What Persona Are You Hiding Behind?
“Our persona was not created by accident; it was created in order to camouflage the parts of ourselves we deemed the most undesirable and to overcompensate for what we believe to be our deepest flaws. What persona are you hiding behind?”~Debbie Ford
Many of the people I admire have one thing in common. They know how to be naked in public, baring their inner worlds to the masses or maybe just to those that know them. I love transparent, uninhibited, honest sharing of your whole self, the seemingly good and the seemingly bad. I love it because I long to express myself this way in the world. I’m getting better at it, but I still spend a lot of time in the fear of vulnerability that can stop the revelation of my inner world. Every week when I get ready to publish this blog I take a deep gasp of air as all the fear rushes to the surface. These past six months of writing this blog are the first time I have ever shared myself in any real way. Boy, is it scary.
This fear of showing ourselves, the selves that we reserve for when we’re alone, is so convincing for many of us that we construct entire personas that we pass on as the real us. We don’t want others to see our weaknesses or have judgmental thoughts about us. We don’t want to admit that we don’t have it all together. This practice that so many of us have perfected will harm us more psychically than any judgment another could pass on us.
In my twenties I went through a dark time of depression and deep pain. I put on my perfect face and went to work every day, acting as if everything was fine. Really, I was holding myself together inside with tattered thread and it was all I could do to make it through the day. I was terrified to let anyone know what a mess I was inside so I went home every day, closed all my blinds, turned off my phone and fell apart. I was isolating myself from everyone because I couldn’t stand the thought of them not seeing me in my usual self-assured way. The truth was that I was absolutely the opposite of self-assured at that time in my life but was I ever good at appearing that way. People would tell me they admired how together and sure of myself I was. I was the one who always had all the answers and the best advice for everyone else. It’s what I was known for and all my friends relied on me to have it together and know what to do. I was good at it but I didn’t live it. I was way out of alignment and I was psychically disintegrating.
Eventually, I could hide it no longer and I finally began telling the truth. When people told me I seemed so together I told them it was a lie and I was a mess inside. Turns out nobody hated me for it and nobody saw me as weak and incompetent either. Although it was a great healing for me, I find myself uncovering another layer of the same shadow self. This time it has more to do with being the perfect mother and appearing to the world and maybe even in an attempt to convince myself that I am super parent. Only I’m not. I’m single mom, sole provider, working a day job and building a private practice, overwhelmed and exhausted by the raising of children by myself. That’s the truth as much as I don’t want to admit it. I don’t want to write that I feel like a failure as a mother because I can’t do it all. Worst and most embarrassing to admit is that I am often angry, irritable, at the end of my patience, snappy, and yelling at my kids because of the stress I feel over all that needs to be done daily and because of my addiction to feeling in control.
There, I said it. I have to because it is the only way I’ll heal this next level, by bringing the darkness to light. I’m honoring the commitment I made to tell the truth about myself as a means to gain my freedom. Besides, my kids are not benefiting from a mother who is more concerned with getting it all done and appearances than she is with getting present with them and having enough time to snuggle up and listen to the hundreds of stories they have to tell about their days, their friends, and what happened on their favorite tv shows.
Telling on myself is liberating. It frees me from the burden of this false persona that I hide behind. The first step to healing any addiction is to admit to it. This perfected persona is my addiction and I’m ready to let it go, because the price of not doing so is too high to pay.
So, as I begin to tear down the walls of my well-practiced illusion, I ask you exactly what Debbie Ford does in the above quote: what persona are you hiding behind? And are you willing to begin the process of letting it go?