finding my voice | wallflower writing challenge
What are you tired of hiding?
I wrote Wallflower to help quiet women like me find their voices. But what I realized along the way is that whether you are quiet and shy or outgoing and assertive, all of us hide and suppress parts of ourselves. So what does that feel like? I would love to hear from you. The writing prompt is:
Describe, in your own unique way, what it feels like to hide parts of who you are from the world.
If you would like to participate in the challenge, email me your answers to the prompt above (between 10 and 200 words). I will be share some of the submissions on my Instagram page with the hashtag #_FindingMyVoice_. No worries if you prefer not to share your name, you can submit anonymously. The submissions I choose to share on Instagram will be entered to win a signed copy of Wallflower plus my self-discovery workbook, Writing the Layers and some surprise self-care goodies. The submissions that get the most likes from my Instagram family will win the challenge.
To submit, send me an email with the subject line: FINDING MY VOICE. Include your response to the prompt and whether or not your want your name and/or social media handle included.
I've received many submissions and while I'm not sharing all of them on Instagram for the challenge, they all deserve a platform so I'm capturing them here. It comforts and inspires me so much to read your testimonies. You never know who might desperately need to read your words to feel less alone. Feel free to leave a comment with the thoughts and feelings that come up for you from this prompt or any of the responses you read here.
Hiding parts of me from the world feels like I have a huge secret that I'm keeping from everyone else. Sometimes I feel guilty for not being who God says I am, wonderfully and perfectly made, accepted totally and completely by God. He knew all of my actions before they happened and loves me anyway. Other times I feel ashamed like the 13 year old girl with the part-time father, over-worked religious mother. The Olive Oyl shaped girl with the big lips, big nose, crooked teeth, average grades, not allowed to socialize, baby-sitter, maid, fondled by her grandfather and cousins. She would run to college to get away, lose her virginity and then drop-out. Become a baby mama by 21, careless and promiscuous in her 20s looking to fit in. Never precious or adored or valued by those that said they loved me. But the question should have always been....Are you precious, adored and valued by YOU?
I was taught to sit down and be quiet when others are talking. Don’t speak over the man because it emasculates them. When I hide parts of myself, it makes me feel safe and secure. There are times I wish people get to know the real me. However, it’s best to stay to myself because it’s all I have known. I think of my hiding as a mask no one is allowed to touch yet.
“He jumped off the Bridge”, she moaned through the phone. I hung up the phone, prayed to God, not sure what I was praying for.
Most morning it’s hard for to get out of bed, each day a challenge, riding the waves keeping my head above water. Hiding my feelings, right down to the minutes, a feeling of asphyxiation, by not wanting to make others uncomfortable by my grieving.
Hiding pieces of my true self from the world feels like a constant game of Whac-a-mole. As soon as I try to push one part down another pops up somewhere else and as soon as I get control over that one then the previous one shows back up in its full glory. It's an exhausting game to play and one that I never consciously signed up for, however social pressures have challenged me to this game and instead of refusing, I somehow have found myself sitting across the table with my mallet in hand wondering when the next seemingly unsavory personality quality will show up next so I can whack it. This game while appearing innocent is far from it. With each whack I feel as if I'm telling myself that you are not enough as is......you need to be better, you are doing too much......just stop, you are not doing enough.....step it up. The exact wording varies depending on the situation but the underlying message is the same, there's something wrong with you. Each time I whack a part of myself back down, I feel as if I leave an internal bruise on my mind and heart.
What it feels like to hide part of who I am to the world... It feels like I’m fitting everywhere and nowhere at the same time. It feels like nobody can really know who I am, because it seems like I’m still figuring that out. It feels like i’m trapped but free at the same time.
Hiding pieces of myself feels normal. More normal than it ever should. It's safe, it's comfortable and it's a crazy but strategic game. It's so ingrained in me that it's gone from an interpretation of what people expect of me to an internal dialogue. I'm the first in line to tell myself I can't. But the more I hide my true self the less I remember who I am. And the more I depend on hiding the easier it is lose the people and things I'm so desperately trying to keep. It becomes the worst strategy of all time. As I grow, every risk that I take sharing who I am has become like jumping out of a plane. It's nerves, excitement, sometimes your life flashes before your eyes. But then, you find your ground.
Don’t let them see you sweat
Body heat rising
Emotions with no way of escape
I am tired of hiding my emotions from the world
Don’t be angry
Don’t be sad
Don’t be nervous
Don’t show emotion
Don’t let them see you sweat
Who is them?
I am tired of hiding my emotions from me
Hiding parts of who I am from the world feels like...drowning. It’s wanting to stay above water, gasping for air, all while being overtaken by the fears and insecurities that is the water beneath me.
