Taking Off the Mask & Becoming Who I Was Meant To Be
Updated: Dec 30, 2019
Uniqueness. Being special or remarkable. It's human nature to give great value to these qualities. As long as they fall into a certain ideal.
As a child, I was known as the town’s singer. By age 10 I was getting paid to sing at weddings, invited to the local high school to sing at their pep rallies, and heard a recording of my voice sing the National Anthem on the school speakers every morning. This made me feel unique.
That kind of difference falls into the category of talent, which is considered an acceptable form of uniqueness. But society would ask us to separate what makes us distinct into different categories. Acceptable and not. Or worth sharing and requiring hiding. So makeup, even tattoos, become acceptable, but being born looking different is not. One was chosen and the other was... an accident?
It's therefore at a young age that I found myself torn by this social conundrum. On the one hand, we live in communities that value exceptionalism, giftedness and rareness, on the other, there is an expectation of sameness.
Pretending is Exhausting
I’ve seen all kinds of people close to me try to mold themselves to what they believe others want them to be. What they don’t know is that if they showed who they truly were, they would be loved as much. Differently perhaps. But loved nonetheless. We're not more loveable because we mold ourselves to an imagined “better” self. We're exhausted and scared that people will find out who we truly are.
I know first hand how this feels because at age 12 I started waking up every morning at five to apply a thick camouflage that would become a daily ritual. This hour and a half felt excruciatingly lonely while everyone in the house was still asleep.
My life was filled with worry about being found out. I couldn’t swim with friends. Sweating was nerve racking, and kissing was a complete nightmare leaving patches of makeup smudged around my mouth. Would I be accepted if people found out what I truly looked like?
Basically, no one knew what I looked like. I lived with a mask on my face.
When I was 24, I realized I could no longer pretend. It was time to get on stage, but this time, without my mask on and without worrying about what people thought about what I looked like.
I was finally embracing who I am and saying, "I'm here. I'm talented. I'm beautiful, and you will look at me on my terms".
If you can't love yourself...
What I've learned by loving what I look like, is that as long as I lead the way with showing myself self-love, others consistently follow suit. Furthermore, once I welcomed looking different, I could truly honour every part of me that is distinctive and unique.
Thankfully, society is changing. We're slowly learning to embrace those who are different from us. We're tired of seeing people marginalized for what they look like, how their bodies move, how their brains work, their gender, their culture, and for just loving who they love.
There's space for everyone, and it's up to all of us to build it to be inclusive. That means total equity. How much richer will we be as a society when we include every single human being exactly as they are! It's time to recognize that everyone's life has meaning, value and is beautifully unique.