You’d never know it, but that’s me in the photo. I’ve been bundled up like this for three long months to protect myself from a cold Maine winter. Every day before going out for my walk, I put on layer upon layer of clothing, and by the time that red scarf gets wrapped around my neck I am unrecognizable—I am just a body walking around with no unique or distinguishable features.
But it’s been way too long a time to be hidden in this way. Enough is enough, I have a yearning to be seen.
I think the sun is just as fed-up as I am, because last week it decided that it was time to show off its beautiful face. At 44 degrees, temperatures felt almost tropical, and so off came the layers.
Now, the idea of walking outside without a hat and scarf may not strike you as monumental, but trust me, when I go for long periods without letting my hair hang loose, or without exposing my freckles to warm sunlight, or without being recognized, I begin to dry up both literally and figuratively, and I find myself wondering what’s the point of living if no-one really sees me.
You may think this is all a bit too dramatic—but, I think not. You see, the times in my life when I’ve been covered in layers so to speak, when I’ve hidden myself from the world, when I’ve been afraid to let people see the real me—these were the most unnatural, life-less, and energy-draining times of my life.
But, when I’ve shown up, spoken up, stood up, and been unafraid to be me….well, that has always been the time when I’ve felt free, involved, creative, expressive, and fully me—I call it the sweet spot in my life. It’s me allowing the true ME to come out.
Layers come in all forms. Some are called FEAR, INSECURITY, CYNICISM, or INERTIA. Whatever your preference, we wear them thinking they are going to protect us from the big bad world. The truth is, holding on to these layers keeps us from feeling that sweet spot in life. We are being invited to come out and play in the world, and we keep saying NO.
Layers have a seemingly protective quality, but don’t be fooled. They separate you from your true self that wants to be free, honest and expressive. You’ll know if you have layers, because you’ll feel burdened, heavy, unexpressed, imprisoned and miserable.
Part of my work with clients is to help them peel off their layers. Like when you don’t speak up and express your ideas at work for fear of sounding stupid. It’s when you tolerate relationships that aren’t working, because you don’t want to offend people. A layer can also show up when you act disinterested, when in fact, you’re just plain afraid to give an honest opinion.
It’s going to take another three months until I can completely peel off the layers of winter clothing. It’s going to take time. I’ll do it gradually one layer at a time, carefully testing the waters to make sure I feel comfortable, safe, and warm. But it will happen.
Then one day, there I’ll be. I’ll be wearing shorts and a tee- shirt, fully recognizable, fully me, and with a lightness in my step. I look forward to that day.