Authentic Self…

I saw something this morning on my Twitter friend from an #ActuallyAutistic friend. It said…

The only way to be truly happy as an Aspie is to smash the mask you wear to fit in with others and just be true to yourself

I replied that that applies to us all…neurotypicals too.

But still it is one of the hardest things to do. You see from birth we are programmed…conditioned…rewarded and punished…until we learn to hide our true selves. And everyone of those times when parents ‘discipline’,  teachers ‘correct, and peers bully us into being what they want instead of who we are…takes it toll. One more wrinkle carved into the mask of socially acceptable unhappiness.

Sometimes even before we reach our teens we have lost touch with our true selves. And if not by then certainly by early adulthood. Ninety-nine percent of us will succumb to societal pressures to conform. And that other 1% will be ostracized, cast out, and labelled trouble-makers, rebels, or worse.

Then we spend most of the rest of our lives seeking HAPPINESS in all the wrong places. Jobs. Relationships. Drugs and alcohol. Food. Yet we rarely find it. And when we do, it does not last. It cannot. Because like everything else in our lives…it is built upon a lie. The worst kind of lie…who we truly are.

That mythical mid-life crisis in our 30s, 40s or even later is so often just an attempt to find out who we really are. Because that is the saddest thing of all…too many of us come to believe our own PR.

We loose ourselves behind our own masks.

We forget who we are, what we believe, even what we truly want to be when we grow up.

A few years ago when I was recovering from depression following my miscarriage, lost jobs, failing marriage and PanKwake’s epilepsy diagnosis, I got my certificate to teach adults. Part of that training was to create a fictional course and teach a lesson. Mine was on dreams. Not the kind you have while you sleep but the ones you pursue when awake. The saddest thing is that so many people have forgotten how to dream, what their passions are, even WHO they are.

Of course in some ways that is a lifelong journey as circumstances and we change. But that journey begins with a single step…

Throwing your mask away…

Or at least putting it in a drawer…

And that begins with prying that sucker off for even a moment.

Reconnecting with those hopes, dreams and passions that were sacrificed and lost along the road to ‘adulting’.

PanKwake and I often argue about an episode of the Amazing World of Gumball. In it the boys are bullied at school for their karate. Their mother sits them down for one of ‘those’ talks. And…well, this is the song they sing afterwards…

It breaks my heart every time. That a mother thinks the best way of ‘protecting’ her children from bullies is to deprive them of their dreams. PanKwake of course says that the mother just wants to keep them safe. But at what cost? A lifetime of mediocrity?

Thing is that once you do take that mask off you will never be the same. You won’t want to be around the same people. You won’t care about things like possessions or popularity. You won’t waste your time on the trivial.

Not that you will never put the mask back on. Though it will never fit the same.

I do…on rare occasions. But not so I will be accepted or valued. I put it on now not for my benefit but for the sake of others. Because once you find your authentic self you shine, you glow from the inside. And some people just are not ready for your light.

Pieces of my authentic self always slip around the edges of that mask. But the mask takes the glare off enough that others can see my authentic self without being blinded…like sunglasses on a bright summer day.

But these days I prefer to spend most of my time around those with whom I can be my authentic self. My tribe.

Us 4 featureAnd chef among them is my beloved Cookie Monster. It is incredibly empowering and freeing to be in a relationship without masks. To be free to touch, to say I love you, or have deep conversations…without constantly worrying what this person thinks or feels about you.

I shake my head sometimes that it took me half a lifetime to get to this point. But the saddest thing is that way too many people live their whole lives and die without ever getting here.

I hope you are not one of them…

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