The Ex Factor – Part 1: Exposure

Many of us live two lives: one for the public and one in private. This is something that you’ve been conditioned to do since childhood. You were taught that family business stays in the family, even though the family needed help. You were encouraged to follow a specific career path because it would lead to financial increase or respectability. Forget about where your passion may have taken you. You were told that you needed to conform to what is ‘normal,’ lest your peers shun you. For many of you, your abuser told you that if you ever told anyone, great pain would be inflicted upon you.

Most of your life has been about covering up the pain, embarrassment, guilt, disgust, tears, depression, self-hate, and fear. You’ve done it so long that it is normal. You don’t even realize that you are no longer your authentic self. When you were violated, your spirit was broken. You went into hiding and you built a life that was acceptable to others. You rarely share your story because of the embarrassment it may cause: the looks of bewilderment and sympathy, the “I’m so sorry this happened to you” moments, and the “whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” comments. You’ve learned to deal with your pain on your own terms, which usually means that you’ve buried it deep inside. You are living a lie.

The truth is that you want to scream to the world that you matter. You want them to understand that your pain is real. You want them to know that there are millions of us who are sick and tired of hiding our stories, just so that the masses can feel better about who they are. You want to cry until it hurts and have your best friend tell you that it will be all right and that no matter what you have to reveal, they won’t judge you. You want society to give a damn about people who molest children or rape men and women. You want them to pay for what they did to you! You want to feel like you can stop hiding. You want to matter. You want to get back to living.

I believe that you are sick and tired of being sick and tired. I AM. I AM no longer comfortable hiding who I AM to make other people feel better. I AM no longer okay with not speaking out when I see stories about rape or child molestation in the news. I AM weary of turning the other way (to hide my tears) when there is an act of sexual violence in a film or television show. I AM HERE. I AM A SURVIVOR. I AM TIRED OF HIDING. Aren’t you?

It’s time to be exposed. I don’t mean that you have to start a blog or found a nonprofit organization like I AM. What I mean is that it’s time you started LIVING. Step outside of your innermost, private thoughts and discover what REALLY makes you happy. Afraid of making decisions? Start making them and following through on them. Tired of being a control freak? Stop planning, go with the flow, and see what happens. Never worn makeup or dressed up before? Go to the cosmetic counter for a makeover or buy a new outfit that makes you feel pretty. Sick of sitting in your house because you’re afraid to go out alone at night? Call a friend and meet for a late dinner or buy a can of pepper spray and venture out on your own. Tired of being in meaningless relationships where sex is all that matters? Try meeting someone and building a friendship before you decide to take it further.

What I’m saying is this—life is short. I know it sounds cliché, but aren’t you tired of living the life that someone else’s ignorance and violence formed for you? It’s time to take back your power, make new decisions, and expose yourself to new experiences. If all you ever do is blame your present on your past, you are carrying it all into your future. You can’t keep blaming your present life on the past. You can’t keep blaming yourself. You can’t keep acting like it never happened and everything is okay. You can’t keep hiding and you can’t keep running away. You are wasting time.

I believe in you. I believe that we can do it together. WE ARE HERE and it’s time the world knows about us! I’m not saying that you have to tell your story. I AM saying that you have to LIVE! I AM saying that the world needs what you have to offer. Get out there and do something you’ve never done before! Meet new people. Make new friends (or your first friend). EXPOSE yourself to what life has to offer. EXPOSE your feelings. EXPOSE your vulnerability. EXPOSE your dreams. EXPOSE your gifts.

Will there be more pain? Yes. Will there be disappointment? Yes. Will you be afraid? Heck yeah! But you have to do it anyway!

Let someone see YOU for the first time. Let someone love YOU unconditionally. Let someone like YOU (the real you). Trust someone with your pain—you may be surprised by what happens. The only way to move forward and to grow is to expose yourself. Are you ready? 

I’ll go first. Hi, I am Nicole P. Bell and I AM a survivor of childhood molestation and rape. I AM also a child of God, a loving wife, and a doting mother. I AM a freelance editor and writer. I AM founding a nonprofit to help women (and men) like me. I AM open to new experiences and relationships. I AM blessed. I AM strong. I AM at peace. I AM free. I AM ready to be exposed to life and to find out what I’ve been missing all these years. I AM ready to fulfill my destiny and live out my dreams.

Will you join me?
MIND: You are a prisoner of your thoughts. You believe what others have told you about yourself and you are living their lies. Occasionally, you have thoughts of being a better person, of living a better life, and of being happy. 

Fold a sheet of paper in half. Leave it folded. On one side, write the word ‘Light’ at the top. Write down things that describe the life you are leading right now. The words must describe your personality traits, feelings, and experiences. When you finish, flip to the other side.

Keep the paper folded. At the top of the other side, write the word ‘Darkness’ at the top. Write down the life you dream about when you are alone or the thoughts that are in your mind all the time. These words must describe the personality traits, feelings, and experiences that you dream about having.

When you are finished, open up the paper and compare the lists. You will most likely find that the things you think about in your darkness are actually the light that you should be living in the present moment. The life you dream about is the life that you were meant to live. Expose those things and bring them to light.

BODY: The body follows the mind. If the mind is in a dark place, chances are that those thoughts and feelings have manifested themselves in your body. This may look like disease, overeating, being out of shape, stress, insomnia, and various other manifestations. Sometimes all you need to do is move your body differently for the mind to begin changing. As the mind changes, so will the body. What does this mean?

Try doing something different with your body. If you are promiscuous, stop giving yourself away. If you usually slouch over when sitting, straighten up and focus on your posture. If you avert your eyes when speaking to people, try looking directly at them when you are speaking. When you feel stress coming on, go for a quick walk or do a quick exercise like squats, arm raises, or simply clapping your hands. This will immediately focus your mind on something else.

SPIRIT: Find a place where you will be alone for a little while. Sit down or lie down and close your eyes. Think about the life you dream about and all of the things you will do. Focus.

Stay with this exercise for as long as you can. Focus on the TRUTH. You are here. You have a life to live. You made it this far. You can be free. 

"Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them." ~ Henry David Thoreau


  1. Hi Nicole, I love your blogs this month. You know that we have child abuse in common and I'd like to share with your readers that being abused affected my marriage and the inability to feel worthy or trust myself to make a decision. I let others make it for me instead of learning what really made me happy. 18 months of therapy every week changed my life and I encourage every child abuse survivor to seek counseling from someone who specializes in healing. It's worth it and time to start seeing through a new pair of glasses. Thanks for sharing your story Nicole, my friend!!


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