As human beings, we are experts at hiding. Early in our childhood, we learn to put on the desired outer shell, and oh, how we perfect this piece of art over the years. We even completely forget they’d been shells in the first place. They become part of our personalities. Indeed, they become so natural, such a seemingly innate part of us, that we don’t even realise we wear one.
And still – no matter how normal – you pay a price, because you can’t choose. Letting a shell slide off feels dangerous. After all it’s a crucial part to be loved and accepted, isn’t it?
It’s just: Do you want to be loved for the shell you show, or for who you really are? What’s more: A shell lets you not just hide your full self, it also saves you from taking over responsibility – you let the shell do the work, rather than asking what parts you might want to work on, or where you want to show up differently.
While some shells might be pretty obvious, others can be extremely sneaky. Those are a few I myself have worn:
- The compassion shell: I’ll start with my personal “favourite” – I never got this for a really long time. Because – you’d think having compassion is the best thing you could do for others. Listening deeply and support them in what they need. Sharing your own weaknesses if it serves them. Right?
It’s just, what we probably (secretly) crave most is for others to be real. And if you spend all of your time being there for someone and supporting them, and sharing well-calculated bits about you, when do you show who you are, really?
- The confidence shell: This is about the person who has (all) the answers. The strong one to lean on. The one that treats information like vital power. Hiding well calculated bits. No mean intentions there, quite the opposite: With responsibility and protection of your entrusted ones in mind. The price you pay is that you don’t just have the control in the first place, but you need it to feel good. And amidst people you might end up very alone. Plus – it is exhausting.
- The I-am-myself shell: Yes, it’s possible to hide in plain sight. If you decide you’re finally just doing you, unapologetically, done with hiding forever, it might be a trap to hide anew. Why? Because you build an aura of invincibility. “You is you” and this is perfect. If you choose this path, you might not hide who the most obvious “you” seems to be. But you end up being all over the place and you lose the ability (and allowance) to differentiate, develop, change.
- The funny shell: What is wrong in making other people laugh? Well, nothing, really, except you might find you’re the one to crack the jokes, regardless of how you really feel. The funny guy isn’t expected to feel shitty in any way after all, is he? It might be a bit less of a sneaky shell for yourself, but people tend to ask less how someone funny might really feel – and even though funny and likeable, you might end up more alone than you thought possible.
- The self-development shell: I love that one, because I think it’s the sneakiest. How could you possibly hide if you do lots of self-development? Well the trap is that you might think “you did a lot of work and you finally got this.” – while, really, in fact, you’ll never fully “get” anything. So imagine you wanting to keep the impression up that you’re this well-behaved, well-developed human that doesn’t fall prey to the low feelings anymore – there you go, hello, shell!
- The victim shell: This is a very tempting shell. Because it allows you either to easily bond over some shared horror, and/or you really easily attract people who want to help. Also, it makes life kind of easy (if not enjoyable) to take over the victim part in things. Notice where you might make others responsible? The price is again high, because the victim isn’t the one who changes his own circumstances and creates her own life.
What’s your strategy to hide?