As humans in the 21st Century, we have become masters at hiding in plain sight. The existence of the internet, more social media platforms than we can count, and endless amounts of data about each one of us, we have — as a survival instinct — learned the art of personal branding. And so we carefully craft public personas for ourselves that often reveal everything that we’re really proud of, and nothing that we’re not.
Much smarter people than I have written about the harm we unwittingly do to ourselves when we live this way.
Just as important though — the harm those we care about may unwittingly be doing to themselves. If the temptation exists for us to hide from the world, our world, the things we’re not proud of, then it probably exists for others. And probably much closer to home than we want to accept.
So what can we do?
Look for the hiding. We’ve been trained to mask our fears behind veiled hints and cryptic phrases, so as to look stoic and strong to a random passer-by. These things matter to us though, we actually want to get them out of us, we’re merely afraid. We could use some help. Repeated thoughts or words, personality tics, passionate opinions/reactions, they can all be signs of something bigger going on inside of us that wants us.
We can look for this in those we care for. Take the time to see them, listen, and press in with curiosity to the places that seem like they matter. They probably do. If we can create a safe place for others to be vulnerable, we can then begin to find a new place to stand with them as a different way forward.
Go first. We can make a difference for others by choosing to do the courageous work of modeling what healthy looks like. Rather than stuffing our guilt, shame, and fears deeps inside of us, share them with those we care about and trust. Reframe for them the belief that doing so is weak; it’s actually strong. In doing so, we take a step towards creating a safe environment for us to do it again, and for them to do the same.
It’s hard, it’s risky, and often, it’s terrifying. It’s also an incredibly generous gift to give both ourselves and others.
We might find that the things that aren’t often said are the exact things that make all the difference.