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.
“I was finally living an authentic life” – That’s a powerful statement. Merriam-Webster defines authentic as “worthy of acceptance or belief…” A large part of coming out is finding out you’re a person of worth. As you point out, that is an ongoing process. Thank you for blogging about your coming out experience- I’m sure it will reach and touch those who need to know that they are not alone and truly worthy of being loved and accepted.
profound comment Chard. thanks.
you hit it exactly. i’ve spent my ENTIRE life trying to be “worthy of [OTHERS’] acceptance when all i really needed to do was accept myself.
Using the ‘Johari window model’ as a method of introspection is a valuable tool; one which provides a tentative insight into our hidden selves. The way in which you now utilize that construct to make sense of that time in your life is insightful.
I’m sure it will inspire others to look at their own ‘hidden’ selves allowing them to take those first tentative steps towards more transparency and less opacity!
A beautifully written article Todd. Thank you for sharing that with us all.
wow Miki, thank you for such a profound comment.
i can only talk about what my own experiences have [finally] taught me and hope that someone, somewhere, can be inspired by what i have learned, even as i strive to learn from others.
i appreciate you!
I’ve got three thoughts for you on this one….
1) ” 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” –
You still have the values you were fighting for… you are still fighting for honesty, love, acceptance, kindness, humane treatment for God’s creation…
what you have rebelled against is the unauthentic and lopsided application of the very values most Christians hold dear. You were stranded in a RELIGIOUS practice that was terribly incongruent with your true faith and your true belief set. Which takes me to my next point….
2) I think I have told you this one before, but it warrants repeating… I like to visualize each of us with three people living inside us – one who God created, one who we “think” we are, and one we show to the world.
The more incongruent these three people are, the more unhappy we are. The closer you can come to aligning these three people (and you will never get them ALL sitting on the same bench at the same time!!!) the happier you will be.
3) and thirdly, red is NOT your color… I think more of a teal or heliotrope would be the best thong color… (here’s the real third comment: ) Have you ever caged an animal that was never intended to be caged? Of course, my mind goes to the birds I help rehabilitate; however the best image that I can give you is that of a large cat in a small cage.
They pace. At times they are confused, other times angry, othe times depressed. Even if they have been “tamed”, they still display characteristics that make you know that they are not in a location of the place they need to be. As the animal is introduced in to its natural, rightful environment, they don’t go running in doing somersaults, picking flowers and singing silly tunes… they go in scared to death.
What’s here to attack me? How am I supposed to find the elements that I need for my survival: shelter, food, a family unit? As the animal progresses in to its new world, it calms down and finds the place it should really be.
So my point: we are no different than the animals in this response… and we can learn a tremendous amount about ourselves by watching God’s other creatures. He put everything here for a purpose, even YOU.
Response to Julie’s 1st thought:
You’re partially correct. However, I do not believe at all in the values that the Republican party stands for. At all. They are not my values and really never were. And yes: “incongruent.” Perfect word.
And I no longer believe in the absoluteness of Religion, either.
Response to Julie’s 2nd thought:
Johari says 4 windows; you say 3 people. I like. You should write a book.
My inner People are definitely becoming more in alignment with one another altho they do tend to still butt heads.
Response to Julie’s 3rd thought:
Your parallel of my life to that of a caged animal is so apt. Yes, there were people who fed me, made sure I stayed physically healthy, and tried to make me fit into their world. I have never fit. I have never fit within my family—ever. I have not fit within a religious cage that tried to teach me to love (to its great credit) but only by staying within a very narrow “environment.” One of the keys to this awareness has been being “freed” into my natural environment, namely
• my biological family who my natural spirit resonates with when I am around them
• by the attraction of others like me when I strip down to the authentic me…and discover those similar spirits have been there all along…and that those who were not aren’t naturally attracted or attractive to my spirit—and never really were.
• being around people like me (other gays, other creatives, people outside of Granbury, et al) has reminded me that I never once “left” home. It’s as thought I was born, then moved into “captivity” and never had the chance to explore my natural surroundings. (and no, I don’t mean San Fransciso, although when I’m in California, I am reminded that ohhhhh this is where I fit…)
i hope to have a few more years (decades) to explore the world i have only just begun to know.
Response to Julie’s thought on my color:
I’ve never looked good in red. I’m a big fan of heliotrope.
Thanks for sharing your journey with us. It resonated with my own personal experience. We all kam that we have to like ourselves first… Nobody can love YOU like YOU can and should!! Xoxo
too true my friend! thanks for commenting!
Thanks for sharing!
I think I’m somewhere in-between there, though it may not seem so
you seem pretty well rounded, open, and very aware of who you are! keep it up! thanks for commenting!
we did it to end the hypocrisy of telling our children they are “fearfully and wonderfully made” yet not believing it about ourselves.
THIS. Is what I’ve been waiting for…for SO long. I love you and I’m always and forever so proud of you…and so blessed to be a part of your story/our story.
thanks for sticking around long enough for me to figure it out. haha
SO MANY PEOPLE hate themselves for who they are and because there are few (if any) people in their lives to love them unconditionally and without judgment. this kind of self-loathing and shame brings about nothing good.
I want to be a voice, along with u, behind that message, confirming that we ARE ALL–gay, srt8, rejected by our families, whatever–indeed fearfully and wonderfully made. and that any other message to the contrary is not of God.
let’s do this! (:
but the battle