It’s like the nagging feeling of forgetting something at home—your phone charger or your umbrella. You’re able to function through the day, but there’s still the lingering thought of being without it. That part of you that makes you, you. What happens when your spark has been hidden from the world so long, that the hollowed-out version of yourself becomes the default? Will I find it waiting for me at home on my coffee table?
All that I have hidden from the world, I have not hidden from myself. I have it packed away, year after year, and now it is far too cumbersome. I am dense with underdeveloped ideas, delusional fantasies, stressful memories, and all the details that sensitive people soak in daily and internally hoard for years to come. It is harbored in my tendons, liver, gut and joints. It thwarts my blood flow, tightens my muscles, and stiffens my ligaments. I have been afraid to expose it all, yet wise enough to know a certain truth simmers in this unprocessed data. I tell myself, “Tomorrow I’ll face it, tomorrow I’ll share. I won’t hide tomorrow.” …But it seeps. Now I’ve become clumsy, uncoordinated, anxious and tense. The hiding bears too much weight. I have no choice but to face something, share something, today.
As a child I dreamed of nothing more than to have the superpower of invisibility. To exist in the world and yet not be seen by the world. I like to consider myself a social introvert. I enjoy being around my friends and family and I love to talk. But as much as I love to talk to others I love my solitude even more. I enjoy being alone. After spending a busy day being engaged with many people I am drained and I need hours of solitude to recover.
Imagine Patrick Star.
He loves living under his rock.
He’s made a home underneath his rock.
There’s security underneath the rock.
It would be awful if he got evicted.
That’s what hiding parts of who I am feels like. Feeling comfortable with the looming threat of exposure.
I’ll share what I share.
I’ll expose what’s underneath.
But only by my own terms and conditions
I sat down, pen in hand and commanded my fingers to write. I released all control and gave them permission to write all the words locked in the heart of my fingertips. The words that I fight daily to keep hidden. That I fight daily to ignore. Without hesitation my fingers begin the write about all the grief that is trapped deep in my soul. Once in a while someone will comment on how strong they think I am. And maybe they do see strength, but they don’t realize that I put on strength every morning that same way I pull a shirt over my head. I buckle strength in the same manner I hook my bra. Strength covers the scars left from the gaping holes cut in my heart by extreme loss. After 5 years, and 13 branches missing cut from my family, at the end of the night when I undress for bed, I hang strength on a hanger and store it in the closet to be worn the next day. But it’s grief that goes to bed with me. It’s grief that snuggles in for sleep beside me. The strength people see is but a garment, sometimes a mere facade. But the grief is real and the part that must stay hidden.
To hide who I am from this world is stifling. It’s unfair to my being & my growth. Most of all it’s wrong for the people who I can help with my own gifts. To hide parts of me is to NOT embrace how deserving I am of being happy, at peace & FREE. We’re all made to be us, I choose not to deny myself of that right any longer!
Who am I? Been asking my whole life. Who am I? I'm a wife, a mother, and??. Is that all that I am, am I what younger me saw for the future? I'm a daughter, sister, and?? Is that all that I am, feeling lost and confused. With time I realize I am all those things and more. I am Love, I am Kindness, and Compassion all bottled in one. I am strength, courage, and determination. With each new day I get to choose which me I want to be.
I remember the exhilaration I felt like as I rubbed my hand over the low buzz cut at the nape of my neck.
For the first time, I felt pride and love for my hair. Like it finally belonged to me after almost 2 decades of its purpose being to please someone else: Tubs of gel slicking my hair back into something neat and tidy to them, but dissociative and sticky to me. Or the fear-driven wars in my early 20s over whether I could handle washing my own hair, because it was important to them that I retained length. Buzzing my hair bought me a tiny sip of autonomy, and now I crave more.
It truly was exciting to consciously work toward the person I’ve always kept on paper. Because avoiding arguments and unsolicited advice by confining who you truly are to an internal cage leaves you aching to take up space and live your truth.
You ultimately feel like a blank canvas others feel they have the right to fill. Because “they know best” when it comes to painting a pretty picture. Even if the person forced to take all the credit doesn’t feel the same at all.
This oceanic depth of Love captured inside of me. It is enveloping and extended to feeling the furthest reaches of misfortune and what may be deemed unforgivable, understood. I feel I must sequester it, lest it be harvested without first saturating and baptizing me.
Megan B. (@themeganbaca):
I learned the art of holding my questions on the surface of my tongue until they dissolved like Listerine breath strips. I would keep my lips sealed until the flavor in my mouth turned sweet. I would start each day testing my breath making sure nothing I said would make folks upset. And so I became known as the girl with the bright smile and peppermint voice. A voice that didn’t make waves, but didn’t speak substance. Until mama said that bad breath can be caused by an empty stomach. That’s the day that I knew that I could not spend my life trying to survive off the melted remains of these questions. I needed the nourishment that came from real answers. Answers that never scared my Creator in the first place. So these days the words that hang on my breath may not be mild, but they are genuine. And finally, after all these years, I feel full.
