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Are You Hiding Yourself in Fear of Being Fully Seen?

“If you learn from a loss you have not lost.” ~Austin O’Malley

Two years ago I lost my grandfather. He’d been ill the last time I saw him and I knew it was coming. And yet, I was still not prepared for the depth of my grief.

I had lost loved ones before, but while I had loved them, they weren’t him. He was special. He saw me.

If you know what it means to be seen I don’t need to say anymore.

If you’ve never felt seen, let me explain what that feels like: It is the very best feeling; better than love, better than friendship. It’s looking into another’s eyes and seeing complete acceptance, acknowledgement, and the truest form of love.

And I got that from him. Every time he looked at me. Every conversation we had.

Every moment we shared together. And then he was gone. He moved on and I was left feeling/worrying that I would never know that kind of love again.

That I would never be seen.

We all wear so many masks. We wear them to fit a role: mother, sister, wife, good worker. We wear them to protect us in social situations: good girl, bad girl, tough girl, sweet girl.

For so many of us we hide ourselves because we’re afraid that the truth of who we are will not be acceptable. That if others, even those who we trust with our love, were to see who we really are they would turn from us, that we will be seen not as angels but as monsters.

Do you “see” your loved ones? Do you let yourself be “seen”? I’ve been reading Dr. Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. It’s an extraordinary piece of work. It’s beautiful and terrifying.

Dr. Brown explains that while we are all afraid of making ourselves vulnerable, study after study shows that the majority of people are truly rooting for you. They want to see you; they admire your courage. It’s eye opening information.

The very thing we are protecting ourselves from could be the source of our greatest strength.

It’s in large part because of these two things—the loss of my grandfather, and being inspired to let myself be seen (despite deep shyness and a healthy amount of social terror)—that I started my blog, and am working on starting my own business.

Before last year these are two things that I would have never considered. They were for other people, not me.

As I sorted through my grandparents’ photographs looking for a keepsake photo of my grandfather and me, a talisman I could hold on to, it occurred to me that my family’s photos were in desperate need of organization and preservation.

I began to think that I couldn’t be the only one in this situation. That there had to be others who were grieving a loss and were left with shoeboxes filled with precious family photos and no idea how to keep them safe.

I knew I could help. I could help them and I could help me. I’m naturally organized (my mom calls it bossy), I’m an amateur photographer, I’m a grad student studying archival preservation, and I’ve lost someone very dear to me. I’m perfect for the job of photo organizer!

But wait, I’m an introvert. I’m very shy. I’m very private.

I hate any kind public display. I find posting my status on Facebook challenging. The thought of putting myself “out there,” of letting others see me was just terrifying.

How could I let myself be so exposed? What if I failed? And that’s when I remembered what this was all about, my fear of never feeling seen again.

How could I ever be seen if I hid behind my fears? If I didn’t put myself out there, no one would even know to look for me.

See, I know that I struck the emotional jackpot with my grandpa. He was there from the day I was born supporting me, encouraging me, believing in me. If I ever wanted that again I would have to actively seek it from someone else.

Or would I?

You see, as I started to open myself up to being vulnerable, as I started to show myself through my blog, through my actions, an amazing thing happened: I began to feel seen. I began to feel appreciated. I began to feel admired.

And what’s amazing is that she was also there from the moment I was born, she had been rooting for me the whole time. She was me.

I had been so busy hiding from others that I hadn’t realized the real person I was hiding from was me. I had denied myself my greatest champion. I had been scared to not measure up to the ridiculousness of my internal standards, scared that if I tried and failed, I would hate me.

But that’s ridiculous! If I can’t accept myself, see myself as great, how can I expect anyone else to see that? It’s a trap so many of us fall into.

I’m still a work in progress and I still catch myself trying to hide so others won’t notice me, won’t judge me, but I am getting stronger. I am better at acknowledging that there is only one me and she’s kinda fun.

Now when I look into my eyes I see me and I see my grandpa and I feel the love and support that was always there.

Photo by Klondike Kate Photography

Profile photo of Meghan Yule-Rosen

About Meghan Yule-Rosen

Meghan Rosen is currently a graduate student getting her Masters in Library Science with an emphasis on archival preservation. She’s a self-proclaimed minimalist and amateur black and white photographer. She’s passionate about helping people save, preserve, and honor what's important and letting go of anything that's not. Visit her at Hodgepodge Limited.

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  • Hello, Meghan. Thanks for sharing this with us. We all are works in progress and no one is ever done growing. I’m working on taking off my mask as well, but we just fall into these roles out of fear, like you said. I’m glad you’re finding more ways to be seen because the true self behind the mask is what the world wants to see. The genuine you is more amazing than any mask you can hide behind.

  • Louise

    Amazing post and exactly what I needed to read right now. Thank you!

  • Hi Megan,
    I could have writen parts of this post myself. Slowly, I have been coming out of hiding, Like you, I hold things close to my chest and am private person, so in an effort to open myself up to the world, three years ago, I started a blog. I thought putting the good, bad and ugly of me out there would help with my personal growth. But for three years, I played it safe with my content (wanting to please everyone) and didn’t interact with my readers or other bloggers. This was to my detriment as people want to deal with “real people.” It has only been in the last few months that I’ve really started to come out of hiding and have been seeing the rewards of that. Like you, I am a work in progress. I am so commited to unapologetically being fully me that I re-dedicated this year, the year of fearlessness! It was great hearing your story.

  • Joan Harrison

    Meghan, we will all be a work in progress until we die! Lovely post, very touching. It resonated with me because I am an introvert and just starting out in on-line business. Remember you are not alone, I will follow you on twitter and watch you grow! Good luck with your new venture, I am sure you will be a huge success.

