My story was originally posted on Damaged In Darkness.
When I was a child growing up, I had no care about what people thought of me (like most children). You don’t care if your hair is out of place if your clothes are on point or anything for that matter. All I had in my mind as a child was to play. To live in a make-believe land where everything is positive and full of life and colours. Sadly, as I got older those positive days began to fade. I, like most of us, started to care a little too much about what others thought of me. I would put on an act so I could fit in, so I could belong, so I could stay ‘safe.’
That word, ‘SAFE’ to me meant being as perfect as humanly possible. As I stated before, I was a free spirit as a child but as soon as I turned 10 I wasn’t much of a risk-taker anymore. I thought ‘In order to be accepted, I have to play the part’ so I did. The older I got the more and more I was constantly reminded that not only am I a woman, but I’m also a black woman, two strikes against me; especially being black. I was afraid others would label me or judge me. I was afraid that I would be left out of opportunities that my other friends and co-workers would get so I played the part. The part of, “The Token Black Girl,” being extra nice, doing whatever task that was set before me, going ten times harder than anyone just to get approval. Basically making myself feel like I should do whatever I can to be liked because people don’t see my accomplishments, they don’t know my uniqueness, your kindness. They judge you based on what the media portrays.
I did something else too that lots of us do, I buried my uniqueness, my talents, and my passions so that no one could judge me, think I’m weird, or think less of me. I packed it in a box and put it on a shelf. I thought I was doing the right thing but I was actually playing with fire and playing that part would cost me. I’d have severe anxiety, to the point where my body would shake uncontrollably, I had severe body pains, my digestive system a mess, I’d have horrible panic attacks, I’d be mentally confused, think the worst things of myself, I’d people please, I suffered from perfectionism, the imposter syndrome, and the list goes on. At my last job, working in the corporate world, that was where everything hit the fan.
I reached rock bottom, emotionally, mentally, physically, spiritually, and even financially. It took a health scare to make me realize that enough was enough. It was, in a way a blessing in disguise. I finally woke up, it was like Neo in, ‘The Matrix,’ it was time to unplug. I quit my corporate job in late January 2020 and started doing some side jobs to hold me over, I was still broken and didn’t want to face what I’ve been going through since I was 10 years old. Instead, I would just work through it, little did I know that the entire planet was going to go through a severe shift.
March was ushered in with a worldwide mandatory lockdown. Meaning that all my distractions were no longer available to me. I had nowhere to run, It became very clear that I had no choice now but to face the person that I was the most afraid of, the person who I played this ridiculous part for, for so many years. The person who judged me more than any other human being, I had to face myself. I mean, Netflix, Amazon Prime and Youtube did help distract me but not enough to ignore what had to be done.
Being that I never had the courage to face myself before I had to enlist someone who wouldn’t judge me or make me feel uncomfortable. I brought my case to my sister who thankfully during the lockdown studied to become an NLP Practitioner (Neuro-Linguistic Programming). I had a privileged situation where I could turn to her for help. Lots of people don’t want to turn to a family member even if that person is a mental health professional but I trusted my sister to know that if anyone was going to help me get to a place of healing, it was going to be her. She had gone through severe depression earlier in her life and after years of therapy and now being a professional, she knew a thing or two on how to usher in the healing. Together we began the lengthy process of facing my enemy. This was going to take a lot of time seeing that I was about to unravel years and years of damage. I didn’t turn away from what had to be done. I had nothing but time so I was ready to face this fear of me and hopefully begin to feel okay. She did a number of exercises to help me sit with my 10-year-old self and after many tears, facing my own demons, unlearning a lot, recognizing where all this came from, something finally happened. I had a breakthrough! I felt free.
I didn’t feel the need to play the part anymore. I was able to look back at all that happened, and I forgave myself. I went back to the box where I packed away all my talents, took them out and placed them right back where they should have stayed, inside of me.
The lockdown was rough, it was hard to be in a place where your privileges are stripped from you. but it also humbled me and helped me to realize that I didn’t have to be the ‘token’ anymore or search for approval from anybody. The only person that I needed approval from was me. I’m not saying that all is well and the feelings are gone for good. We all have to face personal problems; sometimes the days are great and sometimes the days could be better but nowadays I choose to be kind to myself. I become aware of my feelings, no longer burring them, but being tolerable of myself. Knowing that it’s okay to take a break. Breaks don’t equal being lazy, it means that I care for my mental health and I know when it’s time to take a timeout so I can get back to me again.
I use to care so deeply about what people thought of me. These days I say to myself: They’re going to cast their opinions on you no matter what you say, no matter what you do. Don’t get upset, people always tend to believe the lie over the truth. People will judge you before you even open your mouth, they’ll either love you or hate you. That’s fine. We can’t control how people feel about us, but we can control ourselves. I know who I am, and I love myself.
There is no time to waste, continue to focus on you, your beautiful journey, your path. That’s where you need to place energy, not in the whispers of what people think of you. You are surrounded by a community of people who love you and support you. We can be our authentic, unapologetic, vibrant selves and know that we don’t have to answer or look to anyone for approval. I’m living for me and it feels good. I encourage you to do the same.
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