Somewhere along the way, I became afraid to say things out loud.

In the messiness of life, I picked up insecurities. Insecurities that made me ashamed to show that I care a lot, because I do. Insecurities that created a rooted need to please those around me, at any cost to myself. Insecurities that kept me believing the lies thrown at me.

When I care about something, I care about it with intention and depth. Whether we’re talking about my people or my hobbies or my favorite TV show, Parenthood (#TEAMBRAVERMAN, ya know?!), something pure within me wants to see growth and depth in those connections.

But I became afraid that my intentionality would make people uncomfortable – that they would think I was weird or needy or too much to handle. So, I would play it cool. I would be okay, even when I wasn’t. I would keep it all tucked inside.

I can’t tell you how many times someone close to me has said something hurtful – not intentionally hurtful, but, hurtful – and I just tucked it away. Nine out of ten times, I never said a word. I would brush it off, not wanting to make a fuss because “I can just control whether I feel hurt or not” – or that’s what I would tell myself. Until I began to notice feelings of pain and resentment surfacing in completely unrelated ways.

I read a book in the fall of 2013 which began to stir life inside of me. The words in front of me were describing the innermost parts of the person I was: afraid of being vulnerable because being vulnerable means opening yourself up to the possibility of rejection: the thing I feared the most.

If I show this person that I am for them, cheering them on, they’re going to run. If I am honest when I don’t feel valued or heard, people are going to think I’m too sensitive. If I don’t compromise my own personality to make others comfortable and happy, they won’t like me anymore. That is what the lies would tell me. It sounds kind of absurd as I type it out, but I believe those lies more than I want to admit.

I had exchanged the truth that I was created for connection and community for the lie that I am unworthy of being fully known.

I began to understand that the only way to being fully known was to risk it and to be vulnerable. To take off my mask, to release my absorption with other people’s opinions, to embrace courage and step into being fully me.

Around the same time, I began going to counseling for the first time in my life. That quiet room, sitting across from my counselor, was where I first began to say things out loud. In a safe place, I learned how much freedom existed in the act of being vulnerable and talking honestly with another human being. The disappointment and fear and hurt that I’d shoved down lost a lot of its power when I began to speak it out and let it go.

It’s been a few years since my heart healing began and I am still learning. It’s still a struggle to be transparent, especially when hurt is involved, and I’ve had many difficult conversations that have stung pretty deeply, but I can now see how incredibly worthy the risk is.

I am known by people I love and trust. I choose courage instead of fear and I will continue to fight the lies that tell me I’m too much.

Every day we have a choice: to continue making vulnerable steps towards the people we were created to be or to crouch down in fear of failure.

I choose the former. Maybe not every day, because life is hard sometimes. But I know that I was made for more, and that keeps me reaching. I believe that I was intentionally created to care deeply about those around me and I know that you were too. Don’t let the lies define you. Be you, be real.

If any of this resonates with you, know that you are not alone. Know that it’s a process. Give yourself grace and be courageous. Your leaps into the unknown will change you in the best ways. I guarantee it.