I’m great at faking it.
I’m not talking about faking that.
What I fake is much worse than pretending to reach an intense climax during sex.
I fake me.
At first glance, I have quite a life. I am married to a wonderful man, work for a wellness franchise, banter with colleagues, live in a beautiful home, and have all my material needs met. I really have nothing to complain about—except I’m not sure who I am.
The disconnect goes way back, but I can’t pinpoint a moment. There’s no retracing my steps as if I’m looking for a lost pair of earrings. Things like this creep up. Like gaining a few pounds a year until you wake up one day to the realization you’re 50 pounds overweight.
It’s sneaky. Day by day, decision by decision, I allowed more of myself to dissolve until one day I woke up and realized I didn’t know who I was.
Maybe I never knew myself. For as long as I can remember I subscribed to being what I believed people wanted.
As a young child, I did what I could to keep the peace. I love my parents dearly, but our house could be volatile. I did what I could to keep the peace. I made sure to bring Dad his coffee after dinner. I brushed Mom’s hair. Certainly, if I did these things, it would make them happier. That’s what I rationalized at least—and I was the middle child after all.
School was more of the same. I learned what teachers wanted and tried to do just that. I wasn’t always the best student, but I was respectful and didn’t act out. I was the kid who offered to clean the erasers or take the film projector back to the library. I thought being helpful was the golden ticket.
Romantic relationships were no different.
I loved my first husband. I did. But I never gave him the chance to love me—not the real me—because I didn’t show him my truth. When I realized my needs weren’t being met, I first kept my mouth shut, determined to change my expectations. In time, I resented that he couldn’t “see” what needed to change.
To be honest, if he had point-blank asked me, I’m not sure what I would have said. I couldn’t get to the essence of what was making me miserable. By hiding my true self from him and myself, we had no foundation, no center to bring us together. After 10 years of marriage, all I could do was walk away.
But since that time, I have taken the scary road of self-discovery. It was on this road that I heard sociologist and self-proclaimed storyteller Brené Brown for the first time. She had me pegged: I made myself numb, tried to be perfect, pretended. I wouldn’t allow myself to be vulnerable. No wonder I never had a real connection with others or, more importantly, with who I truly was deep down.
I’m still on my road to personal freedom, but I am making progress. I speak more truthfully and openly with those I love. I risk being rejected more often. I’m in an honest relationship where communication is a part of our daily life.
I am no expert. I am still learning. But here’s what I know.
Four reasons to not fake it:
1. We no longer know what we truly need. After years of doing what others wanted, I had no idea how to make a decision based on what I needed.
2. True joy escapes us. To find true joy, we must know what makes our heart sing. I had let my “joy” be dictated by others.
3. Relationships are superficial. When we operate only within the space of others’ expectations, we are going to lose. We only skim the surface because we fear rejection.
4. Our health suffers. Pushing down emotions can only work temporarily. Eventually those emotions will come out and they’ll come out with a ferocity. It might takes years or decades, but it definitely won’t be pretty when it happens.
Four ways to reconnect with yourself:
1. Create quiet time. Meditation can be intimidating and elusive—a mystical place that’s hard to reach. What’s important is we find time to be quiet and still, even just for 10 minutes. Don’t censor your thoughts, but don’t ruminate too long on any particular thought either. Each thought is like an ocean wave that rolls in and out, making room for the next thought.
2. Embrace your feelings. Some days I write in a journal. Some days I talk (or yell) into a small voice recorder. Some days I cry. Whatever works for you is fantastic. The benefit comes from you realizing how you feel. In time you may reveal patterns that need to be addressed.
3. Move your body. Our work, social, and home lives tend to be sedentary. Many of us live in our past or our future. Movement, as simple as walking, gets us out of our thoughts and into the present. Our breath, body, and heart can more easily align.
4. Listen to your gut. The human body is beautifully complicated. Sure, it handles vital everyday processes like breathing, digestion, and circulation, and it takes us from Point A to Point B. But our bodies also deliver messages. Never dismiss the tightness in your belly or the hair standing up on the back of your neck. Your body is warning you of something, and you should listen.
Now I’m not suggesting that we never compromise, or that we never put the needs of others before our own. But that shouldn’t be our constant mode of operation. When we stop faking it and start reconnecting with ourselves, we’ll find that not only are we better off, but so is everyone around us.