when you want to be known. ish.

When I was in the fourth grade, my family moved six hours away from my Indiana hometown. I started out as the shy girl and kept to myself. But in our new home in Iowa during the summer of 1988, shy got me nowhere. I quickly made friends with Jessica across the street and Sarah on the corner by being fun and happy. Accommodating. Pleasant. Able to blend. I was a human chameleon, and I didn’t even know it. I continued with that way of coping for many years. I didn’t realize I was coping; I just thought it was me. I’m laid-back. Things don’t bother me. I’m easy to get along with.

And I was, until I got hurt. And when I got hurt, rather than facing the hurt and being honest about the fact that it was there, I hid the hurt and hoped it would fade away. Instead, it seeped into my skin and came out in other ugly ways: passivity, disconnectedness, anger. I didn’t know how to share the hurt. And so it festered, I hid, and the mask got tighter.

Hiding behind fine isn’t always an indicator of fear or insecurity. Sometimes it just takes too much energy to be authentic. I want to turn my emotions off, put my hurt up on the shelf, set the glaze in my eyes and the half-smile on my face. Not necessarily because it feels safer, but because it’s just easier. And just like people who struggle with emotional eating or excessive exercise or any other type of addiction, I recognize my addiction to wanting to be left alone. I am addicted to the island of myself.

I remember listening to Brene Brown give a keynote speech at a conference last year, and she made a memorable distinction between being vulnerable and being intimate. I don’t believe we have to be honest and tell everyone how we are doing, the intimate details of the state of our hearts. But might we dare to be honest before God, to trust that he is wise enough and loving enough and intuitive enough to usher us into being vulnerable with certain people?

I recently thought more about these things as I wandered through the empty, brick streets of Seaside, FL. I share more about this at (in)courage this morning. Join me there?

Portions of this post are revised excerpts from Chapter 4 of my book, Grace for the Good Girl. You can read the first chapter here or  for the lowest price I can find right now, you can purchase the book for $9.99 at CBD. It is also available on Amazon, or at your local Barnes and Noble, Family Christian, or Lifeway bookstore. If you’ve already read the book, (or even if you haven’t) I would love to hear your thoughts or stories on this struggle between being intimate and being vulnerable.


  1. says

    Emily, I use the description “chameleon” to describe myself often. I tend to like what everyone else likes or want to like what everyone else likes just to fit in and be included. But then I have to choose between them and God – who God created me to be. It’s hard for me to be honest before God and accept who he made me!

    I’m going to head over to (in)courage and finish reading your post, and by-the-way, I love Seaside. That’s where we went on our honeymoon! :-)

  2. says

    I think my struggle is the other way. I am not good at the hiding or pretending. I find a certain level of vulnerability easy when I do want to be more intimately known. I struggle with feeling shut out.

  3. Brandy says

    I love your heart. You have given words on paper (and blog) that help me to know and better understand myself. I feel a kindred spirit with your struggles and desires to turn. I read your book the week it came out and it was a life changer for me… THANK YOU!! I was so in love with the message that I gave the book to my fellow Good Girls in hopes they could be enlightened as well. I pray that the Lord blesses what you are sowing in the lives of women so much that it will continue to change us and the daughters to follow. Thanks for being an instrument even when it makes you a smidge uncomfortable and sweaty:)

  4. says

    Sometimes it just takes too much energy to be authentic. – wow that sentence really struck me. Something to ponder.’

    I just began reading the new book, Quiet – she talks a lot about introverts and being shy. Building on their strengths and being honest with yourself – yes authentic. Your post reminded me that book is on my bed stand and I need to finish it.

    Good word, Emily!

  5. says

    oh, how you speak to my newest spoken desire. I realized that I have been so afraid to even admit to myself what it is that I want because I am afraid that in speaking it, I am now open to failing at it too. So I try to hide behind stuffing it down, and yet, with the more time it’s not recognized, the more discouraged I am by it. This goes with my relationships too. I am learning to live out-loud, not to everyone, as you point out. But to myself, and to others that I can trust.

  6. says

    I agree with what you say about it sometimes taking too much energy to be authentic. Sometimes it’s exhausting to have that discussion that goes round and round in my head about whether or not it’s OK for me to be heard, whether or not I’m valuable enough to have my feelings known…

  7. says

    “I am addicted to the island of myself.” Whoa. Conviction notice…I don’t even know what to say about that other than I am the exact.same.way. I have never thought about it in these terms before.

    Sarah M

  8. says

    Emily, thank you for opening up your life onto this space where all can be lifted up…unfortunately there is lots of negative energy out there in the universe that is this Earth and lots of it has to do with sin, my sin, too! I appreciate the loving encouragement. you ARE a servant. thank you for your service Emily

  9. says

    This is such a timely post. And do you know I bought a book by Brene Brown last year and had never even heard of her or the book? I saw it on amazon and it seemed to describe me to a tee.

    I used to loathe my chameleon self (once I realized I was one.) Though I’m getting a better idea of the actual me, I’m also realizing that there are some present strengths to the chameleon-esque tendencies of my past. I can easily and authentically relate to people. It informs my listening and my writing. It gives me a relatable and familiar voice. (Or so I’ve been told.)

    I see so much of that in you too. You are an authentic and vulnerable voice that’s able to articulate what so many of us feel but maybe can’t quite say. Anyway, love this post and the one at (in)courage too.

  10. says

    It does sometimes take too much energy to be authentic, which only makes it that much easier to pull back, retreat, put that half-smile on my face and say simply “I’m fine”. The older I get the more I believe that NO ONE can or will ever truly know us better than we know ourselves, no matter how close we think our closest relationships are. That’s why it’s so important that we are, to some extent anyway, an island unto ourselves. And that’s not a bad thing. Look inward, not outward for our “authenticity”. Once again, Emily, thank you for a thought-provoking post. Blessings.

  11. says

    “Hiding behind fine isn’t always an indicator of fear or insecurity. Sometimes it just takes too much energy to be authentic. I want to turn my emotions off, put my hurt up on the shelf, set the glaze in my eyes and the half-smile on my face. Not necessarily because it feels safer, but because it’s just easier.” This resonated with me so well today. I am off to read more!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *