I am the eldest child and an only daughter, I was always the center of attention. I was put in dresses with matching shoes and I remember that when I smiled and was pleasant I got a positive reaction from everyone. So began the first conscious thought that if I act happy and smile that I will be well-regarded by my family and others and therefore loved.
So, the first Mask was born: The Smiling Mask. And I believe we learn to wear many masks throughout our lives.
These behaviors were learned in my childhood to my adulthood, from watching and mirroring people in my family, friends and society. I know that I wanted people to look at me in a certain way and I aimed to please.
When I turned 30 years old, my parents separated. I was devastated because the only family unit I had known was now broken though my brothers and I were not children anymore it still hurt terribly.
Any emotions, confusion or resentments I harbored were pushed deep down inside. I smiled and put on The Brave Mask, telling myself not to show the pain I felt because that would upset my parents and I wanted to please them and not to be weak or fall apart.
So I marched on into my thirties never really expressing myself. Hung out with different groups of my peers and wore many new masks. I remember thinking how exhausted and confused I felt. Which one of these girls is the real me? Who am I?
I felt that had to be a chameleon and change depending on which group of people I was around. It was a confusing time to say the least. I was wearing so many masks that I felt a dangerous disconnect with myself.
I had been numbing my true emotions my whole life and always put on a fake smile so that no one would ever think I had a problem or felt sad. It had all caught up with me. I had to get real and find my authentic self.
I began my journey of authenticity the minute I accepted to sit with a therapist and started acknowledging all the masks I was hiding behind. I discovered that I had to accept myself, embrace my life with all my flaws and life’s detours.
So, here’s are my flaws: I am quick-tempered and bossy towards the people I care the most for, like my youngest brother. I have always bossed him around and get aggravated with him the fastest.
It’s because I love him and stubbornly think I know what is best for him. I realize now that I cannot tell him how to live. He has to figure it out himself.
Being stubborn, bossy and quick-tempered has made me who I am. But I have a choice to accept that I am that way and work on becoming a better person, a more patient sister, wife, mom and a supportive family member.
Through this journey of authenticity I had to accept my insecurities and realized that they are all based around my fears — my insecurities surrounding how I look, my physical appearance and body image.
Another fear and insecurity was that I would never meet someone, romantically, who would truly love me. I have had to learn to “own” these fears and not mask them, not hide from them. Interestingly, every day I fought my relationship as I did not see why he would genuinely want to be with me (my wonderful husband of 5 years now and we have a 22 month old son) what a patient gentleman he has been – and am forever grateful. He is a reflection of Gods love for me.
I have also learned to accept my successes through acknowledging the hard work I have done. When I have a challenging run, I pat myself on the back and tell myself “good job”. I give myself credit for changing my life for the better. It has taken courage and I acknowledge that.
Lastly, I have come to realize My Truth. My truth is that, at my core, I am a good-hearted person. I treat others and myself with respect and love. My truth that, I am not my parents and their marriage is none of my business.
I try to do the best I can everyday and not judge myself or care what others may think about me.
I cannot control what other people may think and feel. I can only control how I act and live my life, and I do so with honesty, meaning I acknowledge and express how I feel in any given situation or encounter.
I found out that I have to always acknowledge, respect and honor my emotions. When emotional, I allow myself to cry and be sad. When angry, I channel that energy into cooking . I allow myself to feel every emotion and just sit in it.
Suppressing or ignoring my emotions, negative or positive is no longer part of my life. I now always communicate my feelings, express myself, allow myself to feel, and ask for guidance and help if I need it.
I am not perfect and to pretend otherwise just so I can “please” others is not something I do anymore.
To follow: 1) My incredible journey running into myself.