The masks we wear – 2

Here’s a personal story to highlight how innocuous incidents shape our lives. How we succumb to our own expectations, unknowingly suppress our inner emotions and create a rift between who we are and who we want to be. Multiplied over a lifetime, it suffocates.

I was 7 years old and at my grandma’s. It was evening and I wanted to go back to our home (those days, taking bus alone was perfectly safe in a town like Ooty).

Right when I stepped out, my aunt, who I loved, picked a fight with a tenant at the gate and it turned pretty vociferous. I was mildly scared and couldn’t bring myself to go through the gate.

I waited for a while, but the fight only worsened and few others joined in. 

My own home was a 1 km walk from the bus stop and post 6pm, would be pretty dark. While alone, I always ensured I hit it before 6pm. That day, it looked like I would be delayed. That scared me more.

I somehow brought courage and managed to walk to the main gate, trying to avoid eye contact with anyone. But managed to bump straight into my aunt. In that moment, without knowing what to talk, I mumbled – “aunty, what is happening here?” 

She told me to go back in and I did. 

After some time, the fight subsided and she came in. By now, I had decided to skip going home and was playing with cousins.

She walked straight to me and said it was **courageous of me** to check if she was okay in the fight. And **she berated** my older cousins for not caring to even come out.

Here I was feeling scared inside, worried about that wooded path to home and yet, the person I admire is **praising me** for something I didn’t mean to do. Not just that, she is berating my cousins for the very same thing I too felt inside.

What did I do? I took credit for it. I wanted her appreciation and I simply couldn’t bring myself to tell her that I too was scared.

That incident didn’t make me feel like I won her appreciation, but it only made me feel like a fraud and a coward. 

I suppressed my true emotion because truth was painful and this was an easier escape. I continued that habit well into adulthood. Of suppressing facing the inner reality and taking the easier path of an outer facade. 

This wasn’t the only incident – there were many.

I knew it all along and chose to sweep it under the carpet for long. Sometime in 2016, I decided to face the inner skeletons. 

I took a look at suffocating emotions and dug out past incidents to release them. In the beginning, I didn’t have the tools to handle it without choking. 

I never went to any counsellor. I turned to books. 

I looked for answers to facing deeply uncomfortable emotions and self-defeating belief patterns. It took time. Thankfully, I did find answers. These books helped me immensely. In taking a look at my relationship with myself. In my relationship with others, esp the closest. And in my relationship with my own body (not in the fitness sense, but in terms of muscle memory of painful events).

2019 has been liberating for me. Not only am I more comfortable being myself, my relationships feel more genuine and I feel safe and comfortable being myself, in my own body. Not only it lets me be more of myself, but I can take a honest look at my own fear of failure, fear of being rejected, or that of why I am a workaholic and so addicted to proving things all the time. 

It feels like air is cleaner these days. It’s still an ongoing journey. There are still more chinks in the closet. At least, I now know they are there and have the tools to handle it head on.

PS: I really really recommend Dr David Burns’ books!!

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