Trading Who You Are

This morning on my walk in the woods I began reflecting on the course my life has taken.  It wasn’t intentional.  In fact, for me, this direction was frightening, scary, and “not normal” when most of my life I traded who I was for acceptance.

And here I am, living a life far away from the one I had been consciously designing, but one where I am immensely happy, connected to who I am, and moving into a place where I no longer need approval or acceptance from people who want me to be something other than I am.

As I sat with my favourite tree, I reflected on how life leads us down paths we can’t begin to imagine will eventually lead us to the golden oasis.  As an infant we’re born – innocent.  Very quickly the world begins to teach us what and who to be.

How do we please our parents?  How do we get attention?  Get our needs met?  And that’s important for an infant because as children we rely solely on other people to meet our needs.  We look to the external world to meet our needs.

And so begins a lifetime of looking for other people to create our happiness.  No one teaches us the transition from external to internal needs.  And we continue to seek what we need outside of us.  Now, enter negative life experiences, bullying, abuse, being made fun of… or simply, just needing to meet your needs and not knowing how else?

Be a good girl, get a sticker.  Be a bad girl, get a smack or be told you’re bad.  Shame thrives and we begin to close off who we are.  This process doesn’t only happen if you’ve experienced significant trauma.  It is, however, more deeply embedded and engrained for those who have had trauma.  It can be harder to overcome the negative self talk, the belief that you’re not enough.

We begin trading who we are for approval at a very young age. Trading what we like to fit in with the “cool kids” who made fun of us for liking something “not cool” so we toss aside our writing, our art, our playfulness and become “like them”.  A carbon copy of each other.


Uniqueness isn’t celebrated, it’s ridiculed.  Being better than someone is not celebrated, it’s grounds for tearing you down.  Throughout our lives we trade what makes us special, unique, what makes us who are for approval.  We give up ourselves to fit in, to feel a sense of belonging.

But we never feel like we fit.  If you have traded yourself to fit in somewhere, it’s not the right fit, it never feels like the right fit, it’s a forced fit, a careful game of playing by the rules, not letting your guard down, not letting people see you.

But eventually, the masks come down.  Because there’s only so long we can live a fake life. We can’t pretend to be someone or something we aren’t forever because the cloaks get heavy, the masks slip, we get older and give less fucks about the bullshit that the world has been feeding us.

When you wake up one day, soul starved – dying for love and affection – you know, the deep kind, the kind somewhere inside of you that you know exists but you’ve never let yourself fall for because – that would be stupid, right?

What if you get hurt?

We put walls.  We build them high.  Friends are the same.  We don’t let people see us because we’re deeply afraid we won’t be enough, that they’ll see the softest parts of us and crush it.  Because perhaps that happened to you as a child or people warned you against.

You walk through life with these walls up.  Wearing a barbed wire suit of armour and you feel constantly out of place and uneasy.  You long for a place that you know exists but you’ve never been.  You want to run away… somewhere you can start over, where no one knows you and you can reinvent yourself.

But guess what?

Until you become who you really are… changing anything won’t help.  You can lose the weight, pay of the debt, get a new relationship, get new friends, run away… but if you haven’t come back to the core of who you are… all of those will be based on someone you aren’t.

What you want to run to is inside of you, not some place outside of you.  It’s you.  It’s always been you.  That thing that feels like it’s missing.  YOU.

We protect and bury and hide ourselves from conditioning, from fear, from limiting beliefs about ourselves, from learning to hide who we are to become what we thought we needed to be.

For me, I was a super driven, high functioning, fuck the world and everyone in it kind of person.  I didn’t need anyone.  I was going to prove it.  And I did.  I was very successful.  Alone.  On my own.  Even in my marriage.  In my family.  My friendships. No one knew me. No one knew the things I carried or what I experienced.  No one knew the hardships, the hurts, the let downs, I had been through.

I didn’t share my life with anyone.  I closed off.  I acted though.  I pushed people away.  I never asked for help.  I was high functioning, high achiever, with castle walls, a turret, and even a moat with crocodiles.

But eventually the weight of it all buried me.  There was only so much stuff that could fit underneath the rug.  When it was full and it all started to spill over, when I had all the things that were supposed to make me happy but I was lonely as fuck, miserable and dying inside I had no choice but to look inside and say “how did this all get so fucked up?”

