So here’s my real portrait:
I am a child who was abused by her father at three years old. A girl from a small town who developed a great imagination and used it as an escape into the world of reading and writing. A teenager who slept with someone who wasn’t her age—actually, who was six years older—and although consensual, it was also illegal. Add statutory rape to the list.
I was a young woman who hopped from relationship to relationship—admittedly, sometimes they even overlapped (how dare I be alone for even one second). I loved deeply, everyone except myself. I became a nurse because it was safe. I had a stalker, a professor who propositioned me, and cancer, twice. I moved to a new city on a whim, knowing no one. I was single for the first time in my entire life at twenty-five years old, and that’s when I met my husband. Cue the white knight.
I married, settled into suburban life, tried to start a family and had two miscarriages. Then I had my daughter, my son, and found my husband on the floor almost dead. Anxiety and depression have cycled through my veins my entire life, but now they are back with vengeance. Right along with low self-esteem and body image issues.
There’s a lot of beauty sprinkled in there too, but chances are that’s already public knowledge. I had no problem sharing my highlight reel; it was all this other stuff I kept hidden for far too long.
So why can I say all of that now without breaking a sweat?
Well, it’s because of that perfect photo.
The day my daughter was diagnosed with autism I opened a private Instagram account just for myself. I used it as a journal, as a means to post the not-so-pretty. It was cathartic and life changing. It freed me to be seen, and yet still remain unseen.
When comments rolled in about my “perfect” family, I felt so icky about my half-truth life I decided to make that account public. I was shaking as I hit the submit button, but as soon as I saw responses with a resounding message of “me too,” I knew I was home. I was finally accepted—mainly, most importantly, by myself.
We all have a private versus public image and that’s okay. There’s things we show the outside world, and there’s things that we keep close. But the problem becomes when there’s no overlap. When you lead such a duplicitous life, that you start saying (or posting) things you don’t even mean, feel, or believe. That may get you a million acquaintances, but in my experience it seems like humans in our core desire connection. And there’s just no way to get that through perfectly filtered photos and carefully worded posts.
Not all stories need to be told on such a grand scale. My liberation was a long, long time coming. But the lightness I feel now trumps any fake feeling I had before. Will sharing your truth come at a cost? Perhaps. There’s some significant people from my life who have been noticeably silent during my more recent story sharing. But here’s the flip side to that:
“We can choose to be perfect and admired or be real and loved.” – Glennon Doyle
Choose love. Every single time, choose love. Admiration means nothing if you can’t claim your truth.
If there’s a private image you want to make public, do it. Maybe even share it with one person first. It frees the space for others to follow, or at the very least, understand you better. No risk, no reward.
And I promise when you do so, not only will your island of isolation shrink, the picture of your life will be worth way more than a thousand words.
This post originally appeared on LoveWhatMatters.com, published with permission.