Hiding In Plain Sight
Sunglasses have always been my shield.
They’ve been my protection from being seen.
They’ve made me feel more confident.
They’ve provided a barrier of safety.
With their dark lenses and large face hiding frames.
Making eye contact impossible.
Between me and the people around me.
So that no one could see and get to know the real me.
And why would they want to?
Because if they knew the real me, they would never like me.
So, I always wear my shield.
Indoors, outdoors, sunny, rainy.
And I would tell people it was because I don’t want eye wrinkles.
And this story has always worked for me.
Until it didn’t.
On an overcast day at a retreat in Peru, a man saw right through me.
Right through my barrier.
The retreat was around giving back, but also growing as a person.
Exploring possibilities within yourself that you normally wouldn’t explore.
And this was a group conversation with no one wearing sunglasses.
I also wore a hat to try and hide even further.
I stuck out like a sore thumb.
It was obvious I was hiding.
Red flags everywhere.
I never want to be noticed.
And I knew we were going to go deep into our personal journey.
I truly wanted to talk and share, but I was nervous.
And I wanted to do it behind my shield. My glasses.
In the group, I just tried to look strong and not make eye contact with anyone.
Thinking to myself…
“I do not want to be called on.
Maybe I don’t want to share after all.
At least not yet,
No, he can call on me today.
I can get through this talk as long as I have my sunglasses on…”
All of a sudden, the man calls on me and asks me to take off my sunglasses.
I never knew such a simple request could be so terrifying.
When I took them off, whatever little confidence I had also left.
My walls were down.
My shield and barrier gone.
People can see me. The real me.
I felt so exposed.
And I was freaking out.
My heart racing, my voice shaking.
Because here I was.
About to share my story, without my shield.
Oh God, just let me put my sunglasses on, I need them on, I remember thinking to myself.
I wanted them on so I could hide.
Hide my pain
Hide my hurt.
But, there was no hiding.
And for the next couple days, with my sunglasses off, I shared.
I shared parts of my story I have never told anyone.
It was emotional.
And it was painful.
I BAWLED my eyes out.
Uncontrollably at times.
Unable to breathe and barely able to get the words out.
While it may sound embarrassing, it strangely wasn’t.
Because in those few days, I conquered my biggest fear.
The fear of being seen. Really seen.
In the midst of this public breakdown, I was at my most vulnerable.
For all to see.
And without my sunglasses to hide behind.
And you know what?
I didn’t die.
No one laughed or judged me.
I was with a group of amazing people who allowed me to feel safe.
And I will never forget them.
What a relief.
To verbally purge my deepest secrets and not hide anymore.
Not only from others, but from myself.
From my past.
From my story.
I’m still not fully comfortable being seen,
But I am aware of it now.
I even take off my sunglasses indoors.
Maybe I’ll go a year without sunglasses.
To really see others while allowing them to see me.
To make eye contact with strangers.
Who knows, I might just make a friend without my shield up.
I don’t have to hide anymore.
And I learned confidence doesn’t come from $10 sunglasses.
It comes from loving myself and letting others love me and see me.
The real me.
So, hi…I’m Jack.