Show & Tell: Why You Need to Be Seen and Heard
In kindergarten, Show & Tell is an exciting time. You get to pick out your favorite things, bring them to school, and tell everyone in your class why you love these things so much. At five years old, you parade into class with your doll, book, or hamster in tow (poor hamsters—how did they become the experiment of life for neglectful kids?).
And guess what? You are excited. These are things you love and care about. They are pieces of your soul, and there is nothing more thrilling than sharing with everyone why you think these things are so wonderful. You are lit up!
Being a kid, pre self-consciousness, anxiety, and cultural conditioning is a magical time. You share unabashedly, and most people care about what you have to say.
It’s a time before we've decided to believe there is something wrong with who we are and what we feel.
In kindergarten we don't judge kids for what they choose to bring in for Show & Tell, and we don't criticize the way they express it. "Jimmy gets a B- for bringing in his sister's teddy bear (minus one for not following the rules), he spoke too fast (minus two for being too excited), and he could have made his points much more clear if he made better eye contact."
Fast forward to high school, a time when we have culturally decided sensitivity is not as important as measuring us against our peers. In my high school English class we were given “Journal Entry” assignments. I was bold enough to write tragic, dramatic love stories that were shared with only my teacher. I just pulled an old FIVE-STAR folder (remember those?) out of a box to read two of them.
The first is a story about a girl who is at a club (Side note: you probably didn't know this about me, but I was kinda-sorta-definitely a raver), having a flashback about her jealous boyfriend getting in a fight with a guy who kissed her. He ends up getting knifed and dies. The second is about a man who keeps trying to kill himself to escape his girlfriend who is always there to save him. I write:
“Tonight, on the balcony, he gazes through the eyes of his enemy. There was no more saving him. He ran to the ledge and glanced down sixteen stories to the cement sidewalk. He jumped and on the way to his death felt relief. He was almost there, ready for the hit, when she caught him.”
I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time. The story ends with them in bed together in the morning, she declares her love for him, and the last line reads, “He speaks in his mind words he can never say out loud, words that eat at his soul, 'But, I don’t love you.'"
I was a dramatic sixteen year old, and it’s fun and easy to tease myself about this writing. But it also helps me remember who I was and how I felt at that age (also, THANK GOD I have done so much healing work!).
I felt a very deep sadness about life and struggled with the notion of death. I didn't believe anyone could love me. I felt misunderstood and alone. My writing reflected that.
Writing was the place I could share my feelings and release some of the weight I was carrying.
To be honest, I'm surprised I was willing to share those pieces with my teacher. Maybe I was naive enough to believe he wouldn't recognize there was truth in creative fiction. Maybe I thought I was such a good writer that I didn't care what he thought. I don't remember. I do remember it feeling really good to share it, though. It allowed me to be seen and heard in a way I thought no one else was willing to.
Fortunately for me, my papers were marked with a few dots of red ink and numbers in the 90s. But there is something that feels inherently wrong about grading a creative writing piece. Imagine being told your creativity isn't "A-worthy." That kind of experience can stifle us for the rest of our lives.
Creativity is magic, and magic only happens if you’re free to release it.
Measuring creativity confines it, and when we confine creativity it doesn't serve its purpose. Creativity is about play, exploration, and a deep seated human desire to birth life to a feeling and a moment in time.
This is why creativity heals. It's a medium of self discovery, but more than that it’s a tool for moving energy.
A month after my heart was broken I signed up for a retreat. I had no idea what to expect, but on Day 2 I found out there would be an opportunity for sharing our writing.
I couldn’t remember the last time I read a piece of my creative writing to a group. I might never have. But, immediately I knew I would share.
On the break, my heart spilled easily onto paper. I wrote about my deepest feelings and fears. Aside from one scratched out word there was no editing involved.
I sat in a circle and read that poem to fifty people. I almost cried a few times. My voice quavered, and I took some deep breaths. This was a new experience for me—being in my body, taking up space, being seen and heard at my most vulnerable.
I allowed my soul to be seen and heard because it was time for me to show up for myself.
My mind could have given me a million reason why I shouldn’t share, but none of them would trump the need to honor myself in this way. I didn’t share my writing because I wanted to be loved for the way I express myself. I did it for the feeling of satisfaction my soul would have when I was done.
And yet, in the end I felt loved. The eyes and ears on me weren’t judging me (at least I would never know if they were). Everyone smiled and clapped. Later, a few people told me they had the same fears and thanked me for sharing.
Something changed in me that day. I realized the profound power of being witnessed. We are missing this simple sense of community that is an integral part of our healing. Our fears are familiar, our love is the same, yet we keep the way we feel hidden from one another.
Something magical happens when we share our creativity in community. Yes, emotions can surface as we heal, but on the other side of the pain we are reconnected with that 5 year old who can’t wait to share the things they care about with the world.
Writing is a bridge to the soul.
Giving yourself permission to share yourself in community brings you closer to yourself. I don’t know if there is a more nourishing feeling than to be truly seen for who you are. That is what I wish for you.
May you have the courage to open your mouth and let your soul come out.
I created an adult version of Show & Tell for writers. It’s a two-hour virtual group where I’ll guide you through a healing Breathwork session and then allow space for you to share your writing. Sometimes the things most worth doing feel the scariest. I hope you’ll join us anyway.