This has been a topic I have been working on for a while, sometimes daring to push forward a little, but then, in the end, always shrinking back into being mostly invisible. When I started to work as a self-employed therapist in 2019, I started to build my own homepage. Already in 2018 when I started with my own yoga group, I thought about it. But guess what, it’s still not published although it has been pretty much finished for some time now. The same with the texts I write, since I’m a teenager. I keep them to myself, safely hidden in my diaries or laptop.
I keep telling myself that I’m already having more than enough clients and don’t need more advertisement for myself, as I could hardly handle the requests I already have. And I have a profile with the most important information on general websites, where people can find a local therapist. While this is all true, it’s not the real reason why I don’t publish my homepage. If I’m being honest with myself, I’m just scared, like probably most people before putting themselves out there. So, am I scared of failure? The funny thing is no, not at all. Of course, I don’t like to be disliked, criticized, looked down on or made fun of, and I would feel the stinging pain of being rejected in my heart, or probably my entire body for a bit like everyone else. But I could handle it, I guess, because I know rejection quite well, I got used to it from an early age on.
My biggest fear
More than anything I’m scared of being seen and actually being liked, although at the same time I want nothing more than just that. But it’s something I have no hardwiring for, it overwhelms me and I have no idea how I would react. It’s unknown territory. Sure, over the past two decades I have become much better with accepting acknowledgement, and if you ask me about my self-esteem, I’d tell you it’s pretty healthy. But this is just true, as long as I don’t have to put myself into the spotlight, although I l do like being the center of attention, when I know what I’m doing. Receiving positive feedback still creates a feeling of shame within me. I have forged an exceptional ability in hiding it, but it’s still there, and I’m still avoiding to face it.
Why does someone who knows about her talents and has no problem using them feel so ashamed when being acknowledged by others? To gain understanding of those inner dynamics, we need to travel to the realm of the “inner child”.
Getting to know the inner child
The inner child, inner believe system, schemata, inner sun and shadow or whatever you want to call it, is a part of our personality set up, which holds positive and negative inner believes about ourselves, relationships, and the world in general. While the positive believes are fed by the good, healthy, loving, caring, supportive experiences we made throughout our childhood and teens, forming our resources, self-esteem or self-care ability, the negative inner believes are just the opposite. They result from negative experiences like rejection, physical or emotional neglect, abuse, just any kind of childhood trauma. It also translates into this voice of an inner critic or punisher so many of us know all too well.
Although this is my daily business as a therapist, and I have already worked so much with myself over many years, there’s still this part of me, my hurt and scared inner child, that believes she has no right to speak up. “Nobody wants to hear what you think or feel”, “Your feelings are stupid and inadequate”, “You are inherently wrong, so you better hide yourself and hope that nobody sees you”, “What you have to offer already exists thousandfold in this world, your gift is not needed, nobody wants it, nobody needs you”, “you’re just annoying, stop being too much for everyone”, “don’t make a fool of yourself thinking anyone would care about what have to say”, “your ideas are stupid and immature”, “why don’t you do/become something useful”, “be happy with what you already have”… I think you get the point. And if you’re a human being like myself, you know probably know the chatter of those critical and negative inner voices too, although they might say different things.
This part of me, this highly sensitive, shy, sad little girl still sometimes believes these sentences and doesn’t understand that they are not true, but just an imprint of unlucky experiences made during childhood. For me it has to do with my position in the family as the youngest, with being mobbed at school from 4th to 6th grade and not receiving the emotional support I would have needed. It comes from being left out at school theater, when my teacher didn’t want to let me play any role. I was shamed by a teacher, other kids or even family members so many times when I was showing myself with my authentic thoughts, feelings, voice, my innate creativity, that I simply stopped. I went into hiding. It was the only way I knew to protect myself back then, the only boundary I could set.
Everything comes with a prize
Only much later I realized how this self-protection also meant self-isolation. If I don’t show myself, no one can see and connect to me. Loneliness is one prize you pay, when hiding. I was safe, but inside of me a new pain would grow, a painful longing for being connected to my kin. But like Toko-Pa Turner writes in her book Belonging – Remembering Ourselves Home, “So long as we are only offering ourselves partially, from behind of our persona, our true kin will never recognize us”.
I have been feeling this very deeply for a long time. This pain grew even bigger when I recently came across someone who felt like kin to me, but of course couldn’t see me. No connection was possible, because I was stuck in my invisibility.
Letting go of the past
Right now, I’m on holiday by myself, spending my days alone, eating alone, hardly talking to anyone. This solitude gives me the much-needed time and space to dive into the deep ocean of myself and fully feel whatever wants to be felt. I have been able to cry a lot about my inner isolation and many other withheld energies, and I feel it’s time to let it go, one after the other.
This sad little girl who was so afraid of feeling shamed over and over again is stepping back into the open, into being seen. She knows that today’s grown-up me can protect and support her in many different ways, than were not available earlier in life. Hiding has become obsolete. Other topics (and my homepage) might follow in their own time, but for now stepping into the light by sharing this text is a huge step for me and enough for now.