I find that these days I am often surprised that I have a reflection. It’s not that I have lost my sense of self. In fact, it is quite the opposite.
Recently I did experience an awakening that made me aware of what a lack of self I had. It’s not that I didn’t have an identity. I did. We all do, it’s how we get around and drink things without people going, “Hey, why’s that coffee mug floating in the air?”
It’s just that the self that I identified with did not match up with my true self enough to ring true.
Haha. That sentence was a mess.
What I’m trying to say is, I had been wearing a mask for so long just to avoid being invisible that I was surprised to discover there was actually a face underneath the mask when I took it off. And even more surprised that I don’t completely hate it.
It was difficult, shedding a mask that I’d worn for so long that it was practically chemically bonded with my skin. It was really difficult. Especially since the mask bore such close resemblance to my real face that I often forgot I was wearing one. Now this is about to sound completely contradictory, but I’m not one to be fake. I’ve hated the idea of posers and fake people since I was young enough to understand how humans often default to interacting with each other. From a very young age I understood that I thought differently from other people in the sense that I saw very little need to put on a show for the sake of reputation. I was what I was and I gave you the option to take it or leave it and that was that. I’ve never wasted my time much with people who wanted me to act a certain way or were obviously preoccupied with having me believe they were a certain way. The idea of relating with such people has always been boring to me. It’s such a false interaction. Why bother with the energy? It’s much more interesting to deal with people who accept the way they are and challenge you to accept it too.
The problem with the identity I had before is that in my attempt to stay as raw as possible I lacked the flexibility to change in response to others. I wanted people to accept the way I was but was quite unwilling to let them affect me in return, which is unfair. I think the reason I became this way is because I had experienced so many exchanges with dishonest people that I had become jaded. I had been let down so many times by the possibility of authentic people that I decided I would force people to accept me the way I was before I was willing to accept them. And I think the really sick thing about my condition was that it’s not that I wasn’t willing to take. I was completely willing to take anything people had to offer me in the way of relationship. I just wasn’t willing to take and accept them as a person in return. It was a trust issue.
Even though I’m pretty perceptive when it comes to reading people, I’m pretty dumb when it comes to reading their actions in the context of emotional and social cues. I would be able to see if a person was showing their true self for the most part, but then be very unsure of what they wanted from me. A question I often ask myself is, “What does this person hope to gain from this interaction?” People’s motives are often so double-sided and shallow that I didn’t trust that it was worth nurturing a relationship with them. And if I don’t trust what they can give me, then why bother offering myself in return?
As I encouraged this way of thinking and being in myself, I developed this thin, almost translucent mask that said I accepted myself so entirely that I didn’t need other people. It’s strange because it was a mask more for myself than for showing to other people. I wanted to be able to look in the mirror and believe that I wasn’t this intensely lonely creature who longed for meaningful connection. I did a good job too, because I believed it. For a really long time.
I’ve recently gone through some serious bumps in the road that have led me to re-evaluate how I handled some of my most precious relationships (of which there are not many) in the past. I’ve gone through and am still going through this spiraling cycle of regret about how I could have loved better had I just not been afraid to be vulnerable and taken off my mask.
Even though the regret is still hitting me hard, I’ve pushed forward enough to realize that the thing to do is not to waste time reminiscing, but to strive to do better in the here and now. Even harder is to realize that I have to let go of those people I will not get a second chance with, because they have the right to say no.
So I’m all naked and gross now, like a snail who has lost it’s shell, but then realized it’s been a slug all along.
It’s nerve-wracking. I mean, really quite terrifying to try to approach the world with an open point of view after all this time hiding under a shell. And I’m honest enough with myself now to be able to admit that I’m terrified after being blasted into the sky by this tornado of a thing we call life.
It’s weird to walk past a mirror and be startled. Like, “Whoa, what was that? Oh, yeah, that’s just me. That’s how I actually look like.”
It’s even weirder to find I’m not invisible after taking off my mask. Not necessarily that I love everything I see. There’s still so much that I know needs changing. But I breathe a little sigh of relief when I realize, “Ah, I can work with that. Those frown lines can turn into laugh lines with some effort.”
It’s surprising to find I’m actually glad I’m not in Kansas anymore.