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For The First Time In My Life, I’m Okay With Being Seen

When I was growing up, I wanted to be anyone but me. I can’t name a time that I was like anyone else. 

I didn’t look like my classmates. I didn’t have their long blonde hair, their skinny legs, their petite frames, or their glowing white skin. I didn’t have their families or homes (many of them products of a long line of generational wealth). I didn’t have their freedom. I existed behind barriers imposed upon me, but also those built up by my own accord (which I couldn’t see at the time). 

Day in and day out, I found myself always just blending in and barely getting by while struggling to do so. And I was good at it, for the most part. When I was invited to birthday parties, I was a hit. I was amicable, polite, and bubbly (but not too bubbly). I did my best to hide the fact that I was probably wearing my sister’s old hand-me-downs or some knock-off brand, or maybe the real thing that my parents went into even more debt to purchase (because obviously I just had to have tall, chocolate brown UGGS or a hideously patterned Vera Bradley bag at age 13 like everyone else). I smiled and laughed with the rest of them, while inside, I hoped no one would notice my truth.

I made my way through both middle school and high school like this, never showing the “real” me. I lived in fear that if anyone saw my truth, I would be judged or outcasted or alone. And that couldn’t happen. I needed to fit in to survive, because being a teenage girl is tough—but being a teenage girl who is completely isolated is even tougher. 

By the time I got to college, I’d grown accustomed to being someone who I was not. I look back at photos from those first couple of years and can barely recognize myself in comparison to the person I am today. At that time, I continued to put on that facade, immediately trying to blend in with new crowds I found in hopes of acceptance. What I didn’t know at the time was that the Universe was strategically putting me into scenarios that called that version of me into question (and I thank it for that). 

In my first year, I joined an a cappella group and a sorority. I made friends and stayed out late. I did things I’m not necessarily proud of, but I learned important lessons along the way. Though I cannot pinpoint where things started to change for me, they did. Maybe it was suddenly being thrown into environments where people came from vastly different backgrounds, where there wasn’t one blatantly obvious mold I had to fit into. Maybe it was the fact that I was actually on my own for the very first time, making my own decisions about where and how and with whom I was spending my time. Maybe it was me who changed.

I became louder and brighter. I developed a stronger voice, and though I still identified as a people pleaser with little to no ability to make a decision ever, I started stepping into a version of myself that was at least slightly more me. People started looking up to me for being this sensible and strong person, while I myself still didn’t wholeheartedly believe in my capabilities. I became exhausted from putting on this facade that everything was okay in my world while internally I questioned my own abilities in every sense imaginable. I struggled to keep up in my classes, mostly because I wasn’t putting in the appropriate amount of effort. I was self-conscious about my leadership capabilities. I was insecure about the way I looked. And I got myself into some seriously awful situations with men (mostly because I didn’t have the self-worth to set boundaries). 

Simply put, the me on the inside didn’t match the me on the outside. 

I thought that after I graduated and got a job, everything would be better—that having an income and being around friends in New York City would make everything in my life fall into place. 

But I was wrong. 

Everyone talks about finding your passion, but no one tells you that in order to do that, you must know yourself first. That passion doesn’t come from the external, but it’s from what you derive meaning from within—which means you have to spend time alone, completely alone, in sometimes painfully awkward silence, in order to figure it out. 

They don’t tell you that even when you do that, your passion or motivation or inspiration or consistency doesn’t just appear out of thin air. It’s not a quick fix. 

In my time since graduation, I can honestly say that I’ve broken myself down enough to know that it’s time to rebuild. In this rebuilding period, this transformation time, if you will, I realized something:

I’m okay with being seen. 

I don’t mind sharing my mind and my heart and my words and my voice because I truly believe in the value of my being. Not of my body, but of my soul and my ability to interact with this world with gratitude and love for everything in it.

I found that paying actual attention to my own needs has finally begun to bridge that gap between my internal and my external. That I find myself more beautiful on the outside when I feel it on the inside.

So, I’m ready to share myself with the world. I’m ready to share with open arms, vulnerability, love, and light. I don’t know what will come of all of this, but I can’t live in fear anymore, in fact, I refuse. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over these past few months, it’s that when I take ownership of my life and everything in it, my world swells.