It takes a lot of courage to be your true self in this world. It takes an immense amount strength to let others see the struggles you suffer, the challenges you face, and the fear that vibrates your entire being. In this culture we are taught to hide all weakness and keep it private. We are told to be ashamed of our fear and suffering—that it is our own fault, is borne from lack of strength or ability, and should be dealt with privately. All of that is reinforced when you receive a pat on the back when you need to be heard, or a superficial reply when you have exposed your heart, or worse, criticized and judged. To amplify: the judgment and criticism for daring to be authentic, daring to upset the status quo by not being happy all the time; by showing that you, too, suffer rough times. That you are human.
I think it takes the strongest of people to step outside the crowd and move alone into the spotlight and bear witness to your own fear, failings, sufferings, and pain.
Well, I am one of those strong people. I think it is important to share my struggles and my ups and downs because so many others suffer the same, and consequently will see that they are not alone. You see, the past few years I have felt alone a lot; often I believe I have no one to help me through hard times. And in truth, it is frequently accurate. I am here on my own, supporting myself physically, financially, spiritually, and emotionally. I don’t always have family support I need, and friends have their own turmoil to deal with. Throughout my life, I have frequently been my only support system. Therefore, I have learned to be strong and give myself the love I need. I have learned to face my fear and do it anyway.
I am afraid all the time, but I just keep moving forward.
“Empathy seeking is driven by the need to know that we are not alone. We need to know that other people have experienced similar feelings and that our experiences don't keep us from being accepted and affirmed. Empathy helps us move away from shame toward resilience.”
- Brene Brown
Not only do I share my ride on the emotional rollercoaster so that others know they are not alone in their struggle, I share so that I can feel the same: that I am not the only human that suffers and struggles. I also share my pain so that I don’t implode and allow the pain to—quite literally—destroy me.
I need your empathy, not your judgements.
I am afraid of how (some of) you judge me for being weak— for not applying all the wisdom lessons I have learned (meditation, yoga, exercise, positive psychology, spiritual teachings). I fear that I am a huge disappointment to my coworkers and even my friends; for not being better, stronger, more positive, fulfilling my potential… I am afraid that all of you criticize me behind my back for being negative instead of being positive. And I know my fears are realistic: I know (some of) you judge me and criticize me, whether to my face or behind my back.
But you know what? That’s YOUR problem. If I am depressed and I share it and this fact bothers you, then you should figure out what to do with that discomfort and not attempt to alter me to make yourself feel better. If I am happy one day, and full of anger the next, and you can’t handle my mood swings, then you should stay away from me. If you can’t handle the depth of my grief over recent trauma, illness, and nearly losing my Dad, then keep your distance. I have had so many bad things happen to me in the short span of two years it is a wonder I survived being punched in the face by Life repeatedly and without end for two years straight!
I refuse to hide who I am and try to be perfect for any of you. I have had many ups and downs in life, and recently, it’s been a lot of downs. Should I pretend that I am happy for you? Would you rather me hide all of my pain and sadness and fear because it is inconvenient for you to see my anguish? Do you judge a child who has fallen down and is crying over a bloodied knee? Well, I have fallen down and my heart is bleeding. Will you not extend me the same care as you extend any injured person. If not, then not only should you keep your distance, but I don’t want someone who lacks empathy in my life in the first place.
I am not angry. I am sad to be so judged.
I have had years of healing and growth and self-development and wisdom. I have spent my life —my entire life— trying to be better, improve…which grew into self-development and self-knowledge. I have lived a public life in the public eye, and many have watched me rise to the top and then plummet. I used to be ashamed of my failures, because (some of) you and society told me I should feel shame. I have since realized that there are so many other people out there who experience the same struggle, failure, shame, depression, and other ups and downs. I also know, that through my teaching and sharing of the very knowledge I have learned during my life, that many have benefited. While you may not like the darkness I live in right now, at the end of that journey I will be the bright light of my Self again. And when I am bright, I draw many to me.
If you are unwilling to be with me through the darkness, I certainly won’t allow you to join me in the wonderful brilliance of the Light I Am. If you can’t support me when I fail, don’t expect to be here when I succeed.
With finality, please keep your judgements and criticisms of my behavior and my expression of my authentic feelings and Self to yourself. If you don’t like the darkness I am in—well, I never invited you to join me here in the first place. It’s my darkness, and when I have learned what I need to learn from it, the darkness will end. If you are truly concerned about my well-being, then don’t critique my rants, offer me a hug. If you are my friend, then be one, and don’t judge my path to self-awareness. Don’t you know I am doing the best I can?
If I am in a dark hole, offer me a hand. Don’t criticize me for falling in the damn hole.
Because I feel judged and I feel attacked, rather than being understood and supported, my need is to defend myself. I am going to acknowledge both my feelings and needs in this reminder to you:
May 2017: my Dad almost died
2016-17: repeated health challenges that affect my energy and anxiety levels, first year at a new school
2015-16: return to Austin from Korea, can’t get full-time employment to support myself which causes financial ruin from being unemployed for longer than one year, can’t finish my graduate program.
2015: escape a very traumatic/abusive relationship while unemployed, rip my meniscus which affects my ability to exercise and sleep, plus I’m in constant, 24-hour pain for over one year, can’t cycle, can’t run.
2014: while living in Korea I undergo two major surgeries, get told in Korean I might have cancer, and almost die of anaphylactic shock while in the ER being treated for nerve damage from cycling. I lose the use of my left arm for over 2 months.
Like I said, Life has punched me in the face repeatedly over the past few years, and it is due to my strength and certain friends that I am still standing! I have survived several major traumas (and resulting PTSD because of them) each year for the past four years!
I will continue being open and honest with my feelings, my challenges, my failures, my struggles…because someone else will recognize that they are not alone, and it will help them. That is me being of service. Who are you to tell me to hide my Self and be small and fit in your comfortable square hole because my language, my actions, and my emotions are too much for you? No box will hold me and no shape can conform to me. I will certainly not reform myself to your shape and your box.
I am honest. I am authentic. And I am one of the most courageous people on this blue earth because I’m facing the darkness inside of me and not trying to hide it and lie to everyone. It’s your turn to be honest and authentic and courageous and face your own judgments and fix yourself before trying to change me. If I need fixing or changing, when the time comes, I will recognize it and change myself.
If part of my journey toward self-actualization is this dark path, who are you to tell me to veer off course?
I am human. I am doing the best I can with what I know in the moment.
Just like you.
...Small actions in a dynamic system will trigger vast and unexpected changes