There is something inside all of us that must be expressed if we are to be happy. That which makes us who we are must be given an outlet or it will sit in the background, doing whatever it must get our attention. Stress, discontentment, and other challenges we face are often ways that our insides are crying out for our attention. The good news is that now is always the perfect time to get back in touch with ourselves.
There was a middle school student on the autism spectrum who was the perfect example. When we met, he was shy and said very little to others. He was not behaviorally disruptive in school so it was easy for him to avoid being noticed by students and adults. On the inside, he desired to be seen and heard. He wanted to have friends.
When he came to the lunch group, he was visibly nervous. After we greeted one another and the rest of the group, he was allowed to sit where he liked. He was provided with art supplies and allowed to enjoy the group in whatever way he chose. By giving him this space and respect, he was able to ease his way into an environment that might otherwise feel overwhelming.
With time, he started to come out of his shell. One week, he let me know that he looked forward to Thursdays because it meant he would be coming to the group. Another week, he pointed out that he would like to sit with a small group of students. He began expressing his sense of humor aloud, rather than keep it to himself. He found common ground with new friends that might not have had that opportunity to get to know him in the past.
All of us are wonderful people on the inside. Many of us have learned to hold it in, perhaps believing we would be rude to take up air space with our personal stories and ideas. We might believe that we have nothing valuable to share. Perhaps we learned to talk nonstop so that no one would have an opportunity to judge us. None of these ways of providing us with the satisfaction of expressing who we are while being received lovingly by others.
Expressing ourselves takes practice. As the student, we must be gentle as we dare to step out boldly. We are not working to become someone new. We are simply relaxing and letting down our guard enough to allow others, and ourselves, to enjoy who we have been all along. While judgments may arise, we need not fear because moving beyond them will strengthen our resolve to live life to the fullest.
If you have been holding back from being you, now is the time to reconsider. Within you is beauty and potential that can take you to the places you have always dreamed of going. Your job is to trust in this principle because it is true of everyone. As you allow yourself to shine from within, others will reflect back to you your own brilliance in delightfully unexpected ways. You will soon wonder why it took you so long to be yourself.
Edward Biagiotti is the Inclusion Specialist for Culver City Unified School District. He is also the co-host of “Funniest Thing! with Darrell and Ed” podcast on iTunes. For questions, comments, and ideas for future columns, send an email to EdwardBiagiotti@ccusd.org