“Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone.” ~Fred Rogers
So, here’s the deal. Life? Sometimes it feels not as awesome as you might like. But then again, you have a lot more control over that than you might realize.
For example, we all have SOME situation, person or thing in our lives that we’d rather not discuss. This could be a rocky relationship with a friend or loved one, a physical or mental disability (perceived or otherwise), a financial struggle, a weight struggle or literally anything that you feel ashamed or embarrassed about.
Maybe it’s even a hobby or your career or your family or something that you truly LOVE that makes you feel like you want to hide that part of yourself.
I’ve recently grown a bit of a stronger spine, myself. See, I used to hide who I was pretty consistently (on certain levels), but as I evolve, my true self emerges–and turns out, I’m alright. Some people even think I’m kinda cool. Ha!
😉 But seriously…I digress.
This very common internal struggle with being true to yourself (and being confident enough that you’re worth loving/liking AS YOU ARE for WHO YOU ARE) can often lead to excessive self-esteem and identity issues, which in turn have many associated side-effects, the majority of which are NOT positive.
Ultimately, it’ll lead to a lower quality of life–not accepting yourself and loving yourself for who you are.
Take for a moment the story of an old friend of mine. Though I haven’t spoken to him in years, I think of him often. For the sake of his privacy, I’m going to call him Mr. X.
The Fearless Mr. X Comes Out: Finding and Learning to Love Your True Self
I was introduced to Mr. X as a blind date. After I spoke with him on the phone for the first time (and totally fell in like with him), I called up the friend who had set us up.
“You know Mr. X is gay, right?” I said when she picked up the phone.
She laughed and assured me that he was not–in fact, she said, he was the gayest straight man she’d ever met. The two worked together at a nursing home and she said he was always very girl-crazy but super fun and easy to be with. So I agreed to go out with him–just for fun. What could it hurt?
That night, my friend and I met up with Mr. X and a friend of his at a local bar, where we had drinks, played pool and danced. It was so much fun, and Mr. X was a great date. He could dance, he could sing and he was just incredibly entertaining. He was also incredibly aggressive sexually, but mostly only superficially. Shakespeare began to echo in my head.
The lady did protest too much, methunk.
I didn’t care though. I felt like I’d known him forever–but I wasn’t sexually attracted to him. I got more of a really great friend sort of feeling, and that’s what our relationship evolved into.
One night he called me, very upset, telling me that he’d done something that made him sick, something he couldn’t even tell me. He didn’t know if he could live with himself–he could not handle the fact that it even happened. It was all he could do to not kill himself, he said.
I immediately went into” let’s get you back on track” mode, starting with reminding him of what a good person he was, how good he was at his job, how everyone loved him. (Side note here: He happened to be a fabulous nurse practioner who could not do any wrong in his patients’ eyes–and that’s because he was genuinely good at what he did and because he genuinely CARED about his patients and his work.)
Finally he calmed down enough to be more reasonable, but he never spilled the beans on what he’d done, exactly. But it didn’t matter to me.
Of course I had an idea of what he was talking about. Having been raised in the Bible Belt and in an area that was particularly populated with intolerant ideology and religiously-oriented folks, he could not admit to himself that he was different. It would mean admitting to himself that he was defective, wrong, not a good Christian.
Sure, he’d been born that way, but he couldn’t accept the idea because he had been taught (read: brainwashed to truly believe) that what he was could be clearly defined as an abomination.
Given my hunch, I assured him that he could talk to me, that it couldn’t be that bad–that everything would be OK. He wasn’t ready yet, but he did ask to come spend some time with me and heal. So that weekend, we started a new monthly or bi-monthly tradition: spending totally platonic weekends together.
We’d sit on the couch and watch girly movies while we ate ice cream out of the same pint.I loved those weekends so much! It was like having a really cool big brother who totally acted like a really cool big sister. Not being funny–seriously!
After one of these weekends, Mr. X called me and said he had something to tell me. He said he hoped I was sitting down, and that I’d never believe what he had to say.
I pretended to brace myself, but I suspected that he was finally about to tell me his big secret, the one I’d suspected from the first time we ever spoke. Could this be it?
He said, “I know you won’t believe this…but I’m gay!”
I said, “I know. I still love you.”
He missed a beat, then cleared his throat.
“Of course,” I said. “You thought I thought you were straight?”
“But, what–why…why didn’t you tell me?” he asked, and he was totally serious.
I laughed and told him that it didn’t matter to me who he was into, then joked that at least we wouldn’t be going after the same guys. We continued our platonic relationship and even went out dancing a couple of times after that (he was a great dancer!).
A year or so later, I met my now-husband who didn’t fully understand the platonic nature of this relationship. He asked me to stop having Mr. X visit on the weekends, telling me that it made him a little uncomfortable that a man was sleeping in my bed with me. (Another side note, I just laughed out loud when I typed that–I can’t believe I even expected him to feel any other way! Haha!)
But even at that time, I totally got that–and I totally respected it. (After all, how would I feel if the situation were reversed and his BFF was a female who spent the night at his house? Platonic or not, I’d not be thrilled!) So I explained it to Mr. X, who totally understood and was already busy with his new relationship.
Unfortunately we lost touch years ago, but every so often, I remember him and how once he finally embraced his true nature, he blossomed and became this light-filled, amazingly beautiful person. He was always that person, but had enclosed his true nature under a blanket of other people’s prejudices and feelings. Once he learned to separate himself from those feelings, he saw that his own feelings weren’t weird or perverted–they were just part of who he was. And who he was happened to be a pretty amazing guy.
Once he realized it and TRULY EMBRACED HIMSELF, he was free to be happy, find the love of his life and get healthier than he’d ever been. What else could one ask for?
Now, it’s your turn!
What do you think? Have you fully embraced your true nature, or do you hide who you are from some people in your life? If you’re still hiding, is it because you are ashamed of your behavior because YOU BELIEVE your behavior is wrong, or is it because you don’t want to deal with the judgments of people who wouldn’t understand? What would it take for you to reveal your true self to the whole world?
Share your thoughts in the comments section, below.
Angela Atkinson is a Certified Life Coach and the author of more than 20 books on narcissism, narcissistic abuse recovery and related topics. A recognized expert on narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder who has studied and written extensively on narcissistic relationships since 2006, Atkinson was inspired to begin her work as a result of having survived toxic relationships of her own.
Atkinson offers trauma-informed coaching and has certifications in life coaching, level 2 therapeutic model, CBT coaching, integrative wellness coaching, and NLP. She is a certified trauma support coach and certified family trauma professional. She also has a professional PTSD counseling certification. Her mission is to help those who have experienced the emotional and mental devastation that comes with narcissistic abuse in these incredibly toxic relationships to (re)discover their true selves, stop the gaslighting and manipulation and move forward into their genuine desires – into a life that is exactly what they choose for themselves.
Along with her solution-focused life coaching experience, Atkinson’s previous career in journalism and research helps her to offer both accurate and understandable information for survivors of abuse in a simple-to-understand way that helps to increase awareness in the narcissistic abuse recovery community. Atkinson founded QueenBeeing.com Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support, the SPANily Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups and the Life Makeover Academy. In her life coaching practice, Atkinson’s clients enjoy her personalized approach that allows and encourages them to become the best possible versions of themselves and to succeed in doing what they love most. She offers individual and group coaching for victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse at NarcissisticAbuseRecovery.Online and NarcissismSupportCoach.com.