i took up dance, and thus performing, at the age of 3. before i was 16, i’d won dozens of trophies and awards for my writing and performances, competed all over the united states, acted and sung in plays and commercials, and was once even featured on national television. i went onto university for a BFA in acting. from there, i had a brief but consistent acting career. and since then, i’ve taught yoga and started businesses in different countries around the world, run workshops on self love, and facilitated public speaking trainings at the US consulate. and even now, while living alone in rural mexico, you can watch post after post of me on my instagram practicing in my underwear, singing covers, and sharing my daily insights.
so i feel like it would be rich for me to tell you that i’m shy.
but lick it up, baby. because that’s exactly what i’m serving up.
there are things. assumptions. lies, even. that (more obviously) shy or awkward or introverted people tell themselves about “people like me.” on the low end of the vibrational spectrum, it’s usually about how i must need to show off for attention or validation. on the high end, it’s that i have some sort of gift or natural inclination toward sharing and being seen, and that this gift gives me advantages in life.
but any of those stories? they’re just that. stories. beliefs. and while there may be little kernels of truth within them, they are not expressly true.
the first thing that i quickly want to clarify is what actually makes one an extrovert. (and YES on my meyers-briggs, my first letter is an E, but only by a question or two.) i think it’s really important to note that, while being comfortable in front of a group is a part of this quality, being energized by social interaction is the foundation of an extroverted identity. as an only child, anyone who knows me can tell you that i have always needed periods of solitude and quiet (save for the company of my dog). i frequently feel drained in loud or busy environments, spend as much time one-on-one as possible, and if the conversation in a group is not engaging, i’m yawning ten minutes in. so i’ll take ambivert. but i think extrovert is a bit too far.
k. so what, rae?
my life until rather recently has been marred by an absurd cornucopia of mental health illnesses and disorders. it reads more like a DSM BINGO card than a description of one person.
narcissistic personality disorder. (yes. i had both.)
borderline personality disorder.
panic anxiety disorder.
histrionic personality disorder.
eating disorder not otherwise specified.
post traumatic stress disorder.
yeah. i guess you could say i’m a collector.
and as a result of this, as a result of living life on a psychosomatic mine field, i developed a certain set of coping mechanisms. hungry for connection but terrified of rejection, i learned how to tell the truth without revealing my truth. how to share of myself without really giving anything away. how to be the center of attention, to control the flow of conversation, so as to always land on topics that highlighted parts of me that i wanted to share. parts of myself that i deemed worthy of being seen.
how to hide. in plain sight.
and fuck, man, i’ll give it to myself. i’m funny. i’m unique and charismatic, and i’m a damn good storyteller.
this leaves people with a sense that they know me. that i’m “an open book” because i share my often controversial opinions and history with apparent ease. add to this a natural curiosity and empathy, it’s easy to understand why people often say they feel close to me, even if we’ve just met.
and because the things i say, the thoughts i express, the stories i tell are the. actual. truth. the linear series of events that happened, or the actual thoughts from inside my head…i mean, it REALLY seems like i am showing up and being authentic.
until recently when my entire life fell apart and i had a 100% complete and terrifying meltdown, and NONE OF MY FRIENDS BELIEVED ME. i don’t even think most of them noticed. i kept saying, “i am having a really hard time.” “i am falling apart.” “i’m really worried about myself right now.” and it was like, no one could hear me. no one was worried for me. no one was sending help.
at first, i was sure that this meant that my friendships, like everything else in my life, were all ending. that i was completely alone. totally isolated. a phoenix asphyxiating on her own ash.
…that was bullshit though.
what was actually happening was this: once again, i led with well-crafted, quick-witted storytelling and a hyper-intellectualized narrative about my experience. yes. i was saying words that were true. but i was deliberately disconnecting myself from the person saying them. i wasn’t ignoring my feelings, exactly. but i was analyzing them, observing them, manipulating them, talking around them…anything i could be doing, other than actually feeling them.
because feeling them led me into the wasps’ nest of my own judgments. my limiting beliefs. my resurfacing self-hatred. my fears of criticism, failure, and loss.
but wouldn’t you know it. when i, left with nothing and no one in the middle of the fucking desert in this random ass beach town in mexico, finally allowed myself to come into contact with myself. when i finally allowed my feelings to live inside my skin, to be welcomed home, to be integrated and allowed as part of who i am, to be owned and heard and honored. those feelings started to change. and suddenly i wasn’t so much falling apart anymore. and my friends, finally able to hear the call because i was actually calling instead of just texting, arose spectacularly to the occasion.
hungry for connection but terrified of rejection, i learned how to tell the truth without revealing my truth. how to share of myself without really giving anything away.
in the wake of everything that’s happened, i am slowly beginning to realize that my life, my work, and my relationships to this point have all been sterilized and marinated in this analytical ego identity. that i have been so terrified of being abandoned that i haven’t even bothered to show up as myself. so while i have spent my life “safe” from being left behind (if you don’t know me, you can’t really leave me), i’ve also spent my life without ever being truly loved.
and it is not because no one tried.
it is because no one was allowed to.
and to that, i want to say, no more.
but i know it’s not that simple. it’s not a fresh start, a breaking point, or some kind of spiritual amnesia that will allow me to step into a miraculously new life overnight.
i’m starting though. hopefully this will also reflect throughout my relationships. and soon, my offerings will change to reflect the ness-ness of who i am. i am working to shed the beliefs i have about my work and my worth, about what i have to offer, and about whether or not i have any business being here at all. i have always been confident and aware of my good qualities, but when those qualities are built on a belief that i don’t deserve to live or take up space, they can be hard to fully appreciate. and also, when those same qualities are things i’ve weaponized in the past, they are further difficult to embrace, for fear of misusing them again.
it is a lot to unpack, and i appreciate you wading through this with me.
it is all to say, self worth is the foundation of anything else worth having in life. honesty, truth, and vulnerability are not the same things. recovery is non-linear. and the inside of someone else’s experience is more varied and nuanced than any of us can imagine from the outside.