A couple of days ago a good friend wrote an encouraging comment on this post, which I appreciate deeply (thank you, Kim!) While I hear her words, it makes me think too. Like a lot of people, I am brave and not brave. The lines between the two are not always obvious. Because I get to decide what to write about here, I tend to choose things I am brave enough to write about -- but there are things which I won't write about, either, and some of them are silly and some are just sad.
I hide my thoughts a lot. Ask the people I share a house with and see every single day what's on my mind and they won't be able to tell you. If I keep most of my thinking inside my head no one can criticize me about it. (Though it's also true that it would be impossible to tell anyone EVERYTHING that I think, because my brain never stops. But that's different. That's not based on intentional withdrawal, that's just sparing people from a lot of inane self-chatter.)
I read a lot, and when I was a kid I read even more. I carried books all over the place, always had a book with me. But I always turned them face down. I'd never leave a book face up on a table or a desk, because then someone might look at the title and ask me about the book or just plain judge me based on what they thought of it. I still do it sometimes. If no one sees what I read, I don't have to justify my reading choices. (This is easier now that I do a lot of reading on a Kindle. No visible book covers.)
I don't talk to people about music, except a couple of family members. Music is so important to me, but I won't tell people what I listen to or what I like or why. It's TOO important to me, you see. I won't give anyone a basis for rejecting me based on my musical tastes -- oh dear me, no. I don't get to share my love of music with people because I won't let them in. Not even when I know a lot of people in my circle of friends love music deeply too.
I'm ashamed of a number of personal choices. I struggle with being afraid of food and weight, and I don't talk about it. I won't write on this blog about eating fast food or potato chips or cookies. People get really judgmental about food choices. I don't want to expose myself to that. (This paragraph has taken by far the most dithering to write, because I'm showing the deepest peek here into something I hide. Yes, I eat junk food sometimes. Gulp.)
A few weeks ago I spotted, out of the blue, a beloved teacher from my high school years at my church. I don't think she is a regular attender at my church, but one morning she was there. My instant impulse was to sit down in a different part of the room so she wouldn't notice me, rather than go say hello and have a conversation. I'm not talking about a teacher I had a difficult relationship with, I'm talking about one I had a great relationship with and who I received a lot of encouragement from. When I'm surprised by an opportunity to connect with an old friend, I don't take it. I go out of my way to avoid it, given the chance.
It goes on and on. I'll spare you more. Yes, I write things here that require some bravery to post, but maybe not as much as you think. Especially not when I match them up against the things I refuse to talk about or the ways in which I deliberately hide. I do have a high degree of natural introverted reserve, and I'm okay with that. I will rarely be the chattiest person in a room, and I tend to listen more than talk, and I see those as acceptable and part of my inherent nature. It's the hiding I do out of fear that is bad news. That's a very different thing.
Am I bagging on myself here? Avoiding a compliment from a friend? I'm not trying to, actually. I'm trying to look at who I really am, and in fact I started to ponder these things a few weeks ago. It's part of spotting where rejection-fear has its hooks in me in more subtle ways than I think it does. I want to become more aware of all the ways in which I automatically turn away from people instead of turning toward them. Without awareness there's no possibility of change.
There's no change without action, either. This is practice: pulling back the curtain just a little bit farther than I usually do. This post took a conscious engagement of courage for me to write. Doesn't matter if it looks to someone else like a bunch of silly things I ought not to be scared of. It does scare me to edge back the curtain on these things, but I've just done it anyway. Go me.