Well, I didn’t need anyone.  So I didn’t let anyone in.  And somehow the magical image of the life I thought I would live didn’t magically appear when I checked all of the boxes that would make me successful.

I was successful without fulfillment.  I had everything that should make someone happy – a business that I grew at the cost of my life, a healthy bank account that I grew at the cost of happiness, a good body that I didn’t appreciate because it wasn’t 100% ripped muscle, even though I was super tiny, I thought I was fat.

Nothing was every good enough because at the core I felt not good enough.  I felt broken, damaged, and I was running from the truth of who I was.

It wasn’t until I ran to the truth of who I was that my life began to improve.  On the outside things began to crumble…. my mental health as I battled who I had become.  I had to let go of that identity and let her fall.  But I didn’t want to.  She was my armour, my protector for so long.  Who was I without her?

I had no idea.

But I was about to find out.

As I destroyed everything in my life, some intentional and some not so intentional, I was left in a raw and open state.  There was a long phase between not anymore and not yet. As I began to open myself to new experiences, to “try on things” and decide what I liked I felt like a child, raising myself.

Do I like eggs?  Nope.  I actually don’t like eating animals at all.  I was a natural vegan as a child but began eating meat again in my 20’s to please everyone else, to fit in, to make life easier.

Do I like this person?  Nope. Ok bye. Do I like you?  Yup.  Let’s be friends. I hope she likes me… Trying to make new friends as an adult can be hard. “Do you wanna go ride bikes together”? is far easier at 10 than 35. Feel me?  So I tried on people, experiences, friends. I opened myself to everything.  I didn’t have any walls.  And I was reminded quickly of why I put them up.

When we’re “too open” we can attract all sorts of experiences into our lives and people who might not have our best interests at heart. It took me a long time to really learn that it’s ok to have shields, that everyone’s journey is different and hurt will be a part of our lives and it doesn’t say anything about us, personally.  Yes, it says more about the other person.  But in the end we’re all human beings and we’ll hurt each other, intentionally and unintentionally because sometimes we’re just operating through our wounds.

And we don’t need to take any of it personally, when we deal with our wounds 😉 See how that works?  We each need to go inside and heal our own wounds, then we’ll be less likely to hurt others as well as less likely to take things personally.

Basically, we’ll be less likely to give a fuck about shit that doesn’t matter.

And that all comes with knowing who we are.  And knowing who we are for some of us is a journey through the dark night of the soul to find out why we become someone we weren’t to please others, to fit in, to trade our authenticity for approval.

The journey home to you isn’t always an easy one, but I can tell you, it’s a worthwhile one.  Because the freedom that awaits you is what you’ve been dying for.

When you get “home to your soul” you realize this is the place where you approve of yourself and no one else’s approval is needed or matters.  In this place, you know who you are, what to say yes to and what to say no to.  You don’t feel guilty for taking care of yourself.  You feel compassion for others, even those who have hurt you.

And mostly, you feel a sense of not giving a fuck about shit that doesn’t matter, combined with giving all the fucks about the shit that does matter.

Go home to you.  Find her.  The best version of you.  The one who already knows the way.  You might have to traipse through the darkness, work through some heavy shit, cry, scream, have a fit, set fire to your life, have a fucking breakdown, or 50, gain some weight, lose some weight, fall down, stand up.  But in that process you will become who you really are.

And the only opinion that will matter from there, is your own.

Do that work.  And live your best life.  You deserve it!




PS… if I can help you find your way back to you, send me a message here -> Contact 

5 thoughts on “Trading Who You Are

  1. Kim Picco says:

    oddly I feel this was written about me , it explains me to a T! literally, Growing up as a foster child i had to please, it was not a good idea not too As i got older I became ppl pleaser if thats a word, but I also cared about everyone else more then myself. I gave myself up til i could not give anymore. This has really opened my eyes. I truly did not see this til reading and my mouth was open and it was like wow


    1. Tonya Whittle says:

      So happy this article resonated. this is why I’m always guided to write. Because it always helps someone else while helping me express myself as well 🙂 I’m so happy you’ll be with us on woman, reclaimed. It’s going to be amazing for you xoxo


  2. Janet Frampton says:

    This is exactly where I am right now..
    At my core and fed up. But this blog post just saved me. It’s 3:30 in the morning. Thank you. I needed to curse so badly!!


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