Accepting who we are and showing our true identities to the world is a life-changing, liberating experience.
By Eli Bravo
In recent days, I heard a phrase on the radio that struck me: "Apologize for what you've done, but never apologize for who you are." It was Ash Beckham talking on NPR, the American National Public Radio system. Beckman is an activist who explores the importance of communicating with openness, compassion and empathy.
Her central theme is the right that every human being has to express his or her sexuality, something she knows well. For over twenty years, Ash hid from her family the fact that she was a lesbian, and when she finally "came out of the closet"—admitting publicly her sexual orientation--she found that the revelation of her secret generated very diverse and unexpected reactions.
Among her family and friends some people were upset, others were disappointed, and many thanked her for her honesty. But revealing her true identity was very a liberating experience. She no longer needed to meet other people`s expectations and was able to live her truth. "Show the world that we are bigger than our closets, and the closet is no place where a person can live" was the final statement of the TED presentation called We all hide something, let`s find the courage to open up.
Ash Beckham is right to say that we all have some closet where we hide what we don't want others to know. Telling someone you are no longer in love; revealing a medical diagnosis or pregnancy, confessing a slip, or coming clean about a mistake are also ways out of the closet. Telling a painful truth could be traumatic or create high anxiety, but it is the way to freedom.
When we are so fearful, we prefer to be kept in the dark. We will begin to lose spontaneity and candor; honesty and sincerity. We stop being ourselves to become whatever others expect of us.
Talking about who we are—in an open and productive way— is not always easy. We must first know and accept ourselves. We should be ready to agree on the consequences because "there will be consequences". And although the reactions may be different from what we expect, they will indeed be liberating. Isn't living in light better than shadows?
In her TED TALK, Ash Beckman recommends three ground rules to start these difficult conversations. And while they originate from her experience, the truth applies to any other situation.
First: be authentic and get rid of your armor. If we want a person to be frank and real with us, we must show the same respect, but that person has to be aware of our vulnerabilities, pains and weaknesses.
Second: be direct. These conversations would likely remove a bandage from your skin. It is best done in one fast swoop. Mulling the issue or sending confusing signals can generate misunderstandings.
And third, do it without remorse. Communicate your truth—whatever it is—with the inner strength that comes from a clear, compassionate awareness that seeks what is good for yourself and others. Then people will be able to see you as you are, and, most importantly, you will see yourself more honestly.
Eli Bravo is the Managing Director and Chief Editor of Inspirulina, a Spanish content website with articles on wellness, personal growth and health. ■
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