We all long to be visible; transparently who we really are, without hiding. If we were fortunate, we felt seen and loved as children, and if we weren't, we fought to be noticed in our families. I am only now starting to feel seen as myself without working every minute of every day to achieve that visibility.
It's a peaceful feeling, and one that I am enjoying. For a long time, I had a picture of myself in my mind that I simply couldn't shake. In this image, I was jumping up and down as a kindergartner, shouting, "Look at me, look at me!" It's possible that the recollection is a metaphorical one and not actually physical, but it sums up this desire to go from being in the background to centre stage.
To some degree, everyone is a narcissist. We all want to be noticed and valued, but for most of my life I put my energy into recognition for the wrong things. I displayed my shiny behaviour to the world and wanted to be loved for it. This pursuit of outward perfection lasts for a little while, and then it wears you down as the fear of being discovered as imperfect threatens to overtake your beautiful achievements.
Going back to counseling to uncover this unconscious desire to be seen for who I am and loved because I exist and not because I achieve has tilted my world. I panicked initially that I was becoming selfish and vain, interested only in myself, until that passed and left me with the new conviction that it was okay to do this work in my own soul.
We are all entitled to grow. It will tend to make people in our lives deeply uncomfortable, and I am still coming to terms with this. I struggle with it each and every day. I would prefer to be loved by all, but that's not a realistic picture of what true relationships look like.
I must remind myself often that we are all broken. We are all in need of healing and as our thoughts go, so our behaviour goes. I'm trying to change many of my negative thoughts and it makes a huge difference to how I experience life.
Nothing worthwhile is ever easy. In hindsight, I recognize that often it was easier to feel invisible. There were more places to hide. My disguises were well-developed and served specific purposes. They protected me from pain, but also from joy and the sense of freedom that being myself at all times provides.
There is no going back. I feel more visible in my relationships now. I am not perfect, and no longer waste time and energy pretending I am. I hurt others, intentionally and unintentionally, and must take ownership over my behaviour. No more blaming and denying. I have come to understand that those things are a dead-end road.
Deep inside, I recognize that young child who wants to be seen, but feels afraid of what that will mean for her. I am working to coax her out into the light. I love her, and want her to feel safe in the world. She will be hurt, because she is vulnerable and honest, but hurts eventually heal.
Pretending to be something I'm not is a much darker road than being visible as myself and being injured. I am learning to heal and grow, and these are skills which will help me for the rest of my life.