“When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you.” ~African Proverb
If you’ve had any experiences where you had to keep your truth quiet, particularly as a child, it’s time to reclaim your truth and value its power. By doing so, you will release energy, old shame, and subconscious blocks that may now be holding you back from living your life to the fullest.
It could be that you had lots of family secrets that your parents made sure you told no one about (which creates shame), or it could be you were bullied and felt unable to confide in anyone about it.
There are many circumstances where we have our truth kept locked in, and unintentionally we create shame around our truths. If you feel unable to speak your truth, then you feel shame. It’s nature’s law.
When we become shameful of our truths, we end up cutting off, discrediting, and devaluing a hugely important chunk of who we are and how we show up in the world.
This is true for me. When I was growing up, my parents had an emotionally abusive relationship, and I was sworn to secrecy about it. My parents wanted no one outside of the house to know what was going on.
While my father had anger issues, my mother always tried to keep the peace, so I decided it was better to not speak up or voice my feelings. Living under the same roof as them, it was impossible for me to not be affected by what was happening, yet I was unable to have my experience validated.
My parents were busy fighting, being in tension, or creating drama, and I was conditioned to not talk to anyone about “the troubles at home.” So my truth was shut down, kept only to me and my journal.
After my parents divorced, I moved out and on to college, and started my adult life. I felt proud of myself for staying strong through all the tough times at home, for being an emotional rock for my mother, and for forgiving my father for not being the kind of dad I wanted him to be.
Yet in my mid-late twenties, things started to shift. After a few career U-turns, I started to feel unsure of myself, and it started to bring up emotions I hadn’t felt for a long while.
For a long time, I’d considered myself to be strong, independent, and able to make decisions easily, and I was, overall, really confident. During my job changes, I felt unsure, doubtful, confused, and shameful.
Curious, I wanted to know where this shame came from. When in my life previously had I felt shame strongly? It led me back to when I was unable to truly have presence as “me” growing up—I was the girl who could only be a silent participant in an unhealthy household.
When I was told to not talk to anyone about what was going on, it was as if being told that my truth, perspective, and feelings were shameful.
At first I felt angry toward my parents, and any adults who may have known what had been going on but hadn’t shown concern towards my experience of the situation. But then, like a scientist, I detached and focused on how to release the shame.
I could see that some part of me must still be carrying shame toward speaking my truth, and the only way to release it was to share my truth.
So I told my story to a trusted friend (who is also a counselor). I made no omissions and quickly started to feel better. No one outside my family had known about what was going on, or what I’d experienced and seen. By telling someone outside of the family, I felt a shift—as if a spell was being broken.
Telling my truth did not make the sky fall down. It did not make me feel shameful. And it helped me see that while I’d been nurturing the brave, confident, no-BS side of me, there was a neglected side of me that needed to be seen—lonely, frustrated, confused, ignored.
Those “negative” aspects of ourselves are often the emotions we try to avoid, but as I began to validate them (“of course you felt isolated Sarah; the adults in your life were cutting you off from expressing yourself”), it helped me feel more compassion toward myself.
Feeling proud of yourself for your good qualities is one thing; being able to embrace yourself when you feel anger, resentment, or jealousy is another. And I learned that I have a “right” to feel all things.
Just as it’s okay to be excited, happy, and content, it’s also okay to feel sad, nervous, and bored.
Especially if you had an incident as a youngster where your “negative emotions” weren’t given space to be expressed, it’s important to be able to validate them now as an adult.
A lot of self-love work is about uncovering that hidden part of yourself and giving it light, room to breathe, capacity to exist. When we deny any part of ourselves we are not allowing ourselves to be truly who we are.
That’s not to say we should broadcast all our vulnerabilities on Twitter or go share with people who we know are incapable of honoring our truth. It could mean seeing a counselor or airing it to a non-judgmental support network.
When we realize we were “made” to keep our truths hidden by our environment or others, the first natural step is to feel angry, especially if this pattern of having to keep quiet took place as a kid or teen. Why didn’t the adults in our lives do the right thing and give us space to be heard?
Normally it had to do with their fears, insecurities, shames, and inability to face the truths for themselves. The important thing is to accept that they were unable to have done anything differently—to have provided you with what you needed.
Whatever you feel you needed from them (validation, support, safety to speak truth), accept and make peace with the fact you will never get these things from them. You can’t re-write history, and it may be likely that they are still, now, incapable of giving these things to you.
What we can do today, right now, is begin to release the habit of self-repression that we may have inherited from the past.
How do we do that?
Start to shine light and love on your truth, whether that’s turning your attention to your true passions that may have been ignored or taking baby steps to speak up on what doesn’t work for you.
Often we swallow our own opinions or needs in order to “keep the peace.” It’s time to take very small steps to rock the boat!
If you are subconsciously holding out for someone else to finally “See you” or love the real you, drop in with yourself and ask:
“Do I see the “real” me? Am I allowing my true self to be voiced, to be seen, to take up space?”
Do you have spaces in your life where you can “drop your guard” and be authentic?
I’ve found that having my truths validated is hugely important, and the following simple exercise is a good place to help you start:
Visualize a kind, benevolent being (which could be a trusted friend or person you know or your preferred idea of the universe/higher power/spirit) is with you and is saying this to you:
“I love that you love…”
And then allow yourself to list all the things you love! Write it down as a list.
“I love that you love making art. I love that you love dancing. I love that you love to have fun.”
This always leaves me feeling re-affirmed and self-secure. It never fails to make me feel happy to be me. And it allows me to feel loved for who I truly am, not for what I do for others.
If you have repressed anger or frustration/resentment (which is likely when we repress part of ourselves), find ways to healthily express it (for example a martial arts class).
I hope this helps you with your journey to truly valuing who you are at your core. Send love and validation to the aspects of yourself that perhaps your peers, family, and colleagues didn't or don't “get.” You have to expand to be all of yourself.
Photo by BrianDoaneiPhotography