“Jenine…cut that out, you’re embarrassing.”
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that phrase. Granted, a lot of the time, it’s said in what I think is an affectionate tone. (You tell me.) But after being given this week’s topics on what it’s like to be a vulnerable person, I started to actually think more about what I’m really ashamed of, and what keeps me from being truly vulnerable in front of the people that I surround myself with.
To be perfectly honest, I am in no way secure enough with myself to be “100% Jenine” at all times. Heck, when I’m meeting new people, I’m usually setting myself at “25% Jenine” at the most. And the reason that I do that?
I’m deeply ashamed to expose everything that I am, because of the possibility of rejection that comes with it.
For years, I’ve reasoned with myself that if I do get rejected by the people that I meet, and I wasn’t completely being myself at the time, then my real self still has a chance at being accepted by other people. But training your mind to believe that it has to protect who you are from the rest of the world until it’s safe is just like telling someone you care about, “Hey. Don’t be you right now, because you’re kind of embarrassing to be around.”
Over the summer, I was lucky enough to be accepted into Jubilee Project’s 2015 Fellowship- a gathering of 13 aspiring filmmakers from around the world who wanted to use their love of film to “Live for Something Greater.” And when that happened, I was ecstatic! But what I’d forgotten was that during the application process, there was an end portion that I had filled out where it asked us to give a short bio about ourselves to help them get to know us better. “Alright, that’s easy enough,” I’d thought at the time, thinking it was just some short and sweet thing that they’d read before going through the rest of our applications. I was wrong.
As it turns out, that bio was going to be sent out to all of the accepted applicants on a single PDF, with everyone else’s bios included on it as well.
“Recording artist/actress…producer…photographer…recent graduate…VFX artist…dentist…biomolecular engineer?! What the heck did I even write for myself?!”
I could feel my heart stopping in absolute shame as I took another look at what I’d submitted for my own bio.
You can imagine me slamming my head against my bedroom walls.
“JENINE, YOU DORK, WHAT KIND OF FIRST IMPRESSION IS THAT?!”
The program hadn’t even started yet, and I’d already managed to let this group of professional people know what a complete goof I was.
But then, the first day of Fellowship came along. We sat around the living room of our house that night after a couple of ice breakers, and our director, Eugene Choi, sat front and center with a white board and a marker.
“This is you. And these are the three layers that come with being you.”
He began to draw three concentric circles on the board.
“The outermost layer of the circle is the one that you show the world. Underneath that layer is what we call the layer of shame. It’s the layer you use to cover up and hide your true self out of fear. And underneath all of that, is the layer that is you. This is the you we want you to be while you’re here at Fellowship. You are here to be yourselves, without any judgement, and we are happy to have you here.“
A lot of the time, we are afraid to be at our most vulnerable because we fear that no one will stick around to love us when all of our walls come down. We fear that what we are isn’t good enough, and that the person we are is a person who won’t be liked by the people we like and look up to ourselves. The thought of every imperfection, silly obsession, and little quirk we have being laughed at feels like a giant slap in the face. So our pride tells us that if we want to make a good impression, we have to be anything but ourselves.
But if there’s anything I’ve learned from Fellowship, it’s that even a big group of “professionals”, ones that I’d been so intimidated by and terrified of meeting, can be full of the most quirky, loving, childish, goofy, and selfless people you could ever meet. And it’s something I probably would’ve never found out had I not been given the encouragement to take off my layer of shame.
Our lives are a masquerade of people putting on their best faces for one another. But when it comes down to it, I don’t think any of us are as cool and calm as we make ourselves out to be. And we shouldn’t have to be. We live in a generation where we want people to know all of the awesome things we’re doing, and none of the mediocre. But what we think is mediocre is what makes us to be these beautiful, multi-faceted creatures of God who deserve nothing but all the love and acceptance that the world has to offer them.
Bottom line: I’m a cheesy, pun-loving, poetry-writing, cartoon-watching, easily scared, super emotional, childish mess of an adult. And to be honest…there’s nothing wrong with that. I think it’s about time I start taking off my masks.
Thanks for reading this far if you have! Don’t forget to check out everyone else’s amazing blogs! As always, they’re worth the read, and I couldn’t ask for a better source of inspiration than these guys.