Hiding My Authentic Self
We all have emotional triggers. Tons of them. Some people don't know they exist, even though they react when someone bumps into one. Some people acknowledge that they exist and just accept them and live with them, and either react or fight reacting when the triggers are hit. Others view triggers as something that can be dis-empowered and healed. I am one of the latter.
There have been two recurring themes in my life which are emotional triggers from several different directions. The first one is this fear of what will happen if I am just me...no filters, no holding back. The first time I ever remember verbalizing this one, I was in my late 20's. I remember telling a friend that I have so much love in my heart that I don't know what to do with it all. That if I let it pour out on to someone (friends or partners), it will smother them. That I must hold back and be careful to not scare people away. Over the years, I've felt this and said this in many different ways. I've always felt like I am a lot, or that some people think I'm too much. I've spent much of my life in this state of withholding who I am, this constant state of filtering, to keep those around me feeling comfortable. That's not to say that I haven't found my own tribe of crazies who I can be me with, because I definitely have. I am blessed with amazing friends. But that doesn't change this feeling that I've carried around with me for my whole life that being "me", my true self, is something to be embarrassed or ashamed of. Just to be clear, my head knows that this is complete bullshit. I like who I am. I color outside the lines when I want to, and I dance in the gray whenever it feels right. I have a strong moral compass, but it's one I've created for myself. So, I've got this weird dichotomy going on inside of me.
The other trigger I was referring to is feeling invisible. Throughout my life there have been times when I felt unimportant or invisible, and it's always been very painful. I didn't always evaluate it, I just felt sad, for example, if I was left out of something, or if I wasn't chosen, etc. That seems like a normal enough feeling, right? Fast forward to adulthood, marriage, and children - that trigger became so painful and so pervasive that everything bumped into it. I felt like I carried the whole family, was responsible for everything, and that no one even noticed or cared. In reality that wasn't accurate, but I was experiencing my life from the perspective I chose.
What I didn't realize is that the two triggers are directly connected. If I reach way back inside of myself to the first time I ever felt like I couldn't be me, I was about 3 or 4 years old. I was with my mom visiting my grandparents for our annual vacation. My mom grew up in a Southern town where all the lines were very clear and all the narrow paths were very well laid out. People could be themselves as long as they stayed somewhere on the path and somewhere within the lines. Everyone cared what the neighbors thought, and the neighbors really did care about everyone else's business. Don't get me wrong. They were lovely people and I have a million loving, heartfelt memories from those visits. But it was a completely different feeling and lifestyle in the San Francisco Bay Area where we lived. At 3 or 4 years old, the message came through to me very clearly during the visit that I needed to act a certain way. I'm not referring to having manners, being polite and respectful, not running around screaming, etc. All kids need to learn those things. It was more formal than that, and my mom and grandmother were serious about it. I needed to “act like a lady” and have a certain amount of decorum in order to not embarrass them. No child that age knows how to have decorum, so I worked very hard to act in a way that pleased them to keep that thick, tangible fog of shameful energy from rolling in. That right there is where it all began. Being too much, being yourself makes others uncomfortable. Hold back and we'll be proud of you and others will like you. BAM. There it is.
So what happens when you spend a lifetime withholding the real you? Do you feel like anyone sees you? Most often not. How could they when you are hiding your authentic self? Do you feel important and acknowledged? Maybe on occasion for something you've done, but not for who you are because that version of you is locked in the attic so that you don't scare anyone away. And do you even want anyone to see the real you? HELL NO, that's way too frightening. BAM. The trigger connection. Epiphany #2.
Living with these two triggers and being the free spirit that I am with a conscious mind that calls bullshit on those internalized messages I've carried all those years has created a lot of buried resentment that needed to be healed. Forgiveness was really easy, especially now that I'm an adult and a parent. But the awareness of "what is", and the ability to look back on my life's path and make connections is a very powerful tool that will enable me to move forward on my healing journey while living in my authentic self.