When I was young people often mistaken me to be older. I was a serious adolescent with a raspy voice, long legs, and big hips. I enjoyed the attention of adult guys calling me sexy. Older guys whistling and making comments, no matter how inappropriate, made me fell noticed. It helped to drown out the voices in my head that told me I was worthless, fat, and ugly. Eventually, I started to dress and act the part. I’d let my hair down soon after leaving home and smear my lips with bright red lip gloss. I even started buying loose cigarettes with change I found around the house to complete my new mature look. Little did I know that my fake persona would help create a life built on a weak foundation.
There is something called the Pillars of our Identity. Each of these five pillars support our authentic selves. When I started to dress and act like someone that I wasn’t, I weakened the pillar that represents values and Sense of self, but I also put a dent in the pillar that represents Body Health.(pillars # 4 and 5) From that day forward, I learned that I could morph my identity if I wanted to be noticed. Priority became getting all the attention because without it those old feelings of being worthless, alienated and used would arise. So, I kept building this larger than life fake persona on that weak foundation. I was slowly chipping away at the other pillars of my identification. Material safety and money (pillar #2) was weakened as I created a mountain of debt to keep up appearances. My work performance (pillar # 1) was slacking as the late-night parties, sleep overs, and out of town trips became priority.
Out of the five pillars of identity, I had destroyed four and was working on the fifth, Social Networks and relationships. My “so-called” friends were drawn to who they thought I was. My social network was built with a fake I.D. I wore a mask at least sixteen hours a day, only taking it off while I slept. My life became one long extravagant masquerade party. I was always laughing, telling jokes, and working overtime to make everyone else feel good. Meanwhile, I was numb to the things that made me happy and fulfilled. I laughed when it wasn’t funny. I participated In things that made me uncomfortable. I wore clothes that I knew would cause men to take a second look.
Soon the masquerade party became a hated job. It started to take more effort to get and retain the attention of the room as fresh blood arrived on the scene. I changed social groups, so I would be the fresh face in the room. It was draining. Like an addict, I spent most of my days planning or participating my next high. Before I knew it, I was over thirty and didn’t really know who I was or what I liked.
Hitting bottom. I was left with debt, no real career, and no friends. But, amidst my despair bloomed hope as I stared defeated out my backdoor watching the carefree flight of a butterfly. It was a process but gradually I rebuilt each pillar of my identity to stand in my authentic self and purpose today. Sure, there were times when I thought about how many years, I wasted trying to be someone I wasn’t, and regret tries to take me back down that hole of despair. But then I remind myself how grateful I am to have been afforded this opportunity to unapologetically live my life today. Now, I don’t scratch where I don’t itch. I don’t laugh if it ain’t funny. I learned to say no, and I can do it with a smile and without any explanation. I left the masquerade party, took off the mask and threw away the fake I.D. and you can too. Today I invite you to leave the masquerade party and live your best life, free of every mask and fake I.D.