Buried under self-doubt + insecurities, lies my light that rose every morning with the sun. I hide parts of me that no one else possesses but always criticizes, just to blend in. The rarities that make me unique tucked inside my pocket for the times I’m alone or the chance that someone else reveals a piece the same. Hiding myself feels like dying from suffocation. Stifling my voice and smothering myself slowly + painfully. With each gasp of air, letting myself be defined by other’s opinions. Allowing their definitions to frame my reality. I’m living in a world that isn’t mine. My mind feels like a prison instead of home. All because I can’t see people’s expectations out and re-invite my light into the world.
Through generations of black women in my family, we were passed down the story of staying silent. This is how the story went: Only the men had the right to speak. We were told to not “speak unless we were spoken to”. Did we get a scratch or a wound? Don’t whine about it. Go get some hydrogen peroxide, a band-aid, and move on with your day. Don’t say what is truly right because we would upset the man. If we cry over a heartbreak, we deserved for it to happen. If our body was violated, we deserved for it to have scars. Don’t tell them what really happened because we would become a target. Hide our vulnerability and our “weakness” because we are strong and nothing will tear us down. It will be stripped away like a superhero’s powers. Don’t give the world who you truly are, my sister.
When I was 11, I lost my voice and it took years for it to bring it back. But, I would cry if I felt my word were too harsh or not enough. It’s better for the world to not who I truly am because once I show them, the truth will hurt.
Brittney M. (@britbratmac_):
Suppressing aspects of myself from the world feels like someone has locked a raging fire behind a plethora of locked doors. More and more the fire grows, and the locks tighten. The locks are labeled with phrases such as, "this isn't the place or time, you're too loud, and just pray it away". My anxiety, my sadness, and my "blackness" are a few things that simmer in the heat. Waiting to be free, waiting to be heard, and waiting to be healed. The parts of me the world are comfortable with are without fear of being extinguished. They try to rescue the pieces of me locked away but only become singed and tired from the fight. I fear that I will never be able to fully be myself and allow myself to heal, not just the pieces of me that can be seen but those that burn in my throat when I try to speak on them. I know that what I hide is genuine and pure. It is me in all my flaws and glory. It is not a wildfire or one that destroys. It is a cleansing fire and a welcoming warmth to those who set it free.
Sometimes, in the space below my ribs, tucked beneath my heart, a cavern open wide. Deep, crashing, consuming sadness and loneliness opens up and begins swallowing me whole, sucking the breath from my lungs. Alone. Sad. Afraid. There seems to be no end to the feelings, no resolve, no bottom to the pit. I flail with anxiety as I try to pull myself away from the pit. This is the panic and pain of deep trauma, born from a time when we truly were alone and harmed and in danger, literally or figuratively. This is what I have hidden from others, from the world. This awareness— that this swirling globe of despair is always right in my gut, able to open its chasm wide without any notice, threatening to envelop me—haunts me. We grow, we gain tools and healing, but nothing fully takes away the memory of those feelings, the awareness of their source, the threat of their return. So I relegate that part of me far away, hidden from others and sometimes myself, even as I try to make peace with it, remind myself and the child I once was that I am now safe, free, happy.
I wish I could say that I've finally found my voice, but I can't. Perhaps, I can say I made head way into finding it; after all I'm not the same person I was 5, 10 years ago. Back then there was a little girl afraid of everything. She didn't know who to trust, what was acceptable to say or worried too much about what others would think. Yes, she questioned it all. It wasn't until she moved away to another country by herself that her eyes finally opened up to a different reality. The life she was currently living wasn't the one she wanted forever. There was a world full of endless possibilities and here she was limiting herself. This was the breakthrough. It was time to let her voice be heard. However, being trapped by all these previous thoughts it only started as a whisper. As she grew, she found herself speaking louder and louder, only to realize the real power of her voice. Even though she's not at the point she sees for herself, it's a start.
Throughout my life, I’ve been privileged to attend some of the best schools in my city, state, and even states away from those I love. I’ve excelled academically despite “daddy issues”. I’ve even excelled somehow despite my struggles with low self-esteem and irrational fears.
For every trophy, certificate, and good word said about me is a voice that whispers, “You’re still not good enough.” Like clockwork, the accolades which once gave me hope that my life matters crumble at my stained feet. You see, for years, I’ve been trying to tend my garden as Candide suggested long ago but who wants to see the scattered dirt and chaos that precedes flowers in bloom? Where is the beauty in that? Who takes pictures of that? Who proudly shows the world their mess?
