“I’ve never seen you on the inside”, my son Zac said to me recently, with something like wonderment.
I’d been trying to explain that sometimes people could feel really shy or anxious, and nobody but them might be able to tell. This was after my seven year old, Bianca, had dredged up a memory about a birthday party where she’d felt too shy to join in. It was obviously troubling her. Zac kindly shared that he, too, often felt like that.
I then shared that despite how confident I might seem on the outside, I too sometimes felt shy and anxious, and that it was quite normal to feel this way, sometimes. And that talking about it really helped.
Zac’s response reminded me that it’s really very difficult to genuinely know someone ‘on the inside’.
I perhaps have some insight on this subject: This year I celebrate, yes celebrate, 20 years in therapy.
I bet that might surprise a few people. I now know that looking in from the outside I don’t appear to lack in confidence, or to have any obvious outer reasons for being in therapy for that amount of time. Much of the work I have done in therapy has been about closing this gap between how others see me and how I see myself.
It’s taken me this long to feel confident enough to share this experience beyond the boundaries of those closest to me – to “put it out there’ for all to potentially see.
Gradually my ‘inner circle’ has widened from a few close friends to extend to team mates and senior colleagues whose opinions I might once have coveted so much I would have avoided sharing such information about myself at all costs.
Once I might have feared this would be seen as a sign of weakness. Now I know it to be a sign of strength, and a source of ongoing strength. I’m a better mother, wife, friend, colleague and manager for having done this inner work and continuing to prioritise this in my busy life.
My last post on parenting a child with Asperger’s Syndrome seemed to connect with others. I share this post in the same spirit, that by being open there is nothing to fear, only to gain.