Talking with a friend last week, she mentioned my post about how I started my spiritual path sounded kind of “salesy.” I wasn’t offended because part of me wasn’t surprised.
For several years, really up until the end of last year, I didn’t talk about my exploration into the world of personal development and spirituality. It’s kind of always been my deep, dark secret. I began reading self-help books when I was a teenager, but didn’t tell anyone about it. Even though I stopped going to church after 12 years of Catholic education, part of me longed for the framework for viewing the world and living my life that religion provides. But I didn’t share this with anybody.
I hid the books I was reading and didn’t talk about the programs I was taking. Even though I’m very close with my friends, I kept this part of me separate for a long time. Since I’m still finding my own language for talking about personal development and spirituality, I leaned on Erin’s copy to describe Magical Manifesters* in the post my friend was talking about. Apparently, it was obvious the language wasn’t natural to me.
This conversation got me thinking: why am I so embarrassed to talk about spirituality and my personal growth journey? I was obviously afraid of something, but didn’t know what it was.
I don’t want to be judged.
Thinking about it at first, I thought perhaps I just wanted time for myself to figure it out before I shared it with other people. It’s deeply personal to talk about trying to understand what spirituality means to you and how you want to better yourself.
Perhaps I was just protecting myself from the beliefs and judgements of the outside world. For example, when I started experimenting with being vegan, I didn’t want to tell anyone. I thought they would judge me because for a long time I had prejudices about veganism myself and I was having to reconcile old and new beliefs.
Being unhappy means I’m ungrateful.
While it makes sense to want a safe container during the initial exploration of something so personal, more was going on because I didn’t tell anyone about this for over two years. I felt embarrassed and honestly a little ashamed – like I shouldn’t need this to make me happy. My life was great – I’ve always been blessed with family and friends and the means to have a comfortable life.
It felt like confessing I was doing work on myself was admitting I was unhappy – and being unhappy meant I was ungrateful for all the good things I have in my life.
Working on myself means I’m broken.
I was conflicted with myself. On the one hand, I knew this was work I needed to do to get clear on who I was and how I wanted to live my life – to really be me. Another part of me felt like I shouldn’t need to do this: it should just come naturally to me and by exploring the areas of personal development and spirituality I was broken.
Telling people I am searching for answers and struggling to understand myself and the world felt like confessing there was something wrong with me; that I was weak and broken and wasn’t as put together as I make myself out to be.
I have to be “finished” before I can share it.
Part of me felt like I had to do it alone, have everything figured out, be “finished” before I shared it with people. I was having this problem, I found this solution. It’s done, here’s the recap – no insecurity, fragility, or vulnerability necessary. Tied up in a neat bow.
This was an absolute joke because, as anyone who has done any kind of personal development or explored spirituality knows, the work never ends.
By keeping the process hidden from those closest to me, I do us both a disservice. If you want a different outcome, try something different. By keeping to myself, I not only didn’t benefit from the wisdom other people have to share, but also exacerbated my own issues of relying solely on myself, not learning how to receive from others, or how to share all of myself with another person. I also rob others of the chance to learn from what I am going through. How self-centered and stingy is it to hoard wisdom?
Now I can talk about it because it’s my job.
What’s funny is I’m at the opposite end of the spectrum as a coach. With my clients, I share openly about my journey, the lessons I’ve learned, and the teachers who have helped me have profound shifts in my life. It’s easy to talk about because this stuff is part of my “job.”
Even talking with friends and family, it feels safer to talk about this because I have an excuse for why I need to delve deep into self-help, yogic philosophy, and new age ideals. It’s kind of a cop out. I’d be doing all of this anyway. But it’s “justified” because of my profession – I’m not broken, ungrateful, or ashamed. It’s far more brave to admit that you are a soul-searcher when you’re not getting paid to do it. SO I applaud anyone who is open about their journey and doesn’t work in the self-improvement industry.
Pushing past the fear makes it less scary.
I began exploring all this at a young age. What I realize now is it was just my soul searching for something more. I fought it for a long time, pushed it down. Not telling people about what I was doing was a form of denial. If I wasn’t sharing this part of myself, then it wasn’t real. It kept it feeling safe, when really a lot of this work is about confronting your deepest fears and insecurities.
This year I’ve been much more open about he books I’m reading, the courses I’m taking, the teachers I’m following, and the support I get from my coach, therapist, and intuitive healer (it takes a team, people). Being open has deepened old friendships and has made strong connections in new ones.
Truthfully, I’m still not as open as I could be. When it comes down to it, it just feels exposing. Even writing this article is scary – it makes my heart pound, and I cringe a little as I write. It is one of the most intimate things you can tell someone: I could be better.
Only by sharing my journey with those around me can I truly grow and expand. And I’m learning that the more I talk about it, the more comfortable I am sharing with others. It feels less scary, less exposing. Because when I do share with my family and friends, they are so deeply supportive. I haven’t given them enough credit – but of course, it’s because I was judging myself.
I thought working on myself meant I was weak, ungrateful, and unworthy, but now I realize now that it’s the opposite. Delving into the depths of your nature and spirit is one of the scariest, hardest things you can do.
Making an effort to learn more about yourself (or, as I learned from my yoga teachers, to remember who you really are) means you are actually strong, grateful, and incredibly worthy. Admitting you read self-improvement books, listen to lectures, take classes doesn’t make you weak. It makes you aware. It’s only through awareness that change can happen. It’s actually not weak but strong to admit you want to delve into the depths of who you really are, beneath all the internal and external layers of our identities.
Even as I write this, I’m still using broad terms and not being specific – another way to hide. Saying exactly what I’ve done to further my personal development and deepen my connection to spirituality feels so scary and vulnerable, even in the middle of writing this article. While this was incredibly scary to write, I intent to share more of my journey and what I’m working on in an effort to be more transparent with you – and myself. Pushing past the fear makes it less scary.
In the comments I’d love to know – do you feel the same way about discussing what you’re exploring? How will you overcome the fear and start talking about it?
If you’re embarrassed to talk about spirituality, I urge you to share this article on Facebook or Twitter, or email it to a friend. Use it as an opportunity to start the conversation and begin opening yourself up.
*Full disclosure : I am an affiliate for Magical Manifesters, but it’s because I believe it’s a great program and would promote it even if I wasn’t an affiliate. I think it’s perfect for people just getting started and wanting to dip their toe into the pool of personal development and wanting more in their lives. Magical Manifesters was the program that propelled me forward into my journey (even though it took me two years to talk about it openly). I’m going through the program again (it starts next week), and if you want to join me I’m offering a free 20 minute session with me to review your goals if you sign up through my link.