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When you hide behind a persona you create

There was a time in my life when I looked at the world hierarchically and it was appeared to me that some folks were more popular than others. It seemed like the people who had the audacity to be self-centred and self-promoting got exactly what they wanted. And it felt like I was getting left behind. It was painful and often overwhelmingly emotional.

Before I started started my ‘work' in therapy and started learning about the importance of being vulnerable, I relied on what I knew from my psychology classes to manage my overwhelming emotions. I knew that our behaviours could be shaped by our thoughts and beliefs and so long as I lied to myself and told myself I was [insert whatever persona or personality style I thought won the influence of others], I could be happy. The thing I wanted the most was to be happy and accepted by others. I read books like 49 Laws of Power, The Art of Seduction, How to Win Friends and Influence People, and thought if I applied the right “strategies”, and appeared in my social life with more fake pizazz than I normally would, I would be successful in manipulating my relationships and therefore, my life. I was purposefully acting in ways I thought society wanted me to be as a woman: ultra feminine, a sort-of damsel in distress and only interested in my own needs and wants.

I’m sure you’re wondering whether it worked. It often felt awkward. I would sometimes cringe after saying something I normally wouldn’t say or didn’t genuinely feel. I often felt like a fraud. But because I truly hated myself at the time, it was better than being me. Embodying personas was never able to take away my insecurities about who I was and where I came from. I was constantly afraid of being ‘found out’ that I wasn’t the person I was projecting into the world. At the same time, I was confused as to what was the real me. I was jealous of people who were more than me because I was constantly analyzing and comparing myself to those who seemed more popular or had more influence.

Through the encouragement I received in counselling, I learned to reach into deeper feelings. Pushing through potential judgement from others and expressing vulnerably, I learned to express that was true. I experienced what it felt like to be authentically yourself and the freedom that comes from being that.

Through my skilled therapist, I found support and acceptance. And from that support and acceptance, I learned to accept myself. I learned that I didn’t need to be anything other than me. I learned that it was okay for me to be flawed, to make mistakes and to not strive for excellence, achievement, and winning all the time. That there was more to life than that.

I became truly confident, from the inside out. I stopped comparing. I saw the beauty in being unique. And it took terrifying soul searching in a safe, professional environment to get here. But once you’re here, you’re here. I no longer wish I was someone else the way I did as a child or adolescent.

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By Angela Leong
Nov 07, 2020