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Just be yourself

I hear the phrase all the time, “just be yourself”, as if after years of hiding myself and creating a persona to navigate the world, it will all of a sudden fall away like a snake shedding its skin and I will indeed be myself.  As if it was that easy.  There is a reason I haven’t been myself all these years, and you may ask me , Why?  And then expect exact details of why I hid myself and expect that I have it all worked out and I am just waiting for someone to say to me “just be yourself”, so then like a wave of a wand the real me will step forward.  It is so much more complicated than that.  You see, I like the persona I created. She is kind but knows when to stand up for herself, she is ambitious but also cares about others.  She loves her family and friends and is loyal and gives second chances.  She is enthusiastic and accepting of everyone. She is the type of person that people want as a friend and admire.  Even the “me” underneath looks up to her and likes her.   Why would I want to get rid of her, she makes life easier for me.  The only time she fails me is when I am asked, “what do you really want?”  Because that question went out the window a long time ago when I starting hiding.  It didn’t matter what I wanted, what mattered was that I was accepted and loved; that I was a good wife, mother, employee, friend, etc. I was too busy trying to hide myself and ask what every one else wanted of me to find out what I wanted.  Plus on the occasional times I did express what I wanted it seemed to be greeted by little enthusiasm by the people around me.  My needs were challenged and diminished by labeling them a “phase”, and not accepted as my truth.   When I was younger it was blamed on PMS, now that I am older it is due to menopause.  It was as if people were saying to me that  it can’t be possible that I have needs and I want things just for me, there was definitely something wrong with me that I chose to express myself.  But I can’t blame the people around me because I did such a good job of hiding my true emotions, even from myself, that it must have been a shock to them.  I was doing everything that everyone around me wanted in hopes that it would bring  me enough affection in their eyes that when I decided to reveal myself that they would remember all my sacrifices I made and say to me, “good job, you are finally being yourself”, but it didn’t work that way.  And now I realize all the energy I was using to be this persona was only hurting me.   At first it was a relief not to be me, and it was a good way to  avoid hurt and conflict.  It made life easier  just to go along with everything and try to please everyone.  I made friends and I fit in.  But I was ignoring my own needs, so every once in a while when I would no longer be able to hold it all in I would get so completely angry that I would almost black out.   But the anger that I would express would relieve me so that I could go back to being my “perfect” persona.  So, this cycle did kind of work.  But physically and emotionally the energy it took to keep this up was exhausting.  And I was not fulfilled, happy or at peace with my life at a time when I really should have been.  So, I knew it was finally time to say goodbye to my persona.  But, when I started to reveal “the real me” it was met with questions, resistance and disapproval from the people around me.   I felt like I was back in high school with no one wanting to have lunch with me.  They wanted to see my agreeable side and I don’t blame them, I liked her too.  But I persisted in stating my real feelings, asking for my real needs to be met, and defending myself when I felt my boundaries were crossed.  It was damn hard as the resistance I was getting brought on doubt and broke down my confidence.  But I started seeking out people that were like the real me which I had never done.  I had avoided these people in the past because I knew they would see right through me and I wasn’t ready for that until now.   These people encouraged me, let me express myself without interrupting and trying to change my mind.  I felt a giddiness and a lifeline being around these people. The lifeline they threw me gave me strength to stand up in my other relationships.  Some of my other relationships ended very badly as I stood up for myself and that didn’t work for them, other relationships faded out naturally, and still others are a work in progress as they are standing by me and learning to accept my change. I have pangs of sadness for the person that I was as I say good by to her. I mourn her.  She was fun and people liked her.  The real me is so serious and intent, and more quiet and choosy about who she lets in.  She is a nerd as she would rather go to a book club than go out drinking.  I have learned that she doesn’t like to work out as much as she doesn’t care as much about how she appears, but I actually think she is prettier.  It is the girl that didn’t fit in in high school because she had frizzy hair and was a prude, the girl that was laughed at for being optimistic and seeing the best in people, the girl that didn’t drink or smoke and was scared to go to keg parties.  That girl.  I am getting to know her again, she is kind of cool sometimes and other times she confuses and frustrates me as she is stubborn and slow.  In an age where everyone, including me, wants instant gratification , becoming myself has been a long, slow and painful journey.  But as I persist and get to know the woman underneath the persona, I am getting to like her.   And every day I get a little more comfortable with “just being myself.”

4 thoughts on “Just be yourself”

  1. Thank you so much for sharing your story and wisdom Peta. I admire you so much. I am learning much about you and myself as I am reading. Of course, I relate to a lot of your story. I have been struggling a lot this past year. Dealing with misogyny, feeling disempowerment. This has been helpful. Please keep sharing. I am inspired. I hope to see you soon. Much love and gratitude to you always. Jennifer xo

    1. Thanks Jennifer for taking the time to read and comment. I am glad you can relate, and I hope this help you as you are said you are struggling also. I believe women keep these struggles to themselves so I feel like if I can put myself out there and tell my story it will encourage others to do the same. You have always been a great friend and a generous person, and have done so much for Emily. I appreciate you! Love you, Peta

  2. I think many women go through the “goodbye old me” process when we reach a certain age. Maybe that age is whatever age we happen to be when we don’t have to take care of anyone anymore? Or maybe it’s been there all along but we need to mature enough to realize it? Or maybe we just continue to change in different phases of life.

    Regardless, everyone’s unique perspective on it is intriguing.

    1. Hi Kristi, thanks for the comment. I agree! I think women are constantly evolving as we go through different stages of life. In all my previous stages I feel like I put others needs before mine, so this is different for me in that I am trying to stay focused on my needs and goals and not be taken off track my others opinions and criticism. It is a work in progress : ). Peta XO

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