How I Found My Voice.
Authenticity. When I first heard this word, I am not sure I knew what it meant. I always thought of myself being an authentic person. I was kind and I was real. I was nice to people and everyone got to witness my kindness. I was happy with myself thinking I made my parents proud, I made them look good and i knew I did well. In friendships, same thing, I was the good friend, I didn't argue, I didn't disagree, I followed what others wanted with a smile. Who doesn't want to be around or be part of this life? How could you not? I was "THE" good girl and I took great pride in it. It was safe. I was a good person...
But boy was I wrong. Little did I know I had many layers hiding. Little did I know, I was actually a liar. I had a really hard time processing and accepting this when it first came up. A liar??
Looking back, I am shocked as to how much I lied to myself and others and for how long. I wasn’t honest when I was a people pleaser - doing things I didn’t want to do or saying yes when I didn't want to. I wasn’t honest most times when I said “I was ok.” I wasn’t real with others, but mostly I wan't real with myself. I lied. I cared so much for other's opinions, it was so important for me to fit in and have friends. I was avoiding being lonely and ashamed. I was wearing a social mask for a very long time. I remember how it was so important to my family that we look good in front of others. How important it was for us to be "good girls" in comparison to other kids. And what that meant is that we didn't have an opinion or a say; we didn't stand for ourselves and we didn't express feelings. Good girls simply had to be well behaved, not cause any fuss and obey the elderly even if it didn't feel right. I realized I created this world of being a "good girl" because it was safe. That way I wouldn't disappoint people, I wouldn't look bad, or look "stupid." Everyone would like me and in my world, I was safe. I didn't have to worry.
You see the world was painted as black and white for me. There was no in between. You were either good or you were bad. If people did anything I considered bad, I had no idea how to cope with it. All i knew is that it was wrong, it was unsafe. And because I had this judgement of others, I was afraid in return they would have this judgement of me too. So I made sure I stayed on the safe side, the right side, the good side.
I was right thinking my parents were proud, because they were, for the most part. I imagine most my friends were content with the way I was showing up. It was convenient to them, I didn't cause them any trouble and followed what worked best for them. Life worked.
Then I started getting hurt by certain situations, or things that would be said. I started having upsets. I ignored these upsets for a long time but the more I suppressed my feelings, the bigger the pile got, the harder it was to ignore upsets and suppress them. I started shutting down when hurt or triggered. I would just shut down and retract. That was the safest way I knew to deal with something that didn't feel right. Plus, I didn't want to take the risk to look bad or push anyone away from me, so I kept it in. So then I would calm down, come back and act like nothing happened. Phew! I'd think each time. I am good, everything is in control, I have gotten rid of this upset. But what was really happening was that my resentment was growing and I was no longer able to hide. Yet, the only solution I knew was still to shut down and leave. I would ignore the feeling, thinking it would pass. But it never did!
Then came the punishing. If I considered someone hurt me, I would punish them by intentionally withholding my love and attention towards them. That was my way of regaining control and creating some safety. I was hoping it would hurt them but let me tell you, I am sure I was hurting a lot more because I was withholding love for myself too. And somehow I still thought I was the better person because I didn't show any anger, I wasn't mean to them, or I let it go but really it was a lie. Who does that?? Hurt people do, all the time.
What I also didn't know is how unsafe this behaviour was. How I was cutting pieces of myself to fit into the world; to fit into other people's world. And, in doing that I was losing myself a bit more each time to the point where I completely forgot who I was. In fact, I had absolutely no idea who I was. What did I like or didn't like? what did I want to do with my life? Did I want a family? What was I up to? Did I have dreams? I had no clue. I honestly didn't even know. I depended on other people's opinions and directions for so long that I had no idea how to find my own way. It was a dark place to be. I resented so many people in my life and walked away from so many relationships. I shared a bit about this place in a previous post. I was sad, scared and felt very alone.
