our psyches crave transparency and authenticity.
years ago, i ran across a chart that illustrated the parts of our Self. (the Johari Window, i’ve since learned.)
- Self others know (public self)
- Self we know but hide from others (private/hidden self)
- Self we don’t know (unknown self)
- Self we can’t see but others can (blind/unconscious self)
i remember back then, probably 15 years ago when i was still very deeply in denial about and shameful of my True Self, it was explained to me that i should increase the size of the window others know (my public self) by hiding less about myself and bringing my own self to greater awareness.
i’ll have to admit: that concept was pretty much all lost on me. in fact, i remember thinking “you’re kidding me, right?!” yet deep down, i knew exactly what it meant.
even years later, on the eve of my Coming Out, a best friend urged me, “just tell everyone. tell everyone what you are dealing with. it will be ok.” and even then, i was like “NO WAY.”
as i look back on my adult life, the proportion of my Hidden Self seemed to increase as i got older. the more eager i became to ignore my “blind spots” and the more reluctant i became to exploring my Unconscious Self—and people can attest how very reluctant i was—the more imposing my Hidden Self became instead of its discovery and exposure bringing greater awareness to my True (Whole) Self.
almost four decades of this opacity had left my Self extremely lopsided. fear of the exposure of my Hidden Self thwarted any exploration into my unconscious self whatsoever.
and talk about blind spots! i turned my back on others like me and even voted as a part of the “Christian right” for years, “fighting” for values i now consider hollow, hateful, and unauthentic. today (ok, back on november 9 when i wrote this draft), a friend and i were discussing Ricky Martin’s Oprah interview and how he just seemed so happy and free. later, i was able to watch the interview and see his eyes, slightly teary but filled with an authentic joy as he said:
“i cried…because i felt free. i felt liberated. i felt that i could say that i love myself completely.”
Like him and many of us who have come out, we did it to save our lives. we did it for the benefit of those closest to us so they can finally love and accept us—or as many of us discovered, remind us they’ve loved us all along and will continue doing so. we did it to end the hypocrisy of telling our children they are “fearfully and wonderfully made” yet not believing it about ourselves.
and many of us did it in a move toward discovering that Hidden Self, which is frightening. well, it was to me. i was always scared of it. i had always felt isolated and alone, a state i perceived had something to do with my secret Hidden and Blind Selves.
i remember all those many years spent in church, so many of those people knowing “what” i was before i did and secretly hoping—daring to believ, even, that they didn’t. (and to their great credit as Christ-followers, they loved—and continue to love—me anyway.)
i remember vividly a recurring dream i had about a church event where all the men met in one room and the women in another (which we did from time to time). in the room with the men, everyone was dressed in black. but there i was: dressed in red, nothing like any of them, standing out, feeling awkward, isolated and alone.
truth is: i’ve felt like that a lot of my life.
yet i shoved it down, deep down, making it a part of the Hidden Self i hoped no one would ever see. But that stuff can’t hide forever. and i’m not just talking about “flamboyant expressions,” the desires, or the parts God-given parts of me that were visible—the talents and interests that i had that lay outside the societally-accepted male traits.
i’m talking about the not-God/Universe given shame i—and many others like me—stuffed down inside that festered for decades (!) and produced little else but pain. eventually that hurt and ache and even bitterness will appear—you can bet on that. and the result is not often pretty. it often comes out in ways that hurt one’s self, hurts others, and damages relationships.
when i came out, it was very painful—to me and the people i loved most. i lost 95% of my support structure. (i certainly hope that everyone who does this has a Julie, a Bobby, a Kenny, two loving mothers, and strong sons to stand by their side…). i was still dressed in red but it was a thong and that ain’t pretty.
i was largely alone.
suddenly my hidden self was out in the open for everyone to see. (rather, i had been standing behind a see-through shower curtain all along thinking no one really could see me through it.) and then, over time, i couldn’t believe i’d waited so long to finally expose it! sure, some people at work treated me differently (tho, again, the news wasn’t so much a revelation as it was a confirmation). some people looked at me with sadness in their eyes, arousing that newly displaced but still lingering shame.
but i quickly began to care less: i was finally living an authentic life. i no longer had to hide, lie, pretend, or deny. i get to be all i want to be, all that i am, all that i am intended to be. and i can delve into the parts of my Self that i don’t know with much less fear than ever before…and maybe spend some time facing those blind spots, too.
i call the transformation and the very-much-work-in-progress “coming out Todd.” reducing the size of my Hidden Self has allowed me to explore my Unknown Self in a way that would not have been possible and is allowing me to finally grow beyond the stunted person i had become. in fact, i’m realizing that i have a craving to be authentic. to hide less. to discover more about me.
and to never wear a red thong again.