It catches you off guard before you have time to brace yourself. Your ears and heart are open like a sponge, unaware of the coming attack, unaware that they’re about to desperately need protection.
And then it happens. A comment is made; something is noticed —
a flaw that you wish they hadn’t seen.
Maybe it’s your nose, your eyebrows, or your laugh. Maybe it’s your skin or your shape or your weight. Maybe it’s your butt or a birthmark or a scar. Until that moment, you hadn’t realized you needed to hide.
When I was in middle school, it came to my attention that I had been blessed in the hair department. I’m not talking about my long blonde hair, although I am admittedly very lucky. I’m talking about something else, something that has taken me years to be able to say out loud.
Some mash up of genetics landed me with hairy arms and blonde peach fuzz basically everywhere; a confession that makes my stomach queasy even now.
I was walking through the hall in seventh grade, having just received my first broken heart, when he walked by with a group of boys, laughing. They looked at me, one of them made a shaving motion in my direction and they continued, leaving one of the biggest lies I’d ever believe in their wake.
There was something wrong with me; I was broken.
There was a design flaw, an accident when I was being woven together. There was something so foul about me, so abnormal that I should hide. Or join the circus (a more lucrative option).
I was the bearded woman; that was my deal breaker.
The lie continued for years, waxing and shaving and wearing layers when I had forgotten. I’d squirm away from touch and hide when I felt like someone was getting close enough to see.
I remember the day I realized that sunlight produces a sort of Edward Cullen effect, making me shine and sparkle and every hair visible. So I began avoiding direct sunlight. I still sometimes do, preferring to stay in the shadows where my shame isn’t quite so sparkly.
I never mentioned it to anybody, wanting to disappear into the floor whenever anyone would mention hair of any kind- positive that my deal breaker was about to be publically exposed.
And then one day, the shame became too heavy to carry on my own.
I was tucked into a booth with two of my best friends when I finally let it out. I could barely speak and was crying as I revealed to them something that had made me feel so ugly, so disgusting and so insecure for so many years.
Their eyes were understanding and sympathetic as they saw how deeply this had been hurting me, how dark this secret shame had been… and then they laughed. Not a mean laugh, but an incredulous laugh, amazed that I’d believed such a ridiculous lie for so long.
That night, the weight got lighter.
All of a sudden I wasn’t alone. All of a sudden I could start to see the edges where the lie was trying to blend into the background. All of a sudden the lie didn’t seem quite so real.
Our bodies are unique, and frankly kind of strange, and we all have things that are different about us. We have marks and scars and places where hair grows and places where it won’t. We have things that are unique and hard about our outsides and insides. There’s no one ‘normal.’
The problem is that nobody talks about those things; everyone hides them, so nobody knows that they’re not the only one. And the weight of that shame is really heavy.
The only way to find freedom from our hiding is to step into the light, and I think that we have to do it together.
But where do we start?
For me, it was finding people that I knew that I could trust. The incredible women who first carried my secret have been my best friends for years. They’d seen me at my best and at my worst and I knew that they would love me- even through something like this.
My shame has decreased significantly since that day but if I’m really honest, this is something that I still struggle with. It’s something that I still hide, still manage, still avoid as much as I can. My roommate, who has seen me through some of the most intimate and messy times of my life didn’t know until I let her read the first draft of this article. It’s still something that makes me squirm, makes me doubt that I’m really lovable, that I’m really beautiful.
But I know the healing power of the light. I know that when we open our dark and broken places to the Lord, and to the people who love us, that the healing and redemption is beyond our wildest dreams.
I need that healing and I’m so tired of hiding. I’m ready to step into the light.
If you have a secret, something that you’ve spent your life hiding and being ashamed of, I’d love if you’d share it with us in the comments. You don’t have to include your name, but I would love for us to see that we’re not alone, to step into the light together.
This is my step… what will yours be?
[Photo: Sarebear:), Creative Commons]