By Ben Merrill
I am sure most of us have heard the song “Let It Go” from the movie Frozen at least half a dozen times now. I know my daughter plays it daily, sings it to herself, and asks to watch the movie multiple times per day. Even though it is a song from a children’s movie, I think it showcases an issue that many of us face in our lives. The first verse of the song reads “A kingdom of isolation and it looks like I’m the queen. The wind is howling like the swirling storm inside. Couldn’t keep it in, heaven knows I’ve tried. Don’t let them in, don’t let them see. Be the good girl you always have to be. Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know.”
We get a glimpse in this verse of someone feeling a deep need to suppress their feelings and hide their true self for fear of being exposed and rejected. I know I have personally felt this way, and many of the clients I work with of all ages experience this same fear. It causes us to hide our feelings and thoughts, and not consider our desires or dreams. We strive to make everything appear perfect on the outside so people will admire us, respect us, and accept us. However, working to “conceal, don’t feel” is typically ineffective for hiding our true feelings and at its worst, it can lead to anxiety, depression, and even physical illness.
When we are working to present a pleasing image to others, what we may be silently communicating to ourselves is “My feelings are not important. What I want does not matter, and if people saw who I truly was they would not accept me.” This leads us to live in fear of being exposed as the fraud we feel we are, and unless we decide to take a risk and be vulnerable we could go through our entire life this way.
So let me make two potentially freeing suggestions:
1. Take the risk and be vulnerable with those who love you. Nothing I have experienced tops the unconditional acceptance and love you can enjoy when you let those closest to you see you fully, warts and all, and they accept you anyway.
2. Invite the ones you love to be vulnerable with you. Take the time and opportunity to show the ones you love that it is safe to be vulnerable with you. When they share experiences, feelings, fears, or failings with you, validate their experience and do your best not to come across as judging or questioning, but rather seeking to understand and provide support.
Some experiences go beyond the scope of what a family member or loved one is equipped to handle or help, or certain relationship dynamics do not allow for safe disclosure in the context of the relationship. This is an excellent time to seek the assistance of a counselor who can help facilitate healing in the relationships and bring you to a place where you are able to feel safe being vulnerable and experiencing the joy of being fully known and being accepted.