I want to be true, honest, authentic in all that I do, all that I say, all that I am. Being something I’m not, pretending, role-playing…it’s exhausting. I sometimes wonder how actors who pursue acting full-time have any energy left to be themselves off the stage. Do they even remember who they are after spending so much of their lives playing someone else?
Since I was a kid, I’ve had this deep-rooted belief that I am inherently bad in some way. Perhaps it was my Catholic upbringing which I used from a young age as a whip to train myself to be obedient, unfeeling, “perfect.” I was afraid of being authentic, because I truly believed that given that freedom, I would be someone ugly, untamed, maybe even hurtful. I wish I knew the reason as to why I developed this self-loathing, this absolute rejection of self-trust. I remember very little about my childhood, but I often grow desperate wondering why my child-self decided that to be me was a sin.
My inner critic has been a constant companion for as far back as I can remember. I have a memory of myself when I was five years old, lying in bed and praying to a god that I believed hated me, pleading that I wouldn’t wake up the next morning. What kid wants that? When the kids at school looked at my scarred arms, called me “gross” and said I had a disease…I accepted it as fact, because it was what I already believed. When I was told off for crying, I remember trying to suck the tears back into their ducts, telling myself that to feel was weakness, to show emotion was shameful, to ask for help was burdensome.
It feels as if I have this hand-crafted mask of what I’ve believed to be acceptable that I’ve worn since my early years. Thankfully, I’ve grown and the mask no longer fits, nor do I want to wear it. I’m tired of hiding in my decorated prison, living in the torture chamber that has been my mind for many years. I’m sore from the whippings, I’m weary of the constant inner critique, I’m done with the act.
I’ve started building my true self, seeking out my passions in art, music, helping others…but the construction is far from complete. I am so far from complete. The twelve steps tell me to be honest, to live honestly…this is hard to do when you’ve spent your life refusing to trust yourself. I’m constantly questioning my every thought wondering, “what does this belief say about me” and “does this thought mean I’m a bad person?” My brain circuits all of the conversations I’ve had each day over and over, analyzing my comments, my jokes, my words, seeking out instances in which I was wrong, insensitive, awkward. Still, I find myself searching for proof, evidence that I’m the horrible person I’ve always believed myself to be. The rumination never stops.
It has to stop. I do believe that I’m trying. I’ve started to counter my internal arguments with the very reason that fuels my self-critique: lack of self-trust. If I don’t trust myself, who am I to believe my thoughts? What if I’m not horrible? What if I’m human and that’s okay? What if I really am doing the best I can? What if the people who say that they love me actually believe that I’m worth loving?
Maybe I don’t need to know the reason I was the way I was…to change the way I am, today.
Maybe being honest…starts with facing the fear of discovering my real self.