Ah, the fear of being seen.
I believe this is something every single human struggles with. Even the pop stars on stage. Even the most vulnerable person you’ve ever met. We all have a fear of being fully seen.
The problem is not the fear, but what the fear holds us back from doing.
What would you do or who would you be if you didn’t fear the eyes, judgements, perceptions, and opinions of others?
No photos, please.
Only a year or two ago I was known as someone who “doesn’t take photos, please!”
My “no photos” attitude was born from a deep insecurity that started when I shaved my head. After I shaved my head, although I felt totally liberated, I wasn’t super in love with the way I looked.
And this caused me to not show up in photos or videos for almost two years! I have very few photos of me as a bald or even short haired person. And now, looking back, this makes me very sad. Because the truth is, I was super cute in all stages of hair growth! And now I have nothing to remember this time by.
After working through a whole lot in the last few years, I realized just how strong my fear of being seen was (and sometimes still is).
And it’s funny because I found that it’s not only my biggest fear, but it’s also what I deeply crave the most. Quite the conundrum.
I imagine this is how it goes for many people. We fear what we desire the most.
So how do we change this?
Showing Up, Especially When You Don’t Want To
A lot of times, the real courage is in showing up. The fear will tell you not to go, not to do the things you’ve always wanted to do, or not to show the real you. But if you can put that fear aside and do it anyway, if you can still show up, you’ll usually find liberation, connection, and love on the other side.
My writing, for example, is one way I do that. I show up almost every morning and write for thirty minutes to an hour, even when I don’t want to. The fear tells me, “no one cares about what you’re writing, you aren’t even a good writer, no one will ever read what you have to say, everyone is going to judge and ridicule you for your thoughts.” And I say, “to heck with you fear! I gotta write.” Because I know that every time I finish a writing session, I feel better. I feel more like me, I feel seen, I feel free, I feel emancipated.
And then, sharing my writing with the world is a whole other story, of course. The fears with that get loud. But all it takes is clicking one button: “Publish” and the fear doesn’t have a grip on me anymore. And what I’ve found is that after I hit that one little button there is so much joy, connection, vulnerability, gratitude, and love that surges through me. People reach out to me and tell me how my writing makes them feel less alone, makes them feel seen, and helps them to connect with themselves and their feelings more. And if I had listened to my fear, we’d all be missing out on some raw and real beauty.
Let Out Your Inner Rockstar
The other night I went to a live show. It is two of my good friends’ band. One friend, a drummer. The other friend, his girlfriend, the backup singer and sound shaker (tambourine, cow bell, etc) . This was the first time I was seeing my girl friend up on stage. She looked amazing! Her fun and feminine energy really balanced out the three other guys up there and she looked so radiant to me.
She really looked like an experienced performer. Space buns in her hair, glitter on her face, badass babe clothes, and the energy of a true rockstar. I was so inspired! My friend, the girl who is so chill and cool, was up on stage letting her inner wild out. She looked like she was having so much fun, too. She was vibing with the sounds, energizing the crowd just by being herself, and looking like a total hottie while doing it. I imagine I wasn’t the only girl in the crowd wondering how I could shine like that in my own way.
After the show, she came over to us (her fan crowd), and I lavished compliments on her. And after she received them. You know what she said, “yeah dude it’s fucking scary being up there!” And it hit me. Although she looked totally natural doing what she was doing, she had to face a lot of fears to be up there.
Someone asked her how she felt about people taking photos and videos of her. And you know what she said? “I struggle with it because I’ve never liked myself in photos and videos, so I just look at them and say ‘cool’ and don’t think twice about it.” To us in the crowd, she looked AMAZING. And to her, she was battling her own insecurities and fears, while still trying to be as kind to herself as possible. Incredible.
I realized that even the people who look like they have it all figured out are still just human. They are still fearful of all the things everyone else is scared of. The secret, though, is that they still choose to do it anyway.
Is it Fear or Love?
If we let fear take hold of us and drown us, we end up never doing the things we were meant to do, sometimes born to do. We say to fear, “You’re right. It’s too scary. I’ll just do something else.” And we end up giving up on our dreams, letting what truly lights us up pass us by, and miss out on what makes us feel incredible.
Seeing my friend live out her dreams on stage was the best inspiration. It reminded me that with a little courage, we can all live out our dreams… alongside our fears.
And contrary to many popular sayings, beliefs, and Instagram influencers, you can never completely eradicate fear. Being “fearless” is not really a thing. We will always have fear, some of us live in more fear than others, but we’ve all got it. And it’s not going away. What you can do is decide that fear will not make decisions for you. You can decide to observe the fear when it comes up and let it pass right on through, instead of freaking out about it, grabbing it, and living in it.
Fear is just another feeling. Of course, it has its purpose. It alerts us when we are in danger. And sometimes, we really need to listen and respond appropriately to our fear. But most of the time (especially in this modern human world) we don’t have that many threats to our existence.
I would argue that our biggest threat is not seizing the opportunity to be ourselves. And when it comes to getting outside your comfort zone, fear always has something to say about it. Next time you hear those fearful thoughts, try just observing them. Take a breath and ask yourself, “Am I making this choice out of fear or love?” You’ll know the answer. And when you have that answer, you’ll know what to do next.