dear hilary: monsters in the closet

Dear Hilary,

Have you ever been afraid of something? Afraid to ask yourself something honestly, for fear of what it would look like? Afraid to ask yourself “why” this was happening, because of what you thought you might say in response?

What did you do?


Dear Afraid,

My closest friend and I, we have a saying: brave new shit. BNS. It stands for all the things we do that defy our fear. It stands for all the things we originally said were completely impossible, the conversations, confrontations, internal moments of honesty, risks. It stands for the believing work we do: believing in being beautiful in defiance of magazines or mirrors, believing we are capable in spite of the mountain of work, believing in descending into that murky pit of ourselves because we know that there is something good there.

We are all afraid of the monsters in our closet. In polite conversations at dinner parties, they’re not invited. They don’t stand with us in our shiniest, brightest moments – they don’t live in the open sipping a mint julep with you and your best friends on a sticky Southern afternoon. They live in the shadowier parts of us, and so we don’t know them as well.

You’re afraid of what you think lurks behind your sadness or your frustration or your stories. You’re afraid that it might be much bigger than it seems. You’re afraid it might be much smaller. I wish I could tell you that it is one thing or another – but the truth is, I don’t know. No one does. The closet belongs to you, so we can’t peek inside for you and tell you that there’s nothing to be afraid of.

But you can tell yourself that.

You can put on “It’s Time” by Imagine Dragons and start journaling. Crack the door of that closet open, and yell – “Come out, come out, whoever you are!” And you can sit with yourself on a couch somewhere, alone or with people, and fling the door open, crying and smiling and laughing, and say, “Who are you, monsters in my closet?” You can do some brave new shit and offer yourself some time to ask nothing but, “why?” – no judgment. No self-condemnation. No guilt. Just curiosity. “Come out, come out, whoever you are.”

I can’t tell you what those monsters are. But I can tell you that your monsters, big or small, are always welcome on the front porch of the people who love you. Those people who love you will love those monsters, love them fiercely and do battle with them next to you and hold you when you discover that they are not so fierce or frightening.

I bet you all the monsters in your closet plus mine plus the thousands of people who stand alongside us, all the young and old, all the fearful and brave, all the wild and all the free: you will be loved even more deeply for opening that closet door. Not just by all of us in this big world. But by you, too. You will know yourself better, love yourself better, give yourself a bit more grace if you look at them honestly, lovingly, with grace. BNS isn’t just about confronting the things you don’t know, Afraid. It’s about bringing grace to those confrontations, especially when they are inside you. It’s about being careful with yourself, not harsh. Fling that door open, and look at everything inside you gently. It deserves your attention. It deserves your time.

That’s the real secret of meeting the monsters in your closet: you will grow in love.



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