Years ago I worked as a street fundraiser. I was fresh out of Uni and had returned to England after my first year abroad travelling. I moved to London fired up, passionate and committed about working in the third sector. I wanted to ‘do good’, be part of global change and have impact. I was applying for jobs at big International Development charities but in the meantime, I was as a ‘Chugger’.

I wholeheartedly believed in the charity I worked for and when I fiiiiinally managed to get someone to stop to chat to me, you can only imagine the passion that poured out of me… and I found I was actually quite good at it.

The reality was however, we would be stood on the streets for 7 hours a day in all weathers (and my time was for 8 long months over winter. A highlight being stood on Camden high street in the snow in SO many layers I looked totally ridiculous and a hot water bottle down my top.

For those I didn’t ‘sign up’ I either got the expected ‘I haven’t got time’, ‘No sorry’ and ‘not for me thanks’.

On the flip side I was sworn at, shouted at inches away from my face and frequently sneered at but the worst, for me, were the ignorers. The people who would walk right past me, eye fixed forwards as if I wasn’t there.

It wasn’t a glamourous, desirable or honourable job but I was driven by and passionate about the cause. I was a young person doing what I thought was best. To feel invisible in that way felt soul destroying.

It felt shit in a way I’ve rarely experienced since. These days I personally don’t stop for street fundraiser but politely say no and good luck. It did make me reflect on how degrading and soul destroying it must feel to homeless people on the streets, already feeling invisible on levels you and I couldn’t possibly understand, to be ignored day in day out. That actually breaks my heart.

As human beings we need to be seen. We need to feel in some way part of the tribe.  Yet being really seen is a totally different story.

Being really seen – you, stripped bare, your authentic self being revealed for all to see is terrifying. You only need to read Brene Browns research on vulnerability in ‘Daring Greatly’ to realise us humans are generally terrified of being really seen.

It seems to me like being seen is a balancing act of two sides.

This desire to be accepted by the tribe on some levels teaches us to stay small so to not intimidate other tribe members. Who are you to be fabulous after all?

Yet on the other hand this desire for approval and validation from the tribe leads us to not admit vulnerability, leading to an element of façade that must be kept up, concealing the sides of us we think aren’t perfect; Perpetuated of course by social media.

This desire to be seen to be living a perfect, shiny life without the reality of light and shade. Validated in real life perhaps by the envy or praise of others or worse still, validated on social media by ‘likes’. All smoke and mirrors, desperately concealing our truth and vulnerability.

For me not being seen on a physical level back in my chugging days was was soul destroying but on the other side of the coin to be really seen on an authentic level was terrifying.

Using my authentic voice in articles and blogs – how I truly feel. The voice I use in my private journals or to a trusted friend. Trying to ensure that what I post on social media is authentic, I filter my photos but trying not to filter my words, is terrifying.

My journey continues, working through a belief system that says ‘who am I to be fabulous, beautiful or honest’ and to stay small. To work through fear of rejection, looking weak or not pleasing everyone.

What I realised is, it required SO much energy to keep the mask on and the façade up and it is simply not sustainable. In a similar way, it would have required so much more energy to have jump around in front of those who ignoring me as a Chugger in an attempt for them to see me.

But to be authentically me – scruffy, sweary, cry at everything (good and sad!), sometimes introverted, sometimes extraverted me. To relax into that, to feel what I really feel and to express that truth requires so much less energy and allows me to connect with people on a level I simple didn’t before.

We are all human beings trying our best and doing the best with what we know. We all want to be accepted, to be socially connected and to feel understood. We all want to be loved and valued. It’s human nature whether you’re a CEO, a homeless person on the streets, you and for me.

Accepting yourself as you are. Learning to love all the perfect imperfections and allowing people to really see you is love. Having compassion for and understanding that we are all on our own journey is freedom.

So here’s a challenge for today. Be mindful to really see others – look the person who finds themselves homeless on the streets in the eye as say ‘not today’ rather than walking by. See those who hold up a mask or façade in real life or on social media with compassion. Really see those you surround yourself with and in that seeing you may find that we are all doing our best.

And in that space perhaps let yourself be seen. Relax into your self – your brave, fearful, happy, sad, wonderful self. As as the beautiful poem by Marianne Williams suggests

“And as we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people
permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others”

Love, Joey x


Full poem…

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous,
talented and fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of the universe.

Your playing small does not serve the world.

There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other

people won’t feel insecure around you.

We were born to make manifest the glory of
the universe within us.

It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people
permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others”.

—Marianne Williamson