I had no idea how deeply embedded in me this phrase was. I had built myself to be someone who seriously did not give a f&^% about anything. I wrote about this in Justifiably Jaded. I mean, really. I was the epitome of the broken girl screaming for someone to save her. I didn’t see it. And perhaps others didn’t see it. But looking back, that’s clearly what it was. Shakespeare Quote “me thinks she doth protest too much”…. yes, that was me. But it was so deep I didn’t even know it.
I didn’t realize that deep down I was secretly hoping for someone to “save me”… to “take me”… to “show me” that it was possible to love and trust without being hurt. To show me that it was safe to be me. I didn’t realize that I had put myself in a dusty dark closet in my mind, somewhere safe, waiting for someone to “save me”.
Perhaps it’s why I’ve always “saved” anything I could – animals, birds, people – in an sense saving myself by saving them.
But I didn’t know. It had been so long ago that by now the armour I had donned was a part of me. It was the only me I knew. I forgot that who I was. I forgot that I wanted to be redicuously happy. I forgot that I loved people and I loved love and I loved being happy and that I had believed in fairy tales. I actually loved Rapunzel – it was my ultimate fairy tale. I loved that story. Perhaps it motivated me or inspired me to do what I did, I don’t know, I’m trying to make sense of the actions of a very young hurt child and I can’t really, I can only speculate – but I put myself away. Tired of being hurt, tired of being rejected, tired of being stupid and not good enough, tired of not fitting in, tired of being naive. I believe my goal was to see who would come looking.
No one did. Or by the time they did I forgot that I wanted to be saved and then I pushed them away. I didn’t realize any of this about myself. I created myself to be what the world told me to be. Anyone who knows me now wouldn’t believe that I was a shy, quiet, kid. That I rarely spoke but was always happy and smiling. Justifiably Jaded, though and being told to “speak up”, “speak louder” “take initiative” “shy isn’t a good thing”.
I remember I wanted these red cowboy boots. I loved them. I was so excited to get them. I wore them to school and was brutally made fun of. It was grade 5. I was 11. I had just puberty. I had boobs and my mother made me wear a bra. The boys terrorized me and the girls called me a slut – as if I had control over puberty. At some point, I had enough. And instead of shrinking into myself, I came out swinging. At some point, I shelved the little girl who couldn’t seem to get anything right, who couldn’t seem to speak loudly enough, who was uncomfortable with her body, who wanted to express herself but couldn’t seem to in a way that wasn’t made fun of, and I became what the world told me to be.
I owned that body that was way too sexy for a 12 year old. I dressed in a way that would “fit in” mostly. I attended leadership conferences and learned to speak up. And you know what? That didn’t work either. Then they said I talked too much and that I was a slut for owning my body. And then I stopped caring or at least acted like I didn’t care. I did what I wanted, hung out with who I wanted, I shelved all sense of what they thought. I became what they told me to become. I became even what they said I was. If you can’t beat them, join them, right?
And eventually, the armour stuck. And I didn’t know it was armour anymore. It was just “me”… who couldn’t let anyone close to me, who showed people what they wanted to see, who became what they needed and wanted me to be. I forgot about the real me that I had shelved in a dark dusty room and so had everyone around me. They forgot who I was. Even if they tried to save me, I was Justifiably Jaded, trusted no one. My motto in life became “fuck them or they’ll fuck you”. So I never let them close enough… not friends, not family, not lovers. There was always a piece of me they couldn’t know.
Until I had a breakdown of epic proportions. My life, quite simply, wasn’t working and I was seeking to know where everything had gone wrong. I had everything I ever wanted. I had everything that should make someone happy, but I was miserable and lonely. And as I sought the answers to what had gone so terribly wrong and how the hell did I end up here? Exactly where I said I would never find myself? How?
