer team. These days my hiding mostly looks like intellectualizing, pretending I have the answers, trying so hard to be smart. I’ll hide behind knowing what to do so that people don’t see how scared I am, how inept, how much I have failed. Having known how to hide most all of my life, I’d like to tell you I think there may be another way. The direction of which asks of us: What is the hidden part of me wanting the most?
A short answer might be the avoidance of rejection. We hide ugly, stupid, pitiful parts of ourselves to avoid being unloved, ridiculed, alone. And yet at the bottom of that need to avoid rejection is the very guarantee of rejection. After all, I am rejecting the parts of me I keep hidden. Starving myself from the humanity, love, and warmth I so desperately yearn for.
What I want to offer is to expose the hidden parts of ourselves. With the knowledge that sometimes they’ll be judged, ridiculed, and rejected. And with the audacity that the people who love us the most may accept, care, and support these parts of us. To show our whole selves to others in our lives is to risk and to also open ourselves up to the possibility of our (long ago earned – thousands of generations ago) redemption. Take risks by sharing what feels ugly and wrong, and see what happens. It may be the things that we keep hidden are the very things that tie us to one another.
From a scientific perspective, when we share those hidden parts of ourselves with others, we are scaffolding our experiences with those parts. By increasing contact with these components of experience, we increase understanding, perspective, and open up the opportunity for compassion and care. We give those parts of ourselves the chance to be cared for, to be accepted.
Written by Kara Thompson-Miller, Licensed Clinical Social Worker: January 2023 “Why is it so hard to like my body?”: A unassumingly complex question that has been asked by many clients in many different variations, but one that, nonetheless, tends…Read More
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