One of the things my friends would be likely to tell you about me is that I’m “not afraid to be who I am.” It’s a really nice thing to say, and it has been an interesting idea to me for some time now, for a few different reasons.
The first reason is that people have been saying this about me since before I actually felt secure in who I was. The second is that “being who I am” has never seemed like something that I worked particularly hard to do. I think that I have always felt it to be easier to be myself than try to fit into something else. I have found that when I stay true, I only make a better first impression, and I’m only happier.
A while back, I had a realization that changed my perspective on this. What I realized is that while I have never been afraid to be who I am, I have been afraid to be open about who I am. It has been easy for me to live as myself, and not worry about what people think. But there was a time in my life when I started to share my stories, and my challenges, and when I started to do that, things started to change. I found that there is a big difference between living your story and sharing your story.
Since I’ve begun to actively share the things that make me happy, the challenges I face in my own world, I feel more proud to “be who I am.” I thought it would be cool to write about this shift that happened in my life when I started to be open about who I am. Here are 3 things that started to happen when I started to be more open about who I am.
1. I had less shame
There are parts of who I am that are harder to share with the world. One of them is that I’m gay, and that was something that I had to come to terms with and overcome. My coming out experience was difficult for me. I also have bipolar disorder, and a lot of times, that is met with a lot of stigmas. I have also struggled with members of my family growing up, and those topics are just hard to discuss.
For some of these things, there is so much weight lifted when you tell someone. I remember a very clear before and after feeling when I came out to my friends. It’s easy to think that power shifts away from you when you let your secrets escape, but my experience has been the opposite.
By choosing to be open about these parts of who I am, I give myself more power to create my own story. And when I have the power to decide my own story, the shame crumbles. Shame has totally shattered in moments when I made the choice to be open about my story.
2. I felt more connected to friends and family
The funny thing about my story is that there really isn’t anything that my loved ones can’t understand once I take the time to talk about it. When I talk about struggles that I have, people almost always know someone has gone through something similar, and they always want to be able to help. And most of the time, my friends and family are interested in learning more about me. It’s because they care, and because they want what is best for me. A lot of times, if they can help, they do.
When I tell my stories to people I know, they are also more likely to share their own with me. This week I told my story about my experience with bipolar, and five different people told me that they themselves deal with a mental disorder, and now I feel like I have more of a support system around me. I feel like I have people I can connect with next time I need help. And I think that’s really great.
I wouldn’t have that group of people if I wasn’t open about this part of me with them.
3. I became more confident and secure
Something that has been beautiful about moments when I choose to be myself is that people have come to understand me and respect me more than they would have if I hadn’t shared. Sometimes I worry that what I want to say is too serious, or too emotional, or too vulnerable.
But in times that I decide to go for it, I have been met with more empathy and love than I could have anticipated. When I talk about what I want out of life, and when I choose to tell my own stories, I am always blown away by the reassurance I get from people.
People like me more when I am open about who I am. They laugh harder at my jokes when they are authentic. They listen to me when I actually care about what I’m talking about.
People support me more when they know more about me. Sometimes they even tell me that they admire me and call me brave for talking about who I am. I wouldn’t necessarily call myself “brave,” but this reassurance has really impacted the way I see myself every day.
After making the decision to live without secrets, I have come to respect myself even more because I really do feel like I am not afraid to be who I am. And now, it’s actually easier to accept these parts of me that some would consider to be flaws.
Sometimes it’s really hard to talk about who you are. Or to go after something that you really want. Sometimes it’s easier to fit in with friends and go with the flow. I know that. And at times, I still do that.
But you should know that there is nobody that is able to do what you are doing in this world. And there is nobody that has your same story to tell. Something that I have learned in 2017 is the power that we have when we share our own stories and experiences. When we talk about who we are, what we dream of, and what we need from people, amazing things start to happen.
Like I mentioned, there is a big difference between being who you are, and taking the steps to be open about who you are. If you take one lesson from this article it’s that every single person has a unique story, and things only get better when you start to talk about yours. If you actively choose to be open about who you are, amazing things will come your way.
If there is something you are hiding or something you have been worried to share, I would encourage you to consider telling someone about it. Hopefully, you get the same love that I have gotten from so many 🙂
Thanks for reading!
Also published on Medium.