Today’s guest is Rule of Stupid, an amazingly honest, fearless blog with the best header picture I have seen. Check him out!
Scott has kindly invited me to write a post for his blog. The invite came from a post Scott wrote, and in particular a phrase he used about fears we have – “if people really knew us, if we really acted in an authentic way, that no one would like us”. The phrase “if you really knew me you’d hate me” haunted me for years and I’m going to try to share some of my story in the hope it might help any readers.
I had a troubled time growing up. My mother was dysfunctional, my father had left when I was a baby and we were poor. When my mother re-married it was to a dark and brooding man who brought a lot of pain and abuse.
The trouble is, when parents inflict trauma on a child the child has to cope, but doesn’t have any coping strategies. Every message, biological and cultural, tells the child that parents look after them, and that parents are, to all intents and purposes, God – all powerful and always right.
So when parents bring pain, the easiest way to make sense of this is to put the blame on the self. “Parents are good, but they hurt me, so I must be bad.” This is the coping strategy that often results from bad parents.
Sadly, a strategy that pays off so young is incredibly hard to shake. In fact the strategy soon becomes invisible – we don’t even know we are doing it – so it just becomes the norm. We then grow up with a permanent sense that everything bad that happens is somehow our fault.
This is the origin of the all to common “if you knew me you’d hate me” mantra. The self-blame has morphed into a blame that pre-empts our mistakes – it is now a general attitude to ourselves.
Another tragedy is that the belief can create the reality. If we think we are rubbish we will shy away from making friends – then our loneliness will increase our sense that we are rubbish. On the flip-side, we can horribly over-compensate and become brash and insensitive – “people won’t like me anyway, so I won’t care about them either!”
We come to operate in so many ineffective ways that our lives can become one big, self-fulfilling prophecy of loneliness and misery.
So how did I get out?
First, I have to say it took years, and I can’t write a fifty-page post. Instead I’m going to try and summarize the most helpful thing for me.
For me the love that saved me was my wife. For others I know, however, it has been love of music, a friend, writing – the object doesn’t matter. What matters is that we find something outside ourself that we want so bad we’d do anything for it. Even be ourselves!
When I first picked up a guitar I fell in love, and I remain in love today. I loved music so much that I played in front of others. I discovered that I could confess to them in song, both showing myself and still hiding myself behind the safety of the phrase ‘it’s just a song’. While still terrified of the world my passion for music saw me take to the stage. I learned to talk between songs and found parts of myself that people liked.
For a while I was a musical clown, creative and funny, and I enjoyed it. Then I met my wife – and she wanted more than a funny guitarist. I couldn’t hide behind a mic any more.
But again, I loved her enough to try, to risk, to dare. I slowly, painfully revealed more and more of myself, and as I showed myself to her, so it became natural to show those things to others.
No-one has ever rejected me for my honesty. My friendships have only ever grown stronger.
I once believed many things that are not true. One was that everybody else had it sussed out except me. They didn’t. Everyone struggles.
A second was that once I had it figured out, things wouldn’t hurt any more. They will. Pain is part of life for everyone – but so is pleasure. Hide from pain and you lose pleasure too.
Another was that there was some magic trick, some arcane knowledge or potion, some secret that would make me alright, take away the pain, give me confidence. There isn’t one.
But that isn’t bad news – it’s the best news you can have – because if there’s no secret, no hidden magic, then healing is available for everyone. And it really is!
So here’s the bad news.
It’s going to hurt.
My wife and I argued. I went through some very dark depression. We struggled and we hurt – but we kept going, thank God. That’s the only secret – if it’s even a secret – that you keep going.
Breaking the belief that we are ugly inside, shameful or that people will hate us is both the easiest thing and the hardest thing in the world. There is only one way, and that is to find out – to show yourself, to dare, to risk. It is scary, it is painful, but it is also beautiful, liberating and like slowly seeing in colour for the first time.
More than anything I can say with absolute confidence, with the knowledge of experience, that the pain of facing the fear is less than the pain of suffering under the fear without end.
You are not china, you are not fragile – you have survived everything so far, you have survived what gave you this pain! You can survive being the real you and when you do you will rejoice in it.
Coming Tomorrow: The Biggest Complaint I Get About Men, Hands Down!