Are you representing yourself — your TRUE self?
I remember not knowing exactly who I was, when I was in active abuse. I presented an image to the outside world that everything was fine (when in fact, it was NOT fine…the world inside my home was constantly on fire and chaotic). I wasn’t “being fake” per say, I was just not allowing real life to be seen. I’d plaster on a smile and carry on.
I would post on social media about what we were eating and activities we were doing and oodles of pictures of a smiling family. People didn’t know about or see the horrible criticisms of the meal that I prepared (kids weren’t excited about it because Abuser screamed about how he thought it was going to taste), or the behind-the-scenes planning that went into the picturesque activities (waking up early, silently fighting with kids who were dreading how their father would be, packing picnic food and snacks on a budget), or the begging and fighting that went into the smiling pictures (with an argument with the Abuser after the fact, always threatening to leave me because I was so hard to deal with).
I would put off activities that I once loved, proclaiming that I just didn’t have time or attention for that any more. Or, on the flipside, pretending to be into activities that I secretly hated, but looked like I just desperately LOVED it. I was NOT being Laura, I was being a chameleon who was just desperately trying to get along and survive, all while being a buffer zone between the Abuser and the kids.
When I finally got away from my Abuser, I honestly did not know who I was. I would feel guilty doing something fun, fully expecting someone to have a meltdown because of it. I had to start my journey on rediscovering myself by stopping doing things that I disliked. I also started adding small things that I used to love…small steps…slowly, but frequently.
I eventually started going out with friends. We started doing things that I had never tried before, seeing what I liked and didn’t like. I started talking to people that I normally felt shy around. I was abandoned by almost all of my former friends, upon the incident/separation/divorce. I also had to cut out several, along the way, whom either were spying for the Abuser or wanted to control me. It’s been a very precarious journey, leaving no room for prideful behavior.
You know, people have fake personas in general. I don’t judge them for that. I, however, am no longer going to hide who I am nor am I going to just gloss over things. I am politely calling people on their bologna. I am no longer hiding my feelings behind a polite, “it’s okay.” I mean, I’m not going to be rude about my comment.
Here’s an example: I went on a date with a guy, before I’d met my boyfriend, and we met at a coffee shop. We had discussed online what we both liked to drink. He proclaimed that he was a french roast with hazelnut guy. I admitted my obsession with caramel machiatos, but they had to be fat-free if I was going to indulge. So we made a coffee dates so he could buy me my favorite coffee.
We met a few days later at a local coffee shop. He first called me Lori and gave me a cheesy side-hug. He offered to buy me a coffee, asking me what I wanted. I’m pretty sure my face notified him of my confusion. I said a fat-free caramel macchiato.
“And my name is Laura,” I corrected
“Yeah, that what I said,” he said, as he looked away and shrugged his shoulders.
“No, it wasn’t.”
He looked at my blankly. “Whatever. What coffee did you want again?”
I smiled, sarcastically. “Fat-free caramel macchiato. Thank you.”
I went and sat down. He came back with our coffees and immediately started talking about himself. I blew on my coffee while I listened, politely. I finally took a drink, and nearly spit it out.
He looked puzzled. “What’s the matter? Something wrong with your coffee?”
I swallowed it hard. “What did you order me?”
“Chocolate mocha, like you wanted. Why?”
I shook my head. “That’s not what I asked for.”
He kept sipping on his coffee. “It’s a free coffee, so what difference does it make, right?”
That was the point when I stood up, thanked him for the coffee, and bid him a good evening. I walked toward the door, telling him goodnight multiple times as I walked. He was begging me to stay, but. I kept walking. I also made it a point to throw my coffee in the trash, right in front of him. It was not what I requested…like three times. I wasn’t important enough for him to remember my preference. I heard that loud and clear. I was impressed how much I’d grown, because I had decided not to settle.
Another example: a friend and I were sitting at a restaurant. She wanted to introduce me to a guy she was interested in, who was meeting us there. The waitress took our order and we sat there chatting for a bit. She pulled out her smartphone and started checking her social media. Instead of pulling my phone out, I pulled out my Rubik’s Cube.
She stopped her scrolling, looking annoyed. “What the hell is that?”
I smiled sheepishly. “It’s a Rubik’s Cube, silly.”
“Why are you playing with that here?” She was looking more and more put off with it as we talked. First I though she was joking, but she clearly wasn’t.
I sighed. “I’m feeling a bit anxious and I love fiddling with it instead of being on my phone all the time.”
She stared blankly.
“What?” I said. “I’m NOT putting it away until he gets here or dinner does.”
She rolled her eyes and went back to her phone. “Those are childish, you know.”
I just smiled and fiddled with my Cube.
Her guy friend walked up to our table and gave her a hug. He went to shake my hand so I switched it to my left hand, in order to shake his.
“Wait,” he said. “Is that a Rubik’s Cube?”
“It is,” I proclaimed proudly.
“Can I see it? I love these things,” he admitted. I shot my friend an I-told-you-so look. She rolled her eyes and shook her head.
PSA: Never settle, be authentically you, and keep it weird and light-hearted.