Query update: Got my edits back from my editor, but haven’t looked at them yet, because life. No new updates, agent-wise. Sigh.
I need to thank my BFF Lena for this idea. In a comment about my post about the shit show last week, Lena had mentioned the importance of “becoming real.” I told her I was stealing it, and here it is.
When I think of myself as a young person, I remember struggling to know who I was on even the most surface level. My attitude was, “What do you want me to be? I can be that person.” I spent countless hours play-acting what I thought the others in the situation were expecting of me. At the end of each day, I was exhausted, my real self (whatever that was) finally allowed to breathe after being smothered all day.
But that only lasts so long. You can bind your real self, but the ropes sometimes break. Every so often, your real self pokes through, and then you need to quash it again.
As you age, your binding ropes wear thin and you no longer have the energy to keep restricting your true self. Eventually, you forget to bind your real self altogether, and your entire self shows.
This isn’t so bad, you think. Maybe I can keep going.
The more you live in your real skin, the more confident and comfortable you become, and the more you need to keep that real skin on. It starts feeling false and uncomfortable to put on the mask that you used to live in.
I’m non-binary. The day I came out, my anxiety flew away. Turns out, the anxiety was bound up with my real self’s bindings. I’m neuro-divergent. That realisation and coming-out released a few more ghosts that were tied up in the bundle.
Obviously, mental illness is a complex discussion, and I’m not implying that being your true self will make all your problems go away. All I can say is that the difference, for me, was stark. My meds are down and my confidence is up.
Also, I’ve discovered my true self is as dynamic as my false selves were. Sometimes, I’m exhausted and can’t engage with anyone, and other times, I’m jacked up and ready to go! Both those things can be true at different times: no mood invalidates any other mood. When your moods are performances, you may have less mood variance, and it might feel weird to have a full range of natural moods. Real humans are complex, and we contain multitudes. Part of becoming real is accepting all the multitudes, even when pieces are ugly or uncomfortable.
When you are becoming real, you go through a process of hating your false self. Then you realize that your false self was protective armor for your real self, and then you start to love your false self. Your real self created your false self, and your love for your real self extends to your false self.
A couple weeks ago, I grabbed some of my old stuff from my ex’s house. I prepared for the deluge of self-hatred that usually accompanies seeing old photos and reading old writing. But it didn’t come. What did come was an awareness of how incredibly much pain that young person was in, and how hard they worked to get through. I was impressed with their tenacity and grit, even if I felt a bit dissociated from the experience of living as that false person.
It’s a non-linear journey, for sure, and there are times when the ghost of my false self tries to take over. It’s okay, I tell it. I got it. Thanks for trying to help.
There are things I don’t LOVE about my real self. I’m fat, and I struggle to hold a thought. I don’t feel super-confident in following my dream– it’s a vulnerable feeling. I am a bit nervous about re-entering the dating pool. Every so often, my mistakes pile up and I feel like a complete failure as a human.
But then I remember that I hold my real self with love, and that means that I hold those feelings with love as well. I truly never thought that I would ever feel this way about myself. I thought that my self-hatred was the only fuel I could use to propel me forward. Instead, I’ve started moving forward out of love for myself and for others.
You may not feel safe being yourself where you are, and that is okay. If you are financially reliant on someone else, that adds a level of complexity to your emotional landscape. You can still hold your real self in love, however much of your real self you know about. You can also hold your false self in love, understanding that it is protecting you, and that you can put it into the closet when it’s time.
It’s gonna be great.
Featured image was created by the author using elements from canva.com.