“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive—to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.” —Marcus Aurelius
There is a yearning within each of us for authentic connection, acceptance, freedom of self-expression, and to experience love and be loved without borders. For many of us, this yearning is pacified when we remove our masks and become completely vulnerable.
I have always connected love to immense pain, internal chaos, dysfunction, shame, and sacrifice due to my early childhood, adolescent, and adult life experiences with abuse and violence. For years, I have yearned to experience love that is undefiled, because I believe another type of love is possible and I want to be present at its creation. However, that yearning never blossomed, as it was incapacitated by fear, which was enabled by the masks I wore.
I came to realize that broken childhoods create broken adults, and broken adults somehow find each other on this journey called life. I also learned that every person has a different understanding of love and sacrifice. People often speak of sacrifice as though it’s a priceless artifact that demands idolization. In reality, sacrifice hurts—and our vision of it is sometimes skewed and manipulated by internal and external factors.
It took me a long time to acknowledge and accept that I was a broken child in an adult body—an adult who was unhealed and bleeding in many areas of my life. I only felt comfortable far behind the masks. Nevertheless, for healing to take place, I needed to find my authentic self, which meant I had to begin a process of being uncomfortable, removing my masks, and allowing myself to be vulnerable.
This process continues to be emotionally exhilarating and trying. It’s also necessary as I work towards building a full and abundant life. It’s undoubtedly uncomfortable because I must be consciously vulnerable, and the mere thought of vulnerability breeds fear and thoughts of shame, sacrifice, isolation, and disconnection.
In the past, there have been few instances where I authentically allowed people into my emotional space, as I didn’t trust anyone and my fear had limited my belief in others. I was afraid of how I would be viewed if I shared my full self and experiences, and my emotional nakedness. Would connections remain? Would people understand my process of growth and healing? Ultimately, I’d feared being shamed, so my connections were always at a surface level. I shared enough information to only make people believe that they knew all of me, when in fact, they didn’t.
It pained me to see others standing outside of my emotional space thinking they were inside. The unhealed me thought it necessary for her survival, and there were times when she was outside of her own emotional space because the pain of existing there was too unbearable. This was a mask I wore all too well to “protect” myself and to hide the dirty family, community, and religious secrets that society preferred not to hear. I am learning to embrace this emotional space and to be vulnerable to overcome my fears.
One of my most authentic experiences of love, sacrifice, and connection was the birth of my daughters; it was in seeing their faces, touching their hands, and listening to their hearts beat. As a thriving survivor of severe abuse, I remember making a pledge to protect and love my children, giving them the love, life, and experiences I never had. Sadly, they did not grow up emotionally unscathed. I was an unhealed and wounded parent, trying to navigate my own past and present experiences while being responsible for new lives.
During this process, I am unearthing emotions and feelings that I covered, and being present with them while facing some of my greatest fears: fear of being and reciprocating love, fear of accepting that I am worthy, fear of my imperfections, and fear of being ashamed and shamed because of my experiences…but more so, fear of this dim version of who I became because of brutalization, marginalization, abuse, and violence.
The impregnable walls I built are being chiseled away. I am gently nudging myself to be vulnerable, and to embrace and understand untainted and authentic love. I am allowing authentic connections to see me, understand me, love my imperfections, and journey with me through my metamorphosis.
I cannot continue running away from myself—because my experiences shaped me into the woman advocate I am today. My advocacy does not mean that I have overcome all my experiences, and nor am I perfect; on the contrary, it means that I am willing to be imperfect, walk in my messiness, be vulnerable, build authentic connections, become bolder than my present self, love without borders, and fulfill my destiny. It is clear that if I desire healing and the ability to live a full and abundant life, I must experience the awesomeness of love and become intentionally naked!