“There are no scary monsters.”

This is what one of my Transformative Portrait clients said after she had her reveal to view all her photographs and process them. While there were parts of her that were initially hard to face, with gentle guidance, she was able to process her feelings in order to recognize that all of the different parts of her were worthy of being seen and loved.

Believing that we have monsters living inside of us is something many of us grow up with…parts that we learned were ‘bad’, parts that represent the painful or traumatic things that have happened to us, parts that were rejected and told didn’t belong, parts we felt represented something that was wrong with us…

I was watching the latest episode of Stranger Things when El and Dr. Brenner have a profound conversation about monsters. If you haven’t watched it yet and plan to, there is a bit of a spoiler ahead so you might want to omit the next section.

Dr. Brenner is trying to help El remember what happened to her at Hawkins lab so that she could get her powers back. He wants to take her back to the memory of a massacre at the lab when all the other children, numbers 2-10, were murdered. El is afraid of seeing what happened because as the only survivor, she believes she was the one responsible and they have the following conversation,

El: I saw what I did. I am a monster.

Brenner: You speak of monsters, superheroes. That’s the stuff of myths and fairytales. The truth is rarely so simple. People are not so easily defined. Only by facing all of ourselves, the good and the bad, can we become whole.

El: What if I don’t want to become whole?

Brenner: Then that is a choice. Your choice.

The truth is rarely so simple. People are not so easily defined. Only by facing all of ourselves, the good and the bad, can we become whole.

When we grow up feeling broken or like there is something wrong with us, it’s easy to think that monsters live inside us so we spend our lives avoiding ourselves. Instead, we look outside of us for answers, for something or someone else to complete us, in an effort to feel whole. But the truth is, the answers don’t exist outside of us but instead lie within. Facing ourselves is one of the hardest and scariest things we can do but also the most rewarding. Accepting all the different parts of us, the good and the bad, and doing the work to recognize and understand the role that each part plays is how we heal from our wounds. When we do that, we finally give ourselves permission to be seen and to finally show up for life as ourselves.

That same client, recognizing that there were no monsters, shared how she felt after facing herself,

“[I felt] acceptance, acknowledgement, recognition… This helped me accept all my contrasts instead of being confused… I feel like this has been an embracing of myself…I feel confident in being vulnerable. I’m not scared anymore.”

Have you felt afraid of looking at yourself because you’re afraid of seeing monsters? As Dr. Brenner said, “Then that is a choice. Your choice.”