I’ve worn many a mask in my time, sported a few veils, and hidden behind home-made shields of armour, trying to be who I thought I should be, rather than accepting myself for who I was.
I pushed back the emptiness, the sadness, the loneliness, the fear I felt about almost everything and hid out behind my happy face, trying to be who everyone expected me to be—grateful, happy, easy-going, full—but in the process, I denied myself and judged myself worse than I’ve ever judged another.
I hated what was going on behind my eyes; I despised the anxiety that was ruling my life, invading my stomach and poisoning me from the inside out.
I couldn’t understand how to fix it, how to escape it, how to move through something that I couldn’t even stand to sit with…so I didn’t.
I soldiered on through the feelings of not being enough, of being different, of feeling alone and misunderstood, of not being understood at all—and I did my best to sew myself up at the seams with smiles and socialization, with nights out trying to drink and dance my sadness away. But nothing worked…it only got worse.
What you repress only runs at you faster. What you bury in the darkness only keeps resurfacing up into the light.
But I was persistent. I shoved down the butterflies having a conniption fit in my chest, swallowed down my brokenness and kept on pushing through. I went to university and studied anyways. I partied, and studied, and partied and cried and fell apart and graduated on the Dean’s list with a major in Biology—and a major anxiety problem.
I pretended I wasn’t unraveling; I put on a brave front and acted strong. I pretended to be happy—and I fooled everyone, except myself.
I traveled and fell apart; became a teacher and pieced myself back together. And fell apart again. And again.
I’m still falling sometimes.
Still pouring out, still unraveling. But I’m getting better at letting my guard down and letting people in. I’m getting more comfortable with the fact that I’m not the perfect yoga teacher, or partner or mother.
I’m admitting that I’ve played a million roles and lived at least five different lives in just this one, landing me here—in my skin—a blend of who I was and who it is I’m becoming.
I’m not perfect yet (cat’s already out of the bag) and I’ve lost the energy—and the desire—to pretend to be anything that I’m not anymore.
I learned a long time ago that pretending that everything was perfect when it wasn’t wouldn’t serve me.
That acting as though my partner and I never have arguments, that every class I teach is amazing, or that I never swear or lose my shit (or get annoyed, or fall apart, or do something that I regret) would not make me a more desirable friend, teacher or mother.
I learned that hiding behind illusions of happiness and fullness didn’t make the sadness go away; that the glossiness of smiles and the facade of ‘knowing’ about life, didn’t smooth over the sharp edges of my depression and emptiness.
It didn’t die down or go away. The more I pretended I was okay, the less okay I was. I watched, heart broken, as the gaps and gaping holes in my heart started to take me over.
I had inadvertently alienated myself in my quest to appear happy like everyone else; I thought I was connecting through becoming a version of myself that could compare with the ones I saw of others in their Facebook happy snaps, but in reality, I was only disconnecting myself more and more and more.
No one knew what I really felt, no one knew how broken I really was, and consequently, no one knew I needed help, compassion, love or understanding—so I didn’t get any.
I know how terrifying it is to reach out or open up because of the fear of judgement, the fear of being abandoned when the illusion of perfection shatters, but how can anyone connect to you, how can anyone help, when you refuse to let them in? How can anyone accept you when you can not even accept yourself?
As Dr. Steve Maraboli said: “When I accept myself, I am freed from the burden of needing you to accept me.”
We have the chance to bond over the imperfectness, to connect over the challenges, tug at each others heart strings with accounts of honesty and feelings of not being enough.
As much as we convince ourselves otherwise, we don’t connect or love over a white lie about how perfect motherhood is, how birthing was painless, or how you never swear in front of your child. Not over how much you know, what an amazing yogi you are, or how you never say anything bad about anyone ever.
You don’t make friends or fall in love by putting yourself on a pedestal of perfection.
Everyone slips up. Everyone has a hard time, sometimes. A bad day at work, an uninspiring class, a moment of selfishness, ungratefulness or of projecting blame.
Everyone has moments of being blind. Limited.
No one is perfect all the time.
So maybe, just maybe, it’s time now to stop pretending, time to drop the mask, to break through the armour, to knock down the walls we’ve built up around our hearts, so that we can really start connecting, really start accepting and moving through our darkest spots to get to our brightest.
I think so.
After all, as Leonard Cohen said, it’s through the cracks that the light gets in…
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Ed: Bryonie Wise