(Originally Published in The Huffington Post)
There is an essential part of us that needs to be witnessed. That needs to be reassured that we have value, and that what we do matters. You can see it on any playground, with kids shouting “Mom, watch this,” or on any reality TV show.
But for most of us, the desire to be seen is not a constant. It’s more like a delicate dance. A back and forth between stepping into the light and retreating back into the quiet and safety of the shadows. This is especially true when it comes to sharing our creations, our work, our ideas — those things that come from the deepest centre of ourselves, those things that illuminate our brilliance.
Many of us resist taking that giant leap, that grand jeté out onto the stage because it’s so freaky scary. For most of us, our first thought is: “What will people think?”.
When we step into the light we risk being judged and to take that risk with the things closest to our heart, the things that matter most to us — that shit is terrifying. Because when “they” judge those things, it feels like “they” are judging us.
And you know what — “they” are.
“They” are judging you, “they” are going to talk smack about you, “they” will try to make you sit back down. And yes people will continually tell you not to worry about what “they” think.
But the truth is we do care what other people think. We are wired to care. The most primitive part of our brain, the part that is wired to keep us safe — it cares — it just wants us to maintain the status quo. It’s primitive — it knows we need the tribe to survive. We can hear our brains shouting: “Don’t do anything that will make the tribe turn on us — Do. Not. Stand. Out!”
A few years ago I was listening to the radio, driving along with my daughter tucked into her car seat when a Taylor Swift song I’d never heard before came on. I was happily swaying along, intently listening to the words (as a music lover and a writer I am kinda obsessed with lyrics) until she sang the line, “people throw rocks at things that shine.”
That's when my throat started to tighten and the tears began filling my eyes, welling up until there was no room left and they spilled over onto my cheeks, leaving streaks of salty warmth behind them.
You see, this was before I took the leap to share my own heart, before I hit publish on my first blog post, before I ever spoke the words that were aching inside of me — before I began this latest dance. I cried because the deepest part of me was being crushed.
That deepest part that knows why we are here, that part that is begging to be expressed, that part that needs to be visible, so we can share our authentic brilliance with the world. It was being crushed by the part of me that didn’t want to be judged, the part that wanted to stay invisible, the part that wanted to hide from the broken people with their arms full of rocks.
But not long after that I leapt anyway, that deepest part of me won out, it couldn’t stay crushed any longer, it just got too painful. And so I let myself be seen. And my heart expanded and my soul stood up and it was entirely magical. And…
People judged, friends shifted, life changed.
And it was hard, so I went back into the shadows and I surrounded myself with those that matter (and with tea and chocolate and all the things that rejuvenate and restore me) — until the next time. And the next time I stepped further and basked a little longer — until it was time once again to dance back out of the light.
That is the dance of visibility.
So here’s the permission I give you: You can dance with visibility if you want to -- it's totally okay to sashay out into the spotlight and share the stuff that makes your soul breathe, and it’s equally okay to head back into the wings and hang out backstage for a while (maybe even grab the spotlight and shine it in a friend’s direction). I’ve found that that’s where I am happiest: — dancing in, dancing out and hopefully making the world a little brighter each time I pirouette on by.