People like to hide. We hide all the time and are scarcely conscious of it. We hide in our speech. We hide at work. We hide in the classroom. We hide in our relationships. We hide from ourselves. It requires so much energy to hide, so why are we hiding? We are so terrified about what we might find out about ourselves, or worse, what someone else might find, that we tuck it away and play dress-up with our wardrobe of masks rather than being all of who we are.
Jung called this shadow. Our shadows are the parts of ourselves that we don’t see, don’t want to see and/or sometimes work terribly hard to keep hidden, out of sight. Because if we don’t keep it underground, they might find us out—what a fake we are, how much we can’t handle or how incapable we are, or they just might not like who they find us out to be. We often learn more about who people are by looking at what they are hiding from us, rather than by what they are showing us.
As a recovering perfectionist, I see so clearly how my need for perfection kept me from being all of who I am. We live in a culture that expects us to be top-notch, that pretends we shouldn’t have faults. Many of us come from families that put on the veneer that “everything is great—no problems here.” Of course, our family is special, we aren’t like everybody else! We grow up and take that unrealistic task into all of our relationships, or we run away from relationships when we get found out, because we fear that to be seen for all of who we really are would be so very painful. Yet, it could totally free us.
When we hide from ourselves and in our relationships, we prevent ourselves from creating true intimacy. Intimacy requires being vulnerable, being imperfect. Intimacy requires us to take risks. I am constantly amazed at how often people will take the safe route, the path with least resistance, to avoid conflict and fake it just to get through it, just to get along. Did the holidays bring up any of that for you? What do we give up in those moments? We give up opportunities to stretch ourselves, we give up being fully seen and loved right where we are. We give up whole pieces of ourselves. It does not bring us closer. It keeps us apart.
Look at your life. Look at your relationships. Where are you hiding? Why are you hiding? What are you so afraid they will find out? It’s freeing to let go of hiding, to say, “Yep, I’m a perfectionist and I’m working on letting go of that. Can you support me in being imperfect?” In my experience, this is what has created intimacy in my relationships. Allowing people into my growth process, allowing myself to be more naked in my flaws and letting people love me there. I will never be perfect but I will do all I can to be more of who I am every day. Without apology. Without hiding. It takes courage to come forward in all of who we are.
Do something more courageous today, something that does not keep you in hiding. We want all of you! Your intimacy in relationships will inevitably deepen. I think we are born to create intimacy and human closeness, so what are you waiting for? It’s your birthright, but you have to come forward and claim it.