It was at a very young age that I awoke to what we all feel deep within our core—the need to be loved and accepted. Even as I approach my late 20s, I remember the moment as if it just happened earlier today, the moment the rose gold blinders were ripped off when I was only in 2nd grade. We moved around a lot; you could say we had a habit of changing zip codes every time our lives became a little too “routine.” Right now, I can close my eyes and remember exactly what I felt when I realized that I had absolutely no friends at that very young age. No one to sit with in the cafeteria, no one to get in trouble with in class for snickering just a little too loud. I felt utterly alone. I made a decent effort to reel back the damage and salvage what I could to maybe spark up a friendship or two in one of my classes, but all to no avail. For the first time in my life, I looked forward to our next move and beginning again. A fresh start, a new me, one that they would love to know.
But the problem was, once we did move to a new town, my strategy to reinventing myself and creating the new life I desperately longed for lead me down a jaded path. I first spent my time at my new school assessing what everyone else was like: what did they wear, what did they talk about, how did they talk? And then I mirrored exactly that. I have to say, it worked beautifully. I finally had a circle of friends that seemed to keep growing like the ripples away from a pebble tossed into the water. But they weren’t getting to know and fall in love with me, they were trailing after a mirrored image of themselves. Just with a different face—my face—and even that had changed quite a bit. It was exhausting to uphold the façade. The only time I finally let myself be who I truly was the moment my front door closed behind me and it was just me within those lonely four walls.
It took me many years and multiple moves and reinventions to realize it, but the more I camouflaged among the many faces I barely knew, the more alone I felt. My lowest point was when we had moved to California from Indianapolis. I had changed my entire wardrobe to model myself after the latest fashions on the West coast and I worked quickly to pick up the lingo. I decided this time I wanted to be the outgoing girl you could always go to if you needed a good laugh or a shoulder to cry on. Truth be told, I couldn’t even recognize myself anymore, and neither could those who knew me from an earlier part in my life. Meanwhile, I was losing my battle with severe depression and anxiety. But no one ever saw that. I wouldn’t let them that close to who I really was. To me, I couldn’t take the chance of being that vulnerable, I might lose it all. It wasn’t until after my suicidal depression hit its tipping point that I saw the true price of living life as a chameleon. By suppressing myself and my struggle with depression so deep below the surface, I almost did lose it all—my life.
Sure, I was finally accepted, but it felt far more meaningless than I thought it would. Because it wasn’t me they were accepting. It wasn’t me they loved to spend time with. I was finally done denying myself the freedom to just be me, to be known and loved for who I really was and not what I pretended to be. When you finally set yourself free to be who you truly are, you discover the immeasurable beauty of being loved for the person that you are—flaws and all. No matter what, you are worthy of love and acceptance. I didn’t think that was possible. “Who could love this?” was just one of the many lies I told myself for too many years.
Not everyone goes to such elaborate lengths to conceal themselves and fit into the niche they seek. But, how often do we catch ourselves participating in things we know we wouldn’t have chosen ourselves. It can be as easy a snare as gossiping about someone we care about, using language or talking about things we know are against our values, or taking part in activities that go against what we believe; just because we find it easier to say yes then to say no and have to deal with confrontation and being singled out. To this day, I sometimes catch myself assessing what I did or said after leaving a meeting with someone: did that come out right; did I completely make a fool of myself when I did/said that; I probably should have said/done this instead. Or the other side of the coin, reflecting on what I did or said that I wish I didn’t but I relapsed into the trap of wanting to fit in. I’m a grown adult, and yet sometimes I still feel like that 2nd grader who longed to never feel alone again.
Breathe, be and let be. Be yourself and surround yourself with positive, uplifting people who you can have fun making an absolute fool of yourself with without judgment, and who will encourage you to go after those dreams you have already dismissed for yourself. You deserve to be loved for who you really are and there are those would who love to be the ones to do so. But they can’t until you set yourself free, and shatter the mirror you have as a wall between you and them.
Guest Blogger: Brandi Fox
I am an artist and writer at heart, currently enjoying the greatest adventure of my life as a stay-at-home-mom of two boys. I studied creative writing and studio art in college, and I have dreams of publishing fiction stories, showing fine art in galleries, and making a difference in the world by working with nonprofit organizations that focus on human rights activism.
I created my blog “The Pixelated Fox” to share my testimony in hopes it will shine a light for anyone struggling in darkness, to chart my journey and discoveries in this cultivating season of motherhood, and to share ways to live with a positive and joyful spirit. I find great fulfillment when I use my passion for writing to lift up others to realize their immeasurable worth and their hidden strength to overcome any obstacle they feel oppressed by.