Hide In Your Shell
“… as a boy, I believed the saying, ‘the cure for pain was love’.
How would it be if you could see the world through my eyes?”
Song: “Hide Inside your Shell” by Supertramp
Lyrics by Roger Hodgson
I want to hide, but that isn’t my style. Sooner or later, I know I would be found.
When I was a child, a petite side table (now a treasured family heirloom), served as my refuge during tumultuous family disputes. My youthful fear drove me to find solace beneath it, away from the crossfire. Today, that table sits in my office as a testament to the coping strategies of my past, but I now seek to build trust and connection through openness instead.
My inner conflicts and self-doubt have long masked my true self from friends and family. I long for connection and understanding, yet vulnerability frightens me. There's a fear that nags at me, “if I reveal my truth, will I face rejection?” Amidst such struggles, I've often felt isolated.
At 20, when I was newly married and living far from my family on a remote pig farm, my mother-in-law introduced me to a transformative book titled, Living, Loving & Learning, by Leo Buscaglia. This cherished gift provided me with a new language, and introduced me to values that form the foundation of my current life. In the book, Buscaglia insightfully notes, "The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing, and becomes nothing. He may avoid suffering and sorrow, but he simply cannot learn and feel and change and grow and love and live."
The studies of author and researcher, Brené Brown, have also shown that harbouring secrets, especially those that taint us with shame or feelings of unworthiness, often amplify feelings of isolation and blame.
This week I was honoured to participate in a panel discussion. Despite my having been deemed worthy of the privilege, nerves consumed me. At first, I mistook this anxiety for mere excitement. However, midway through, a sudden surge of energy enveloped me, constricting my throat. This wasn't excitement – it was sheer terror. Yet, rather than retract, I embraced this as a chance to practice vulnerability, and I spoke with genuine candour. To my surprise, I was met with warmth and support.
While I'd love to say the experience left me on cloud nine, the reality is more complex. I'm still wrestling with a lingering sense of unease, as if I am anticipating the ‘other shoe drop’. Yet, with conscious awareness, I can navigate these feelings. As I do so, I understanding that I'm not only growing personally, but also inspiring others to muster similar bravery.
Human emotions are multi faceted, and that often means that there is a growing need for support and connection in times of struggle. In our modern world, many people grapple with daily life without the necessary tools to cope, nor the supportive relationships to provide guidance. The best way I know how to address this issue is by modelling these essential skills in my own life, work and play.
Here's another truth I’d like to share about myself that stirs anxiety within me: I've been using ChatGPT to edit my columns. I grapple with feelings of shame around this, but I justifying it to myself by reasoning that, if finances allowed, I'd hire a full-time editor. Isn't the app simply doing an editor's role? I'm still caught in this internal conflict, though, fearing that relying on ChatGPT is a form of cheating, and that it might make me complacent or diminish my insights. I also notice a fear of your judgement, and of the possibility that I might lose your trust and engagement with my writings. Should I hide, and keep this information secret? (Oh, the tales we weave for ourselves!)
Roger Hodgson's song, as quoted at the top of the page, encapsulates for me the sensation of confinement that comes with concealing one's true self. It hints at the peace that love and understanding can bring. While I don't demand love and understanding from everyone, I've come to realize that those who remain by my side, even after hearing my shaky ‘truths’, are my most genuine allies. These are the people in my corner who have my back, and who love me even through my fears and self doubt.
Imagine a world where we all embrace the art of candid truth-telling. With a blend of honesty, directness, and the potent force of love, I know we can all heal our own scars and then shine our collective light as champions of global healing. In such a world, every individual would flourish, bolstered by well-being, self-expression, and empowerment. And from such a grounded, centred place we could easily make the best decisions for global health and transformation.
ACTIVITIES for TRANSFORMATION
~ Organize a Vulnerability Circle:
Gather a small group of trusted friends or colleagues together.
Sit in a circle and establish ground rules to create a safe and confidential space.
Participants take turns sharing something personal that they have never shared with the group (i.e. it could be a fear, a dream, an experience that shaped them)
After each share, instead of giving advice, other participants express gratitude and are invited, if comfortable, to share how they relate to the story.
~ Risk-Taking Challenge:
Make a list of small risks you can take in your personal or professional life. (These should be actions that push you slightly out of your comfort zone).
Over the course of a month, intentionally take these risks. (This could be as simple as expressing a different opinion, trying a new activity, or reaching out to someone you’ve lost touch with).
Reflect on each experience, noting how it made you feel, what you learned, and what you might do differently next time.