From the time we are born, we are instructed in who we should be to be accepted. We learn not to cry for no reason, how to walk, where and when to eat and pee. Once we learn to talk, we are told when we can talk, when not to talk. As grown ups, we show the world that part of ourselves that is acceptable per our training. All of this leads into a fear of being seen for who we truly are.

The “lucky” ones among us were born with the characteristics that our community deems worthy. In the US, when I was growing up, it was pretty good to be born male, white and tall. Athletic was even better as was smart. Your religion mattered, too. Most organized religions, my included, said you were given this “place” in society and it was your responsibility to stay in it, and “do the best you can”.

Fear of being rejected for who you really are drives most of us to conform to societal expectations way more than actual rejection. The rules have become subconscious and we are the controller now. To the extent we break out and that part of us – who we really are that has been buried – has surfaced and thrived, it often starts with necessity to survive or failure to thrive. Some of us have to fight our way out and some move faster finding no resistance to being more creative, or more assertive or just different. It is not easy, but you feel healthier on the other side.

Where do you need to break out, stand up, speak out now? In what part of your life do you have fear of being seen? Are you just doing your role, quietly quitting on a relationship, on a next step you should take at work? What if you showed your true self and you weren’t loved for it? Would that be okay? Mulling this over may be like having a rough rock in your mouth. This week, find a safe person to share this fear with and a path forward. Be truly seen.

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Photo of The Welcoming Committee by Alfredo de Batuc from the Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art and Culture, Riverside, CA.