I recently was out for a morning walk, bundled up, 7am, sipping coffee. As I was crossing the street, I noticed someone that I used to know passing by and when I went to say hello, because you know, adults, I saw him raise his eyebrows at me and look away. My first reaction after “What the fuck was that?” was “Oh my god, he saw me. In glasses, no makeup, I haven’t brushed my teeth, this is the worst winter hat I own, I was seen.”
Let me recap: Someone I have never liked gave me side eye at 7 in the morning and my reaction was shame. That I was wrong. That I was seen. And shouldn’t have been.
It took me that next few blocks of my walk to get out of my ego. Man oh man, ego.
I had a similar conversation about being seen with a friend not too long before that. We put ourselves “out there” on purpose; we blog, we post on social media, we claim we are strong personalities but when it comes to being seen in an uncurated way or unexpectedly, we get small. Post this imperfect photo of this ordinary moment? Have a strong opinion? Share our work loudly? OMG, someone might see me.
Isn’t that the point?
Isn’t that what we were going for by, I don’t know, even having a Facebook/Instagram account, being a writer, creating a business? Being a person on the planet?
There is a disconnect between being seen as-is and the curated story we share with the intent of being seen.
I work from home when I don’t travel and most days, the cat does something cute/funny/sleeps and we send selfies to Ryan at work. I am not one of those people who abides by the whole “even when working from home, shower and put on real clothes” thing. Yoga pants, hair on top of my head, more than likely rocking my sweatshirt with the great state of Texas in bright shiny gold on it because it’s super soft, it was a gift from a friend very dear to me and I can say “Texas Forever” when I look at myself in the mirror. Anyways, these selfies. The cat and I send them. And when I am scrolling through all the photos in my phone, I am always surprised by how much I really like these photos. I look…like me. On my less-than-confident days, I see the forehead that needs Botox yesterday and hair that is a day past a good shampoo and good lord, do something with yourself. But on days where I feel like me, which are increasingly more often the older I get thank you JESUS, I see the lines by my eyes that remind me of my mom and her decades of laughing and I get excited about them deepening with that same kind of joy. I see my smile. I like smiling. I see a face I am proud of simply because it’s mine and I am proud of the person I am, grown to be, fought to be. I want that person to be seen and spoiler alert, it is seen because it’s me and I am with me every day.
Back to the multi-block walk of shame.
What freaked me out so much about being seen by this person, glasses, ugly hat and all? Actually…nothing. But because I wasn’t prepared to be seen, my armor of curation wasn’t on ready to inflate my ego if need be. Brene Brown says that shame needs 3 things to thrive: judgment, secrecy and silence and after my ego about the ugly hat got walked out, shame was DOA, dead on arrival.
And that selfie with the cat? I posted it on Instagram. I love that photo. I love the photo where I am glammed up at the Green Mill on my birthday too. The thing both images have? Me. Happy.
I’ve got to admit that I kind of got a high from posting it. It felt like shouting to myself “See?! You are FINE! You are worthy and good and deserving of being seen ALL THE TIME! Not just when you are right or planned or have makeup on…you are here and that is GOOD!”.
Being in control of what is seen, when it is seen and how we might be seen does not need to be our armor. It does not protect us from others. It hides us from ourselves and from loving the selfie we are at noon on a Thursday just as much as we love the Saturday night date selfie.
And I think you should love your selfie. And be seen. All the time.