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Hannah The Exhibitionist

There’s an account on Instagram, @lionhive_ that blew open a level of healing I was looking for but didn’t know how to find. I don’t even remember what she said that sparked the domino effect within me…so please, do yourself a favor and check her out.

In the past few months, I’ve published myself on Instagram…really put myself out there. Sometimes, the only thing that got me dancing was this desire to share myself on social media in that context. Sometimes I felt really bad about that…as if I were putting on a show just for you.

Still, I did it because it was authentic to me and my own journey. Then came @lionhive_’s posts on platonic-existential-kinkiness. Through those posts, I realized that I’ve been playing at a game of tug o’ war with myself, a constant whiplash of secretly putting myself out there and taking myself back. The only issue is…I’ve been taught to shame all the parts of me that want to flaunt myself.

I AM AN EXHIBITIONIST. And we all are. That was the revelation.

I sat on a rocking chair with my brother this past week, listening to an old lady in the distance talking to the group of church folks, “And God called us to adopt two children. And at first I didn’t want to…but now we have this and they are just…And now we started an organization that does….And we are doing…” On and on she went.

I leaned in to my brother and said, “One of the things that helped me get out of the place I grew up was observing people and realizing that we are all humans, all the same. I have a lot more patience for Christians now because I see they are just like me even if they are unconscious of it. We are all exhibitionists…only, they are using god and orphans…I just use clothes.”

We had a good laugh and settled in for more observations.

I didn’t stop myself in the past week. I found the voice of my inner 7 year old that has been trying to “show off”. I FINALLY stopped shaming her and said, “have at it.” She wanted to dance in front of people and say funny things loudly. She reveled in people laughing at her quips and she loved carrying the energy of, “I’m not like the other girls” as she made her rock garden and went out into the forest to do her energy dance work.

The most interesting part? The more I leaned in to her, the more her energy burned through me and I noticed there was nothing really left. Sometimes I stopped wanting to be an exhibitionist. I found I was much better at stopping myself from saying foolish things because I ALREADY LET MYSELF BE SEEN.

The need was already met. There was time to rest. Time to just be ordinary, boring, tired, unseen, unnoticed. In fact, time to notice other people.

I had much more range to notice other people because I let myself be flaunted. I had the space and energy to enjoy all the little ways in which every single person around me needed and wanted to exhibit themselves in their own particular way. It’s quite fun to recognize that every single other person has the same insatiable desire, whether conscious or not, to exhibit their uniqueness, interests, fullness, talents, accomplishments, and general humanness.

The other thing that happened when all the energy of exhibitionism burned through me was this realization that I don’t let myself be seen in the vulnerable ways that matter. When I am unconscious about my exhibitionism, I am always tenuously performing for certain people around me. When I need certain people to see me, I have a tendency to edit my performance to their liking and my desired result. In that, I lose all authenticity. I lose the ability to be myself in a way that might disgust them, enrage them, annoy them, or even avoid them.

As the energy burned through me, I found a little voice that said things like, “You can’t move like that. That’s embarrassing. What will they think of you?” There is no arguing with that voice. I can only listen and meet it with the same tenuous curiosity and compassion. I try to embody it so fully.

When it showed up in my dance, I would contract my body and move slowly and timidly. I kept my hands close and small. As I met its smallness with resonance, it became braver and I was able to embody a more full bodied, courageous version of myself. It was a dance…and a vulnerable one at that.

In all of this work, I found much more safety in all the places that I had been hiding. I found so much freedom in being a blatant exhibitionist instead of calculating a game that nobody else cared about as much as my own obsessive-seven-year-old-state-of-consciousness. I found more openness to have energy for those around me, and I found the little vulnerable places I keep hidden away because I am absolutely terrified about being my true self.

This exhibitionism gave me the courage to know that it actually doesn’t matter what other people see of me. That, yes, I want to be seen and exhibited to all the people around me. Yes, sometimes there is great fun in the challenge of putting yourself out there in front of people who may reject you. I discovered that, in being yourself fully, people will see what they need to see in accordance with their own higher power and the calculation of being seen a certain way is just a detriment to everybody...

In the end, I found that this freedom of expression allowed me to, most of all, see myself.

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