And so, I’ve resorted to hiding. Each day, I carefully place my soiled feet behind bleached white socks, hoping no one asks me to uncover them. For if someone does, I fear the world will no longer love the truth that was once masked by “beauty”.
All this time I was thinking I was doing a damn good job, having others need me and never appearing to need them. I sat at the restaurant telling my best friend about the feelings that are blooming for him and how I don't want to be on the losing side of this. She looks at me and tells me," this isn't a game so stop playing it like it is one. You have a lot of walls up. Their will be times that you get hurt and you just have to be okay with that and continue on." I felt cornered and exposed. I thought I had buried those walls only where I could see them. Somewhere 3 blocks down from shame and right around the corner of the place my black mother sheds her tears...all the things I did never see growing up but some how molded this woman today. I am hiding, I've been down this road before and losing him sent chills down my bones and I cried enough for my mother and myself...until there was nothing left. These walls are all I know and sure they are not always welcomed nor do they go rampant but they have kept me warmer than the men I have loved. While hiding I smile with the best of them and he says he's comfortable with me as he steals glances and kisses when I'm not looking...but the last time we kissed I felt a clear shift. I kissed him once more for reassurance but now I'm certain there's a tide changing. Now I'm wondering if he can see the walls too.
Every morning I wake up with anxiety.
A hollow pit at the base of my stomach.
Swimming with things I wanted to say yesterday
Last week, 10 months ago.
And now they're all welling up in my throat.
Making it hard to distinguish between things left unsaid
And the feeling you get when you're about to cry.
This happens everyday.
I can no longer tell the difference.
But the idea of sharing something less than perfect with people is equally as torturing. From writing to sheer wonderment about the world, giving myself to people who may not understand, makes my soul shake.
This uneasiness is only complicated by a society seemingly stuck in ‘build-a-brand’ mode, for I battle with consistency -- finding it difficult to be the same; give the same amount every day. I'd rather not make a public commitment.
So I don't. And then before you know it, the creative gods pass me over, lending my idea to someone more extroverted; someone less sensitive than I.
I feel like I will miss my calling if I don't snap out of it.
Ten years later, crouched over in the corner of a psych ward -- rocking back and forth incessantly -- reciting unexecuted ideas over and over.
I am living a personal hell of a life unlived.
Today, tomorrow and until I can step outside my shadow.
No one knows that I will soon explode if this doesn't happen.
No one knows that inside, I feel a gift so strong that if she had legs she’d get up and walk out of my groins, sick and tired of being undefined in this fragile encasement, I call a body. It is me that holds her back.
I am an amalgam of valuable thoughts, supernatural intuition and artists I look up to. I am a highly sensitive human with emotions so raw they can cut through the current-chaotic-climate. But I hold onto these things - preferring to keep the chaos inside and out of the way of others.
It feels like I'm closed in. Claustrophobic. Like someone’s holding me hostage. Maybe I'm holding myself hostage. At 33 years old, I’m in emotional rehab. Fighting with my mind every day. Telling people how I really feel even though I'm scared as hell. Going with my gut, instead of second guessing myself. Fighting for my voice, taking a chance on me.
Hiding parts of who I am from the world is like keeping on a shelf (hidden in plain sight) a cedar hope chest lined with silky soft satin and filled with whimsy—eccentricities and oddities too numerous to name! The curious contents are an eclectic mix of bohemian artifacts that are archetypal of a rich inner existence. They include quaint bits and bobs such as cerulean plumes, which are the flights of fancy that characterize my highly imaginative thought life. My plumes give me the heights! And because I am deeply introspective and quiet-spirited, they also give wings to any thoughts my heart may wish to convey to a listening ear as, when it comes to words, I speak them better in writing. Ah, my tongue is the pen of a ready writer! There is so much more in my wooden box, yea, so much more to this pensive dreamer than meets the eye. Hiding parts of who I am from the world is like holding on to the end of a beautiful mystery just waiting to be unraveled…
What would they think, what if they knew
What would they say about my spectrum of hues
Could they handle the ardent reds of my blazing fire
Or my zesty bold oranges, I’m a juicy live wire
What if they judge me for my deep dark blues
Then discredit the bright yellows of the joy I never lose
If I showed my soft pinks and parts of me still green
Am I still entitled to rock purples, to be a wise majestic queen
It’s clear as clean whites my tones make me divine
But I stay cloaked in black trying to dull down this shine
Turn down this light fearing the thoughts of others
But maybe I’m the one afraid of all my womanly colors
Keeping my rainbows tucked so I’ll never know
How glorious I can be, how bright I can glow
But it’s time to emerge from the dark and be seen bright as day
No more hiding from myself, no more hiding my shades
Tired of hiding behind the lie of challenging traditional gender roles when the truth is he'd rather chase a dream than provide for his family; the weight of that has become far too much for this semi-traditional woman to carry.