"Who told you to hide?"
"Who told you to be weak?"
The words fell off my lips, and they weren't my own. Usually, revelations and discoveries give me warning. There is some kind of lead up, a lesson, a trial, and then I understand. As I drove down the highway, the long and winding stretch before me, I sat shocked. With cruise control on, my toddler hunched over and asleep in the back, and my eyes on the horizon, small tears made their way down my face.
Who told me to hide? Why did I ever start?
Who told me to be weak? I know my core, and my core is anything but weak. Why is it easier to admit weakness than it is to own strength?
"I don't have to hide. No more hiding."
Someone looked at me the other day. They know all my mess. They looked me in the eye, from across the table in a crowded restaurant, and with tears in their eyes, they told me I had no idea how special I was.
I looked down at my plate, pushing my food with my fork, as if, by doing so, I could somehow push through the awkward tension I felt at the compliment. Unsure of how to respond, I mumbled out a few words. It was probably a poor joke. I had no idea what to say.
I can tell you one thing. Even though I brushed the words off and played casually, it will be years before I forget them.
I don't have much time to think about myself. I've been living in survival mode for far too long, and any insecurity or pride has taken a backseat, so much so, that I have found myself thinking I needed to take that backseat. In the corner. Buried away. Out of sight. No voice. Don't be noticed. Don't stir anything up.
"Who told me to hide? Why in the world am I hiding? I'm not weak. Why have I been acting like it?"
I'm back in the car, on the long highway stretch. Speaking the words out loud with no one but a sleeping toddler around feels freeing. I don't have to hide. I don't have to be weak.
After years of being trapped, I am slowly standing. It's like layers are being shed. The winter is over. I don't have to bury myself. I don't have to hide. I don't have to believe these things.
Why do any of us ever believe these things?
We aren't created to be weak. We aren't created to hide. And yet, so often, we do just that, letting the words of others pummel us into the ground year after year after year. Or we choose to live for approval and affirmation, and instead of being true to who we are, we conceal and conform, and we craft images that suit others and not ourselves.
Somewhere along the way, I thought being strong was off-putting. I thought being comfortable in my own skin was pride. And so I buried myself, putting on insecurities like clothes, and always ensuring I dressed generously. Everyone else had better things to say. Everyone else should be noticed first.
I should be quieter.
I should be sweeter.
I should have fewer opinions.
I should not speak up.
I should never accept compliments.
I should never question.
I should never be different.
I should stop.
Who told us to be weak? Who told us to hide?
Maybe it's all the same voice. Or maybe it's ourselves. Or maybe it's one thousand tiny voices that we leaned into over the years.
It doesn't even matter who the voice is. What matters is that we stop. We stop believing the lies that tell us to hide and to be weak. That tell us to look to others for approval and for who we are.
Look at yourself in the mirror, and embrace exactly who you are. Imperfections, strengths, every single thing. Look at your heart. Look at what you are and what you can be. Look at the world. Look at the good that is there and look at the good that is waiting for you to create. Look all around, and then look up.
Throw perfection out the window, and take yourself, flaws, messes, dirt swept under the rug, quirks, embarrassments and all and be.
It doesn't matter who told you to hide. It doesn't matter who wanted you to be weak. You don't have to hide anymore.
Be you, fully you.