So often in life, we hide things that we deem unacceptable, not cool, embarrassing, or shameful.
We lock the things we think others will judge us for into a safe and stick it under our bed so it never sees the light of day. We nod along, smile, and pretend our lives are effortless, even when they’re not.
We live in a culture where people only choose to share their highlight reels. People post their perfectly-staged, filtered Instagram pictures and sell it as real life. We carefully compose a watered-down version of our story that we share with certain friends, coworkers, and social media, while another raw, real, completely unfiltered version sits quietly inside of us.
The thing is, if we don’t own our stories, our stories will find a way to own us. We will spend day after day trying to hide our realities from our friends and coworkers, trying to put on a brave face by saying, “It’s okay! I’m okay. Life is a piece of cake! Really, everything is great!” and let me tell you, this path is freaking exhausting.
I recently changed the domain on my blog to my real name. Before, I had some cutesy, non-identifying domain name and I did my damnedest to make sure nobody I knew found it. I ensured that my name was not on any of the pages. I created a separate Instagram account for my blog and never posted my face. I was spilling some of the most private parts of my soul out to strangers on the big, wide interweb, and it felt like a release, but something was missing.
There was that little, well-meaning, yet nagging voice inside me that said, “Just own your story. Share it with everyone. It will free you and it could help others too.”
Yeah, yeah, yeah, I thought. Like I’m really going to let people I know learn all this private stuff about me. That would ruin my image! What would they think? Would people throw rocks at me and call me names?
I sat with those thoughts for many days. Then, I started to question them. Why would I care if Kim from high school, Dan from college, or that girl I met at a party read my story? What’s the worst that could happen?
I started to take a rational, big-picture look at the situation and realized that the worst that would happen is that people would talk about me for a day or two, and then they’d forget about it, carry on with their lives, and probably talk about someone else. Is that really so bad? Am I going to forego my desire to write and share my story because what’s-his-face from third period math might laugh at me? And so what if he did? That says more about him and his nature than it does about me and my story.
It’s painfully comical to think about scrapping my whole blog out of fear of others’ perceptions. Am I really going to not do what I want to do and hide out of fear?
So, I started to stand up for myself.
When that bully would pop into my head and tell me to retreat, tear it all down, put it back in the gosh darn safe, and stick it back under the bed, I started to counter back. I started to tell this part of my mind that there is nothing to be ashamed about, that my flaws make me human, that we all have flaws and bumps in the road no matter how perfect we might seem on the surface, that I’m not going to throw away a dream of mine because of what someone might say, that I have good things to say and share, that I’m worth it, and that I’m going to own my story. That’s right, I’m just going to do it.
A big part of accepting my story has been realizing that my hardships and mishaps are not actually signs of failure. They are signs of growth. These things are not here to terrorize me. They are here to help me learn, blossom, and strengthen. Struggles are damn good teachers and I feel like I’m earning a master’s in life.
Those spots where I feel broken, well, that’s where the light enters. We expand when we face our stories and claim them as a part of us. There is a certain peacefulness in saying, “You know what? I’m just not gonna give a sh*t anymore. This is me. This is my life, and darling, I’m going to f*cking own it.”
I’m not saying it’s not scary, because it is. It’s frightening to put yourself out there, but when you share your life with others, you form a connection with them. When you speak of your struggles and your healing, you give others permission to embrace their struggles and heal too. When you completely own all parts of you, you release yourself from the cycle of shame and allow yourself to fully align with your highest self and all it brings.
We are all just human. We are all flawed in our humanness. We’ve all been through something. We’re all just trying to figure it out. I promise you, even those who seem like they have it all together are trying to figure it out too. There is no shame in that journey. In fact, it’s beautiful.
Although I can’t say that I’m completely comfortable with putting myself out there like this, I know I’ve come a long way simply by the fact that I’m doing it. I hope to get to the point where I wholeheartedly just don’t give a f*ck in the best way possible, but until then, I will continue to fill my self-love and self-worth tanks and share my little heart out in the name of trust.
I don’t know what’s going to happen through putting my story out there. Maybe nothing, maybe a lot. I’m not looking for praise or pity in doing this, I’m simply looking for freedom.
I’ve been hiding parts of myself in the shadows for too long. It’s time to see what happens when I step into the light. I lovingly encourage you to do the same.
Author: Katie Koschalk
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Copy Editor: Nicole Cameron
Social Editor: Yoli Ramazzina