I was told, from a young age, “Rachel, you’re good at…art, music…”I perpetuated this story about myself that in order to gain people’s care, attention, love, certainty, and for me to grow, I had to make art, I had to play music, I had to express myself physically through my horseback riding. “Those are the things she was good at”. They’d say. Let’s tell her that. Let’s only tell her that. Oh. And that she CAN’T, and I mean with certainty, write, do math, or science, because she’s “only artistically talented”
I love art. I love creation. I love taking six different random colors and forming their soft palates into a singular form, a bird flying, a horse galloping – freedom. I love to write, let the words flow through onto the paper, wet and laced in sweet sayings of humor and vulnerability. Though, this leads into my next mask, so interlaced,
because I will throw away a drawing that doesn’t meet my standards, if it’s crooked, if the lines are too dark, if the paint isn’t the right color. I’d crumble up my pieces of paper with words dabbled about, telling a story of the process, but god forbid the words be misspelled (because I have a story about that), or that my handwriting is illegible (another story). See, because I struggled so much in school from a very young age, I thought, or believed, and made up stories, that (or perhaps some of this is factual, I’m not that great of a speller) but that, actually, my lack of ability to spell, actually got me more attention than if I were to spell correctly. Teachers payed more attention to me when I did poorly than if I were to be average. (The FAILURE Mask: where in order to gain the love and attention, the care that I feel and deemed I deserved, I had to physically try to fail. It could also fall under the category of a SELF-SABOTAGE Mask) That’s where this pull for being excellent comes in, because if I’m not excellent I’m average, and who pays attention to average? My story feeds into this belief, which in then says
YOU MUST BE SKINNY: The ED mask. You must be thinner than the rest, you actually must just be thin, you must see your bones, you must starve, you must control yourself, have control to be thin. If you’re not thin than no one will like you. Only people who are skinny are respected (something which I don’t actually believe others, yet I have a story I tell myself about me). And, also, the mask is a buffer from being hurt. “YOU CAN’T HURT ME, MY FEELINGS, MY EMOTIONS, YOU CAN’T HURT ME, I’M THIN”. People treat me as if I’m more fragile. They dance around me more, especially when treating me (clinically). It’s also a way to seduce love. “If you don’t love me enough, I’ll stop eating. If you love me enough, I’ll eat, if you love me the same, I probably will continue to starve to show you how much pain I’m in, and so that you’ll continue to show me your love”. This story that I have is that people will only love me if I’m “sick”. The sicker I am, the skinner I am, the less I eat, the more bones that show, the smaller the size clothing I wear, the more worry, attention, validation, and connection I get, than if I were of “average” size.
And of course, I lace my words with humor. I make people feel comfortable with my light and easy personality. I won’t say it’s “all wrong”, but I make up a story that people won’t like me unless, unless I’m light and goofy, that if I’m grouchy, self centered (or even true to my emotions) they might think it’s about them, take it personally, and start to make up their own story and start to not like me. I dance around topics and giggle my way through conversations. I brush off interactions that make me feel uncomfortable with jokes and believe, strongly, that it is my humor that people love me for, my humor, my body, my creativity, and my ability to be
VULNERABLE: which sometimes I am, because I trust the person deeply and it’s right. And sometimes I’m vulnerable for the sake of being vulnerable in a sense that being vulnerable means you can’t hurt me because I’m being so open so how dare you dig in and hurt me right now. I have learned that being open and honest and raw, people see me as a hard worker, and I want to be seen as that someone, and when I don’t get seen like that, I’m afraid that people will say “she’s closed off” and think that I don’t care, and not caring means I’m stupid.
See, it all comes down to, me being stupid. This core belief of mine from growing up when I interpreted people not believing in me and me thinking that I had to play stupid (because I know, I know I’m really not stupid, because I know I’m powerful, determined, and full of all other sorts of amazing shit) to get attention and validation.
It comes down to my worthiness. If I feel worthy of people’s love and attention for who I am as a person, a smart intelligent person, a person who’s authentically willing to show her creative, vulnerable side, not one who is putting it on as a front to seek out, to manipulate those around her to find that validation that I’m more than capable of giving myself.
I am the passionate, determined individual, the person who cares for herself with the utmost respect, whose tenacity flows throughout her body like a ribbon waving in the wind, whose compassion seeps through her pores, whose confidence beams. Who am I? because the story that I’m telling myself is the story that I’m perpetuating. I am powerful, brilliant, beautiful, whole.