I was invisible.
To the world. But most importantly, to myself.
I was raised in an environment that eroded the knowledge that I had value. My therapist said once that the last place I probably felt safe was the womb. I think we come into the world demanding to be cared for because we have an innate sense that we are helpless and that it’s our right as living, breathing, precious humans to be nurtured by the people who brought us here. The fact of being alive comes with it the appraised value of immeasurable worth. And then life… Usually it is the simple fact of living that erodes our known value incrementally. In my case, and in the cases of so many who have been treated as less than, the increments are staggering and crippling. The once secure infant, squalling for acknowledgment, becomes a shrinking, ever-fading wisp of apologetic humanity, becomes a hustling, boundary handicapped adult.
So I became equal parts hidden and flaunting. Validation was nectar of life to my soul. I couldn’t move to the right or left without a strong sense that my decision would be met with acceptance. I was crippled by having only the possibilities that I could see in my immediate now. I struggled to see beyond. To imagine more. I wore a flashy disguise to cover the shame of my stunted resilience.
I couldn’t see me. No one else could see me. So I yelled and screamed above the crowd, hoping, praying, dying for a shred of recognition.
Until I was recognized falsely. Having worked to the bone to put my heart on display in an aching need to be known, how was I so unknown? How had no one heard me? Did I even know me? What if I wasn’t? What if I didn’t? What if I couldn’t?
The questions drove me to retreat into myself.
Shockingly, what I saw in there was me. The real me. The valuable me. The worthy, precious, wildly loved me. The me that hadn’t been seen in decades. The me that was screaming and weeping and dancing invisibly with little hope of notice.
My world got quieter. Because I didn’t have to shout to be heard. Because I didn’t need to be heard. I could hear me. I could see me. I made it quieter so I could hear myself be.
The superfluous had to go so that the genuine could shine. The excess was shed so the authentic had space to flourish.
I’m thriving on less these days. I’m giving myself space to see so that I’m not consumed with the need to be seen. I listen so that I am heard by my own self. I’m getting acquainted with me. I like her. I’m not so worried about other people’s acceptance of me. I’m not perfect but I don’t require myself to be so that’s ok. It’s messy. It makes very little sense some days. But it is so much more peaceful here in my new existence of acceptance. So much happier. So much less fearful. And so many more possibilities ahead. Once I’m ready for them. I don’t need to have it all.
I am. I am loved. That is all.