Every week, I get naked in front of thousands of people.
I don’t do it by stripping off my jacket or my jeans. You won’t find any high heels or skivvies on my floor. (Sorry, guys.)
You see, instead of shedding my clothes, I shed the mask that I’ve been wearing. I stop pretending to be that girl who has it all together and instead, I tell the truth: I am imperfect, I am confused, I am sometimes needy. I am lonely, I am scared, I don’t have my life all figured out. Sometimes I feel like a little girl in a big person’s shoes, chasing after dreams that I don’t deserve or perhaps am not even capable of achieving.
Yep, I get naked every week, stripping down to my very core for the world to see. I do it every time I write this blog.
At first, I was petrified of taking off my figurative clothes. Would people think I was crazy? Would they laugh at me? Could I really tell the whole world that I didn’t have it all together? Could I really expose my heartbreak or my need or the fact that I wasted 94% of my time on stupid crap? Could I really share my wisdom and my heartfelt aspirations and my dreams?
Could I really show the real me?
I was scared sh*tless. People would laugh at me; I just knew it. People would hate me. People would think that my grand notions were preposterous. “What the hell do you know?” I imagined that people would say. “Who do you think you are?” The impending criticism swirled around in my head like a thick cloud of smoke. “This is not safe,” the voice inside my head told me over and over and over again.
But despite the fear, I had no choice but to write. I was drawn to it with a strange compulsion— I couldn’t not do it, and so I began. Three and a half months ago, I hit “publish” for the very first time and then cringed, waiting for a barrage of negative feedback and awkwardness to hit.
But guess what?
None of those things happened. In fact, instead of laughing at me or ridiculing me, a lot of people actually got it.
“I feel the exact same way,” said acquaintances, many whom I hadn’t been in touch with for years. They suddenly went out of their way to talk to me and to contribute their own thoughts and feelings.
My conversations with my friends and family started to become more real— instead of talking about Billy from high school or what’s on sale at Nordstrom, we began to discuss love and loss and finding our paths in life. “I never knew these things about you,” people would say, reacting with interest and respect, not with disdain.
And the more I opened up, the more others opened, too. As I shared stories about my questions and struggles, I began to receive e-mail after e-mail from strangers who were brave enough to share their own stories with me. It turned out that I wasn’t the only person who felt lost— people could relate. They were relieved to discover that they weren’t alone after all. Person by person, word by word, I became opened. I became real. I became happier.
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VULNERABILITY, NAKEDNESS, EXPOSURE: we fear that these things will destroy us. We fear that dropping our façades and exposing our imperfections will result in alienation— that our insecurities and struggles make us different and unworthy and alone. And so we hide our true selves, because who could love someone with such imperfection?
But it turns out, instead, that our vulnerabilities are what connect us. They are what make us human; they are what make us beautiful; they are what make us real. People— that is, the right sort of people— respond deeply to that which is most real within us.
“What makes you vulnerable makes you beautiful”
- Brené Brown
And the truth is that, well, WE ALL WANT TO BE NAKED.
Yep, every single one of us has the longing inside to allow ourselves to be naked— to be vulnerable, to be imperfect, to expose our deepest selves and to be accepted just as we are.
And guess what? Whether we know it or not, this acceptance is here for each one of us. Each of our feelings, our struggles, our deepest hopes and fears, are met in each and every moment. But before we can experience this, we must first do the bravest thing that any person can do: we must muster the courage to tell our own truths, and to do it with all of our hearts. Brené Brown, Ph.D, writes:
“The root of the word courage is cor—the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage literally had a very different definition than it does today. Courage originally meant “To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.”
Did you catch that?
Courage is not about slaying a dragon or saving a princess or eschewing your fear. Courage is simply about putting your vulnerabilities on the line and telling your own truth, your own story, with all of your heart.
“Speaking honestly and openly about who we and about our experiences (good and bad) is the ultimate act of courage”
- Brené Brown
You don’t have to tell your story to the whole world— in fact, oftentimes it’s best not to. But begin mustering the courage to strip yourself down, even if it’s just in front of God, or your dog, or your closest friend. Wherever it is that you can begin to feel safe, start right there and tell your truth.
“I’ve never felt truly loved” – it’s OK to say that.
“I don’t know where the heck I’m going” – it’s OK to say that, too.
“I need help. I can’t do this alone” – yep, that’s OK also.
Whether you’re hurt or ashamed or ecstatic or scared, it’s OK to be that, and it’s OK to be here. You don’t have to pretend that you’re anything you aren’t. I promise you– your realness is beautiful.
So go ahead, get naked. Stop telling stories and start telling your story. The world could use a hell of a lot more real.
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[Image credit: Thomas Hawk]