I didn’t know it at the time, but I was embarking on a journey of self discovery. I thought I was just trying to fix my business and why I keep making the same mistakes over and over again. I didn’t realize at the time that the reason was because I was the problem *gasp*. But I was. I was living a lie. I wasn’t who I was pretending to be. I wasn’t a bad person. I wasn’t hurting people. I was helping more people than I hurt – I donated, volunteered, rescued people and animals, even my career was about helping. I was a helper, that’s what I did. But I also had this tough exterior about me that no one could penetrate. I wore several suits of armour as I protected myself. I was determined to be strong, not weak. Even my career was all about strength… and I understood that my biggest fear was being weak. So I created the persona of someone who didn’t care, of someone who couldn’t be hurt. And essentially, I couldn’t. There were so many layers that nothing could get in and I couldn’t get out.
“You’re not the real you” one coach told me. “A 10 year old hurt girl is running the show” another told me. I didn’t fully understand what they were telling me but once I had pulled back the curtain I knew there was a truth I couldn’t see and I was determined (that’s a blessing and a curse!) to find the answers. As I look back now over the last few years, it was a bit of a wild ride. I’ve done some crazy assed things in the name of finding peace. Once I started to feel the rumble underneath me there was no going back. God knows I tried. I thought and said more than once, I liked it better when I didn’t know any of this stuff… perhaps there is a peace in pretending everything is fine when it’s not. I kept digging and finding more layers and more masks that I wore to protect myself from this cruel and harsh world.
Until I found her. It was a bit of a wild experience (as I have had many over the years!). I was in a meditative journey at an event I was attending and the process led me to a door and when I opened that door, I saw this girl, maybe 10 years old, jet black hair and bright eyes, in chains… exactly where I had left her 25 years before. There was an overwhelming sense of sadness and relief at the same time as I understood that it wasn’t the world who rejected me, it was me that rejected me. In an attempt to stop the hurt and rejection and pain I shelved who I really was, rejected myself and became what the world told me to become. And all the layers were all the armour and masks that I wore as I kept trying to be “good enough” for the world, mask on top of mask.
And in that moment, overwhelmed with grief I cried like I have never cried in my life. It was cleansing and healing as I fully understand that despite proclaiming to not give a fuck, it’s all I did – was care what people thought. Everything perfectly orchestrated to please, to fit in, to be good enough, to be accepted. And while my “image” said I didn’t, the reality of who I became said that’s all I cared about.
I stood up, perfectly cleansed from my intense crying fest. “I became what they all wanted me to be.” Now it’s it’s time for me to find out who I really am. And step by step ever since I’ve been finding myself. “A doormat, no more” was especially a powerful article for me as it was an intense realization that I was being what was convenient for others, not for me. My writings over the last year of “Tonya Uncensored” (which was born a year ago) have given rise to uncovering the real me. And it’s not been an easy journey, but it’s been a beautiful one. Stepping up and showing those closest to me, including my amazing husband who god knows what has been through with me these last few years, to my family, to my friends, has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Some rejected me. Not everyone understood what was happening. But those who stood by me, funny enough, are the ones I thought would judge me the harshest. And they didn’t, not once; although they did express concern. And the ones who I expected to hold space for me often times did not. The old me would have panicked and tried to make them like me, would have worried about what they’d say or think about me, but this version of me – the one where I’m good with who I am just because I’m me – realizes it’s not something that’s flawed in me and I don’t need to change. We’re just not a match for each other and that’s ok. We’re not all going to like each other, but we can be kind to each other.
I used to take everything so personally. I saw everything as proof that I wasn’t good enough and that I should change. If I have to have a “certain look” to get clients, then they’re not the right fit for me. If I have to “pretend I’m something I’m not” for friends or family, then they’re not the right fit for me. I will never again lock myself up in chains, censor myself to please others, not speak up for what I believe in, not stand up for myself when I feel I’m being treated unfairly, to make someone else happy.
Never again will I change who I am because this version of me is way better than any inauthentic version of perfection I ever was. I hope this article today inspires you find the parts of yourself that you’ve denied in order to fit in, be accepted, be good enough. Because if you have to change who you are to “fit in” you’re hanging with the wrong crowd. When you remove the layers, you’ll find your tribe and they might be a bunch of weirdo’s, but they’ll be your weirdo’s.
Tonya Whittle is a Fitness Mindset & Weight Loss Strategist. You can find her www.twfitness.ca.