In my journey through depression treatment, I have encountered many things that frightened me. One of the most frightening has been getting in touch with who I really am, and putting aside the person I presented to the world.
For as long as I can remember I have craved acceptance, approval, and admiration. The catch was that I really believed I had nothing to offer. I was also very afraid of being ridiculed – either in my presence or behind my back. The only way I could think of to guard myself against that kind of harm was to create a fictional character. I thought this pretend version of me was everything I was not. Confident, nice, attractive, smart, happy, and engaging. I was wrong. The false version of me was really plastic and shallow. She was not a real person, therefore, she was incapable of feeling any real emotion.
My motto was “Fake it till you make it“. That attitude was tiring. I had to keep myself wound so tight – hoping none of the real me leaked through. In my mind, one of the worst things that could happen to me was if I relaxed for one moment, and let any part of the real me surface.That fake person guarded my heart – making it easy for me to keep the world (and myself) from being able to see the real me. No one really knew me, including myself.
Eventually, I got too weary – soul weary – to keep presenting the fake me. I was so depressed that the person I could have been was still hidden away – underneath sadness and pain.
We are what we believe we are. ~ C.S. Lewis
The first person I showed the real me to was my counselor. She was safe. Unlike other people, she is trained to not be judgmental. I did not have any worries about what her response to the real me would be. If I went in and said “I feel like crap today.”, her response was usually “Ok, do you want to tell me why?” Other people – who do not have her training – usually responded with advice like “If you would just get out more you would feel better.”
Eventually, the real me – that I was showing the counselor – started showing up in other places. Not often, but often enough for me to realize that life was so much easier as the real me. I became determined to do away with the pretender. There were three key things I did that aided me in that process.
1. I began sharing things about myself with other people. Usually, it was something that I may have not done exactly the right way, however, at the same time it was humorous. I learned that people enjoy hearing some of the silly things I do, and that I do not take myself so seriously that I can’t laugh at myself.
2. I started listening to other people – really hearing what was on their hearts, and minds. I listened without offering advice – unless asked – and let them know that I cared about them.
3. I learned how to relax. Not only by myself, but with other people as well. I found it was impossible to build walls up between myself, and other people when I am truly relaxed.
Who are you? Are you a different person than you allow other people to see? If so, try being yourself for a change.