See here’s the thing. We’ve all been in closets at one point or another. Every. Single. One. Of. Us.
Closets are where we go when we feel shame. Denial. Closets are where we go to hide. We try to protect ourselves from getting hurt, being rejected. When we feel we are not enough, not worthy, we go into our closets.
Sometimes your closet is work. Sometimes it’s parenting. I’ve worked with people who’s closet is working out, eating, not eating, shopping, gossiping, volunteering, decorating their mansion, getting likes on facebook. When we use any activity to avoid or numb out, here’s your truth bomb: You are in the closet. Closets are where we go to hide and avoid.
At first the closet feels like a safe, comforting place. It’s the place you go to be okay, to feel better. Maybe you try to make your closet homey with a poster, a candle, some snacks or a pillow. You kid yourself into thinking, “This is great, I can stay here. It’s nice, dry, warm, and I can make this work. No one can hurt me in here. I can touch all the walls and keep my eye on the door. It’s good… I can leave the closet for supplies or a paycheck and act one way, and when I return to my closet, I can be “the real me.”
For a while, this works. It’s good enough. You’re not making any waves. You’re not causing problems. And here’s the real kick in the pants – many, many people will love you and reward you for staying in the closet. They like that you are in the closet, because it makes them comfortable. It serves them for you to work 300 hour work weeks, be overweight, be depressed, stressed, be skinny or stay busy, exhausted and numb.
If you don’t come out of your closet then they don’t have to come out of theirs.
But then time passes. You start see a little sliver of light at the bottom of the closet door, and some sounds coming from the other side of the door. Laughter, music…was that someone singing?
It’s beginning to feel cramped in the closet. It’s dark, and it’s lonely. Truthfully, it’s getting really, really boring.
After a period of time, you start to hate your closet. You resent it. The very closet you used be proud of, now you are ashamed of. Why am I in this stupid closet? It isn’t fair, it isn’t right, I shouldn’t have to endure this. There is more to me than this. I am more than this half life in a closet.
You begin to wonder what life might be like outside the closet.
Oh dear listener, you are so right. No one should put you in a closet. No one. And no one really can. Do you remember who put you in the closet in the first place?
You can reach for the knob. You can open the door. You can step out and claim something more.
Will there be pain? Heck yeah. Will there be judgment? Exclusion? Disagreement? Difficult conversations? People who don’t think it’s a good idea? People who think you should just appreciate that fact that you have a nice closet to stay in? Probably.
But that is life, my friend.
There will also be, acceptance, celebration, inclusion, joy and ease.
The closet is not a sanctuary. It’s a cage. It’s not a safety net, it’s not secure. The closet is the scariest, most dangerous place for you to stay. The closet requires a heavy coat of armor that takes enormous effort and energy to put on and take off every day.
That work is over. You have better work to do outside.
For every person who judges, there will be more that will thank you. For every person that excludes you, there are more that have been waiting to meet you. They will thank you for having the guts to speak your truth and claim your life. For everyone who think s you should settle, there are millions more who will thank you for showing them how to come out of their closet and feel the warm sun on their faces.
Yes, life can be lonely, scary, and cruel. It can also be beautiful, meaningful, brave, passionate, funny and filled with connection.
But you don’t get to selectively numb out to the tough times. If you open that door, you have to be willing to embrace all of life, not just the parts that are warm and fuzzy.
I came out of my own closet many years ago. My closet was mostly filled with old stories and limiting beliefs that no Ionger served me. I have had struggle. I have had loss. I have faced judgment. But what you need to know is that the people who couldn’t go on the journey with me left room for the people who made the journey worthwhile.
I wasn’t angry when I came out of my closet. I knew full well that I had put myself there and only I could walk myself out.
I now know that I needed to lose. I needed to struggle. I needed to be judged. That’s how I learned what I was made of, how much I am worth, how badly I wanted it, and how much more there was to gain.
Don’t let your life be defined by a closet. Come out of the closet and define yourself.