I started searching, asking questions, going to meditation classes, self help classes, counselling and saying lots of prayers! I wanted answers. I wanted one answer, one big fix. I wanted someone to tell me what to do, how to do it and get better. And there was no such thing. No one had THE answer. I kept being told over and over again, only I could find my answers. What works best for me. What I am here for. What I want. Who I am. Ugh. I did not like this answer. It wasn't enough. I wanted more! I was even more angry and confused. What now?!
I had two choices: stay there, or keep searching in a new way. I learnt that the only way to the light is through darkness. What that means is that I had to face the things, situations, feelings that I had avoided for so long. I had to find safe spaces for this blocked energy to move, to flow. I learnt to express my feelings, thoughts, and fears in a safe environment. First with therapists, then with friends I felt safe with. I bawled in therapy, I screamed, I yelled, I said everything I never got to say. I talked about things that I was taught were not ok to be expressed. I shared experiences, hurt, disappointments. I found safe places to let all that energy out and it felt amazing! I finally let go of so much. No judgement, no response, no worries about hurting anyone. It was all about me. Weird for me to say that, it felt strange to make things about ME for a change. I finally gave myself the love and attention I was seeking from so many others. As my therapist received everything I was saying, they received ME. I felt heard and seen for the first time in a very long time. I felt lighter. In fact, at times, my body was vibrating from all the energy that was moving. And, when I opened up to friends, to my surprise, more people were understanding than I ever thought and mostly because they related in a way or another.
I still struggle with this at times and say yes when I reallyyyy don't want to but I don't do it nearly as often and when I choose to do it, I spend time being kind to myself instead of being mean to myself and I make the best of it! I have learnt that it is ok for me to be hurt, sad, angry, confused, and all kinds of other feeling, instead of pretending I am ok. I learnt that it is ok for me to share with people how I feel, what is ok and what is not ok for me. I learnt that it is ok for me to create safe boundaries. I learnt that it is ok to say NO to certain things, or people. No to follow certain crowds or the cool kids. I learnt its ok for me to be different. But here is the biggest one for me, I learnt that it is ok to make "mistakes", it is ok to make poor choices at times, and it is just as ok for people to have a judgement or opinion about me, my actions and my past.
I have to say, this new belief: "It is just as ok for people to have a judgement or opinion about me, my actions and my past" has truly and completely changed my life. I learnt that the world is NOT black or white. I learnt that there is so much between.
First, we all make mistakes, and mistakes are defined so differently by many. Drinking might be defined as good or ok by some and really bad and wrong by others. Who am I to say what people should or can think or believe? I had to really see and accept that we ALL have the rights to our opinions! I learnt that some will have something to say about me, my actions, my experiences based on their definitions, their filters, their experiences and IT IS OK. It is their right to have these feelings and thoughts. Yes, it still hurts for a few minutes to hear things said about me, and I don't choose to stay there. I remind myself that I have no right to try to control or manage people's feelings and opinions for them. In fact, I remind myself that it is none of my business what people say or think of me. And it is also none of my business who they choose to be in the world. It is not my place to judge their journey. This has given me SO MUCH freedom. I am no longer trapped into the world of others' judgements and opinions. I am no longer controlled by the way my family, my culture and my religion have raised me.
Now, I get to be me by choosing what I want to do or say without worrying about what others' make it mean. I take actions for myself instead of others and in doing that, I started paying attention to my own voice, to my own intuition and that was one of the most beautiful gifts I have experienced. Out of this I have been guided in such beautiful ways by my intuition and, in ways that no human could have, I supported myself. By hearing my own voice, I found my way, I found who I want to be in the world, I changed my career, I changed my habits, I started finding myself. Out of this I also learnt that I get to choose who I want to surround myself with, not based on who gives me the most attention but based on the kind of beliefs they have and how aligned we are.
This to me is authenticity. I get to be me without worrying about others but also by giving people a break, letting them show up in any way they need to. It doesn't mean that I have to be part of their lives but it means that I have acceptance and compassion for their journey too.