Removing your mask…Be unapologetically you.
I really wish I had the ability of hindsight in all situations, all the time, before it actually becomes hindsight. That’s a super power I could use. Hindsight gives me this “wonderful” (insert sarcastic tone here) perspective to look back on a situation and see all the woulda, coulda, shoulda’s. I generally can’t do this until I’ve managed to gain some space from it. “It” being whatever situation, relationship or decision I’ve decided to now look back on and dissect.
I have some amazing people in my life. I feel extremely fortunate to have five girlfriends who I can rely on at anytime and would drop anything and everything if I was in need. This has been demonstrated on a few different occasions. All of them are married or in a long term committed relationship. None of them are familiar with the single life I’ve been living the last two years.
When I was a child and a reluctant nomad, I learned how to be a chameleon. I learned how to identify the missing persona in the peer group I was attempting to be accepted into and became that person. I’d put on that mask and wear it, even if it didn’t fit perfectly, just to find acceptance and belonging. At twelve, I had no concept that this was not acceptance. I wasn’t being me. I wasn’t being authentic. The acceptance was for the role I was playing. The “acceptance” was an Academy Award for my character, not acceptance for who I was.
With distance I have clear hindsight. My only single girlfriend, who is no longer actively in my life, approached singledom and dating in a very different manner than I. Finding myself in an unfamiliar world, I became the chameleon again and for lack of a better role model, adapted and adopted a new mask. I entered the dating world playing a game…the “don’t text him until he texts you” game and then wait a sufficiently long time after he does before replying. The world of going out to the bar/pub and “meeting” people, who will never text or call and if they did, I wouldn’t want to see them in an alternative setting anyway. The world of endlessly swiping and frantically messaging. I grew tired of this game, of the mask, it became so forced and so heavy. My only option was to take it off. None of the “relationships” I had during this time lasted, or had any real durability to last in reality. They were not with the real me. So I removed the mask. I was sure I did. What I didn’t realize is that I had merely swapped it out with a new one.
In this new mask, I was the cool girl. Chill. Relaxed. All the space you want. Not talking about feelings, needs, desires. Not speaking or hinting at long term plans or goals. I was a muted version of myself. A wise man told me to “be my authentic self”. He told me that I had no problem being authentic in my professional world, my writing world, my running world, so why not in my relationship world? I told him that I didn’t know how to do that. He said, in his most yoda-like way “there is no how, you just do”. He said, “being authentic is like an orgasm, you either have it or you don’t.” What was holding me back?
This one was easy. Fear. Fear was holding me back. Did I have the strength to reveal myself in such a real and raw way? And was I brave enough to do so? I merely had to use my hindsight to recall all the failed and non-starter “relationships”. The post mortem was always the same…but it never focused on how authentic I had been. Had I been true to my needs, wants, desires, goals, dreams and boundaries? If this had been at the centre of my self reflections the only answer I could have had was, no.
Very recently a good friend of mine called me out on my lack of authenticity in my relationships. He asked me if that was truly my world? If I truly wanted or was ready for a long term relationship? He called me out on my masks and asked me to show up without them. To show up for myself, as myself and in the end for the relationship. By removing my mask, I am able to see myself for who I really am. In doing so, I have been able to step over the threshold of fear and started on the path to acceptance. Having removed my pretense, expectation, masks and all.
It is possible to be yourself, authentically, naturally, and find love. The kind of love that brings belonging and acceptance, unequivocally.