“Break the silence. Find a safe way to begin to live… outside of the confines of living a lie—and figure out what it would look like to live in the light of the truth.”
Dr. Robin Smith
I used to know a woman who had it all together. She had a picture-perfect life – a nice husband, a big home, a good job – probably not a care in the world. She had a large circle of friends, a supportive family, she was fairly healthy – surely she was happy and content in her life. What I didn’t see in her was all the fear she lived with and the wall she had built around her very safe life so that no one could ever see the real person inside. I wasn’t the only one who couldn’t see this woman’s true self – none of her family or friends could either. I just happened to be the closest to her because that woman and her empty eyes stared back at me in the mirror each morning. That woman was me. I was living a lie, hiding behind a mask of perfectionism and a personal mantra of, “I’ve got this.”
Have you ever looked at another person’s life from an outsider’s perspective and thought, “Wow! They have a perfect life! I want that (fill in the blank): relationship, house, car, job, bank account, body, success, etc.” So, then you think that if you could just mimic that relationship, house, car, job, bank account, body, success, etc – then you too, would be happy. Then, you too would be content. The problem is that anytime you try to be someone else, you’re denying and suppressing your true self. You’re living a lie, hiding behind a mask of “not good enough.” Because if you thought you were worthy just as you are, you would never spend so much effort trying to be someone else or live someone else’s life.
Maybe you’ve been in a meeting at work where you didn’t agree with what was being discussed, but you thought that if you offered your voice and opinions, you would be ostracized by that important group of people. That’s living a lie, hiding behind a mask of fear in order to gain acceptance and feel worthy. I have known many men and women who went through a long period of time where they felt they couldn’t tell anyone that they’re gay, so they lived a constant lie denying who they are for fear of judgment. Imagine the loneliness of carrying a secret that you don’t feel like you can tell anyone – ever.
I have a friend that puts on the “happy face” each day as he goes to work, so that no one will know that his marriage is crumbling at home. He recently found out that his wife has been having an affair. He doesn’t want his marriage to fail and he doesn’t want anyone to know. So, he hides. He puts on his mask dutifully each day to hide the pain.
When you realize that you’re living a lie, I think the first inclination is to run from it – basically continue hiding. That shame isn’t a good feeling so we try to go around the pain, rather than through it. We try to avoid the lesson it’s there to teach, as opposed to listening and absorbing the learning. We keep running from it until we realize that it’s impossible. What we’re running from is our true selves and that is inescapable. No matter how long we try to ignore it or make it into something different – the core of who we are never leaves us. It’s only through discovery, acknowledgement and acceptance that we find healing.
Think about all the time and energy we’ve all wasted trying to hide behind the wall, the mask, the many, many layers that we wear to keep others out. It’s exhausting and at some point, it just gets to be too much to carry. So we surrender. We let ourselves be known, be seen, be heard, be experienced as the worthy soul that we are.
It takes showing up – as we are, in our own skin – to begin to create an authentic life for ourselves. Without the mask, we can begin to create real connection with those we love and matter most in our lives. What we find in that journey to living authentically is that the people that will support you and love you show themselves to you. And the feeling you get when you let go of that lie is pure freedom.