True confession: sometimes when I’m feeling kind of good about myself, I take a selfie. I know I’m not a teenager or a Kardashian and that doesn’t exactly make me cool, but I’ve decided that on my quest for self love, I must embrace those moments without apology. The picture in this post was a different kind of selfie, though. This is a picture of me right after finishing a morning solo and tearful yoga practice. That morning I was feeling lonely and rejected and unlovable and I looked to my mat to build me back up. My mat replied by breaking me down first. The quiet and stillness of a yoga practice can make me boil over and I wanted to remember what I look like after I survive my emotions.
I suppose that is one of the reasons I finally felt like I found my home through yoga. I use to rarely let my emotions surface. My happiness to smile ratio is definitely not balanced. I’m afraid of being seen a lot of the time and a big ole toothy grin seems like a pretty acceptable mask to wear for the world. I imagine that smiling person is the one the world would rather see than me. I’ve lived under the false assumption that if people think I’m nice and happy, then I’m safe.
A few weeks ago I started reading Living Like You Mean It by Ronald J. Frederick, Ph.D. and the timing was pretty significant. I had no idea as I was reading about how a feelings phobia can bend you toward loneliness and trouble with relationships, that a whole crap storm was brewing in my life that would evoke all kinds of crazy emotions.
The first part of this cloud evoked debilitating fear. The kind of fear that drops you to your knees and sends you screaming for help. And when the dust settled, I felt immediate shame for displaying my terror in public. This fear left a residue of anxiety and sadness in the following days that led me to a small breakdown in front of three amazing friends, one of whom graciously forgave me for hurting her feelings during my rant. Another round of shame started brewing. They say things happen in threes, so I should have been prepared for the next phase when I felt nothing short of fury. I tried bottling it up for a few days motivated by the shame I always feel from expressing anger. But when it became more than I could hold back, the dam burst and I blew up.
Then a strange thing happened. I reminded myself that everyone feels these emotions and there is no reason for regret for feeling what I was feeling. I looked at myself in all three episodes from a distance and saw that I was operating from a place of pure intentions and love, nothing else. So what is there to be ashamed of for that? Suddenly I was empowered. Like Wonder Woman. And suddenly I wasn’t alone. I think the friends I talked to about all of my flipping out actually like me a little better now than before. At least it feels that way.
Hiding can keep you safe for a little while, but if there’s no window or door to sneak out of, you end up in the dark all alone and trying to hold back your cries so no one can hear. It takes courage to let yourself be seen. I disguise my emotions because I’m afraid that someone won’t love who really lives in here. But not everyone you lose is a loss and I’d rather live in the sun with the people who get me.