  • Meghan, you have touched my heart today. Thank you

  • David D

    Quite and epiphany! I bet your grandfather would be so proud of you, and happy for you, too!

  • jdbt

    Thanks for this article. I too have recently read Dr. Brown’s book — and now I’m going to re-read it! In my case I know that shame plays a big part in my reluctance to be open. As the survivor of an abusive relationship, denial and shame were a way of life, but I’m slowly learning to change that.

  • Razwana

    Meghan – what is the reason for your ‘hiding’ in the first place?

  • Oh, love this post so much, Meghan. I relate to your journey in many ways. My life has been a journey toward self-acceptance and self-love, slowly, but surely letting go of that fear of showing the world who I am.

    It is, like you say, a process – and even the smallest steps represent progress.

    I love, love, love what Brene Brown has to say…can’t wait to read her book, ‘Daring Greatly…’

  • ATypicalBeauty

    That was really wonderful! Thank you for sharing!

  • lv2terp

    Oh, wow!! This is a truly inspiring, well written post…the first one to make me tear up. My internal cheerleader is just going crazy! ha…..Much love, support, and kudos to you!! 🙂 🙂

  • Robin

    Most people have no desire at all to see you. They project themselves;seeing what they want to see. Most people are not in your corner, you are not their problem to deal with.

  • What a great, great experience, what a life-changing insight: When the one person in the world that could and would see you passes away – you have to do that for yourself. In doing so, you discover worlds upon worlds, yourself, “the others”… and you move from grief to growth, and from loneliness to oneness and connectivity.

    Thank you for sharing your personal experience this way!

  • thank you for such a nice post ^^ after reading this, i try to understand this kind of feeling, it’s just me … and your post helps me alot 🙂

  • Darcy

    Hey Meghan,
    This is a beautiful piece. I also wanted to share that I have the same connection with my grandfather that you did. He lives thousands of miles away but was with me at crucial points of my development, and I truly think he is my soulmate. I am terrified of him passing away, though I’ve been preparing myself for years now (old age and suffering is a horrible way to live). It was nice to read that someone had a similar relationship that I have. I am sure your grandfather is incredibly proud of your progress.

  • Anne

    Thank you = )

  • kddomingue

    Ahhh! To be seen. What compares to the soul warming comfort and joy of knowing that someone truly SEES you……and loves and celebrates the uniqueness that is you? And having known the comfort and joy that BEING seen brought to you, what joy is to had in GIVING that gift to another?

  • Jessica Heinz

    Hi Meghan,

    I know this is written a long time ago but I really want to thank you for writing this. I have been at a very low point and I have been feeling ugly inside and out because I have been feeling so overlooked. I don’t believe I have ever truly been ‘seen’ by another person and i have always had the intense feeling that I just want, no, I NEED someone to just peer past the front I’ve put up my entire life because I am a introvert, and suffer from a lot of social anxiety and see what I am really like. I’ve always been waiting for someone to find me and see the real me and the good in me. I’ve decided to try to put myself out there more because how will anyone ever see me if I am always hiding. Thank you for the article.

  • I salute you for that decision, Jessica! I also wanted to say that in my experience, whenever we have an intense need for someone to truly see and appreciate us, it’s also because we don’t truly see and appreciate ourselves. Magically, the more you will see and appreciate everything that you are, so will others. Especially given your decision to help them see you!

    You might want to visit which is opening soon and is among other things created to put an end to the invisibility of people like you.

  • Thanks for sharing! Good to see you now on a big stage like this!

  • marion

    Hi Meghan. Thanks for opening up this way. I got shocked as I read this expression : “he saw me”. Those words echo my heart. It’s been a while I ‘ve been hiding myself. When I got seen it was mostly after I “slept over” in my own opinion at the time and shared who I really was for an instant. It is indeed the best feeling I ever had. I ran away from my country years ago, trying to find the answers through this huge challenge being overseas alone is. It was really successful, thou exhausting and terrifying. Now…it’s been a year I sort of jumped back into it after I got deeply hurt by a few people. This only week of deception had been so hard that my heart closed up. I even ignored it. Now I feel the heavy stiffness of my life grip by “balls”. All around is slow and all inside is procrastinating. Basically fear of failing. I am an adventurous woman. It’s somewhere inside. I can’t wait to find her again. If you can there is no reason I couldn’t.
    Haha wow that’s a giant message. I hope you’re zipping on a strong coffee as you read it.
    Thanks for your strength. Rock it Meghan. Congrats for your business project. Hope it will go sweet!

  • Hellen Damnation

    I lost my father. It was not expected; it was unexpected and tragic! Here and then gone . . . We had a “choice” we had to make . . . but not really a choice, we knew what Dad wanted and it was “dire” – “life support”.
    Our relationship was not perfect and he definitely did not always get me, or me him, but . . . I always knew. . . even when it annoyed me, even when he tried to rescue me from life (because he was my Dad and he loved me and I him – I know what that means) he was there. . . and now . . . he’s not. I know without a doubt, no one will ever love me the way that man did; no one could. He’s my Dad and he’s gone.
    I am the only one who completely knows me – me and God.

  • Hellen Damnation

    Too bad this question is three years old, because it is indeed an important one! No judgment here – I hide and I know I do. . . but does anyone else?

  • Oriana

    Hi Meghan, thank you for sharing this, it hit the sweet spot and I needed to hear this. For the longest time I have been hiding. With fear that others wont see me as prepared, or knowledgeable, fear that I’m not ready or that I don’t know when to say no. I sought other’s approval. But you know what your post made me realize… that the only one that should see me is myself, because if I don’t know that I can be seen… then no amount of other’s approval and praise will feel fulfilling, and permanent.

    Again Thank you!