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Dealing with Fear of Being Seen

(for who we really are)

white fur textile on red and white textile
I’ll be here if you need me.

Years ago, when my kids were little, I started my first blog. I kicked it off with an article about overcoming perfectionism. Ironically enough, my first idea for this new blog is the very thing that lives just under the surface of perfectionism: fear. (As in, I am afraid of being seen as imperfect, not meeting expectations, and therefore not being accepted.)

I thought I overcame perfectionism, but it turns out I still have a pretty decent amount of fear when it comes to really being seen. If you think you don’t, try publishing a book. It ALL comes up!

Perhaps many of us do have these underlying fears, particularly if we have emotional wounds and/or CPTSD. At some point, we may have learned to hide parts of ourselves (feelings, opinions, wants, needs, etc) in order to stay safe or keep an emotionally unstable person happy. Even though that may have happened years ago, when we feel exposed it triggers within us a need to hide and self-protect. (See this book by Pete Walker if this resonates but you aren’t yet familiar with C(Complex) PTSD.)

So how does fear of being seen show up in everyday life?

  • People pleasing. We’re afraid of being seen as too demanding so we don’t speak up when we want or need something. (There’s a whole chapter on this in my book!)
  • When we avoid doing a thing we feel called to do, because we fear jugement from those around us. 
  • When we don’t let anyone see our art, writing, or other craft because “it’s nothing” or “it isn’t ready yet.”

I’m sure there are more, so think about where fear of being seen may show up for you. 

And yes, I am absolutely broiling in this right now with the new book, Secrets of the Resilient Empath, up for release on Amazon in less than a week. Knowing some people in my life won’t understand the empath concept (or rather, won’t understand me) brings up a ton of insecurity.

Like it or not, (and I don’t like it, ha!), it turns out there is no way to be your authentic self and at the same time to hide under a rock. Believe me, I’ve tried.

Yet when we push fiercely back against our underlying fears, we often find ourselves slipping into self-sabotaging behaviors. That’s because the mind/body’s job is to keep you safe. So it simply can’t let you go through with things that feel unsafe. 

So what do we do about it? You’ve probably heard the saying “Feel the fear and do it anyway.” Previously, I focused on the “do it anyway.” And guess what? For me, it resulted in a whole lotta struggle and burnout. (Sigh)

As a professional learn-the-hard-way-er, I’ve realized the focus first needs to be on stopping and letting yourself really feel what you’re feeling. Where is the fear in your body? What is it trying to tell you? Sit with it for a bit. Breathe into it. See where it wants to go. Let the emotions be experienced. Get help if there are painful things coming up that you need support with.

For me, it was early abandonment wounds coming up. Letting the little me’s fears be heard and felt was very freeing. It’s helping me handle things more objectively now that I understand where the visceral instinct to self-protect is coming from.

Feeling the fear doesn’t, or shouldn’t, mean burying it and pushing through. Take time to work through those feelings before you crush it too hard with the “doing”. You might be surprised at how much easier things flow when you aren’t fighting against old fear patterns. 

It’s an ongoing process and I’ll be continuing to work on these things along with you.

Until next time, 

artists, CPTSD, fear of being seen, fear of rejection, people pleasing, perfectionism, resistance, trauma survivor, writers