I’ve always been conscious of what other people thought of me. It’s how I was raised, my “reputation” and what other people thought was of utmost importance. Eventually, I grew a fear so deep, that my social anxiety was debilitating. Of course, over the years, I’ve gotten much better, but the fear is still there, lurking in the depths.
Now, I am always telling my child not to worry what others may think. I try to show him how important it is to always be who you are and that who you are is of utmost importance. I show him by not criticizing what he wears, what he likes, or what he wants to do (as long as it isn’t a safety hazard). I also try and show him how important it is by being myself, truly myself, as often as I can.
As a very young woman, before I became a mother, I let my freak flag fly pretty high, not caring who saw or what they thought. It was liberating! Sometimes, I think I might have taken it a bit too far, shoving who I was and what I believed into people’s faces. I was an activist, I’d go to protests, I joined multiple groups that “stood for something”. It was all very cliche college, but it felt wonderful.
I became a mother on a military base. A liberal, vegetarian, Pagan mother on a military base. I had again perfected the art of hiding who I was, but this time it was to protect my ex’s job, and to make sure our life was comfortable there. Early on, after a few…let’s call them “discussions”, I learned that it wasn’t a good idea to let people know who I truly was or what I believed.
I was also hanging out in the broom closet at family events, though living across the country from my family, there weren’t many of those.
There was nowhere outside of my own home where I could be myself.
Eventually I was no longer living on a military base, but the behaviors still stuck around, until I met some other Pagans in my new community. It was so nice to be able to let it all hang out! I was liberated again. At least, for a few years.
Then, my son started school. I was struck by fear again. Surrounded by parents who, statistically speaking, most likely weren’t Pagan, and quite likely were fearful of Paganism. What was I supposed to do?
Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a pentacle tattooed on my forehead, I don’t walk into rooms and introduce myself as “Rowan, the Witch” or anything, but there was a potential for “situations.”
What if one of his classmates finds out and his parents won’t let him play at our house? What if they won’t let their children play with my son? What if my child becomes a victim of bullying due to our beliefs? It’s happened before, not to us, but I’ve certainly read plenty of those stories.
What do I do when children at school bring up their Christian faith? What do I tell my son to say? What if he tells them that he’s Pagan? What if his teacher treats him differently?
The list of questions goes on and on.
Then, I became a Pagan author, and again, I was afraid. Afraid to put a face to my name, afraid to do public events. “But what about the crazies?” “What if someone finds out where I live and hurts my family?” “What if someone, so upset that I’m teaching Paganism to children, comes and gets violent at an event?”
Today I saw a Facebook post that said “Fight the Fear! Be Pagan and Proud!” And my first thought was “Yeah! Show ‘em! Show ‘em there’s nothing to be afraid of!” And then I thought, “but not me. I can’t. There’s too much at stake.” Because I can’t just think of myself and my causes. I have to think about my son.
I know, I know, “But Rowan, isn’t fighting the fear something you can do for your son’s future? So he doesn’t have to ask himself the same questions that have been circulating in your mind?” Yes. Yes, I know. I think about it all the time.
But honestly, sometimes I’m not sure how. It’s very hard to crawl out of that shell, to step out of the closet. All I can do is take it, day by day, situation by situation. It’s all right to not broadcast everything about myself to everyone.
And, I think, it’s all right to be a little afraid. It’s not all right that I have any reason to be afraid, but I don’t think it’s wrong to be afraid.
I almost didn’t post this because I don’t have an answer.
Heck, I don’t even have a lot of advice when it comes to this particular topic. I just want you to know that, if you feel this way, you’re not alone. I just wanted to open up a discussion about it. I want and need to talk about it.
I’m slowly working through these feelings and trepidation.
For example, we are doing public events this year and next, and we couldn’t be more excited. We hope to see you there!
With love and bright blessings,