I was raised in a traditional religion, but my family had another religion that was more powerful. I call it the Look Goods. As a principal’s daughter in the rural midwest, how I looked and whether I fit in seemed like the bottom line. I can imagine now the beliefs forming in my six-year old head. “Please approve of me,” which carried another assumption: if you did you wouldn’t leave me.”
I would belong. A powerful motivator for a first grader. What did I stand to lose if “they” didn’t approve? Everything. Security. Comfort. So what I did was become inauthentic to gain that approval. I began to do, to dress, to say what I thought would win them over. I became a false version of me.
This involved a fair amount of people-reading and mind-guessing, and I never questioned whether I was accurate at this. In fact, I found lots of proof that I was good at it. It only became a problem when I stopped being able to read myself, to live in my own mind. I discovered that “they” hadn’t left me. I had left myself.
My grown-up self no longer believes in this religion, at least most of the time. What I’ve learned slowly, time after time, is that when I pretend to be something I’m not it hurts. I might have “their” approval, I might “belong,” but I’d lost myself. And the cost for that is greater than I’m willing to pay any more.
So now I get to “bust” my own lying self. Each time I believe I should do something because “they” need me to or will appreciate me, approve of me, I’ve been taking a couple of deep breaths, checking in with my own gut. Finding out where I do belong. I’ve discovered I like me when I stop and breathe and ask.
What about you? Do you notice what you’re willing to give up for approval? You’re the one to decide where you belong and where you don’t, not them. What are you believing that would keep you from finding the grace of living your own life?”