I’m excited to introduce this awesome exSuperwoman to you this month. Yolanda’s story is powerful, insightful, and inspiring. Enjoy! — Dr. Kim
LEARNING TO BE YOUR AUTHENTIC SELF
Most of us live two lives — what people see on the outside, and what is really going on inside us. As kids in school, we learned what outward signs of attention would please the teacher. At our jobs, we learn to “put up a good front” whenever the boss happens to stroll past our desk or office. Lastly, as if putting on masks, we style our hair, choose our clothes, and use body language to impress those around us. Over time, through these behaviors we have learned to excel at hiding truly serious problems. We use any and everything to hide the invisible scars we possess. I know this all too well!
Unfortunately, people tend to judge us by our outward appearances; and thus can be easily fooled. Hence why masks are so effective, because they allow us to hide who we truly are. So why do we wear masks most of the time? The reasons are many and varied. For instance, we wear a mask because we are hiding behind a brave face when actually we are trembling with fear inside.
Another possible use of a mask is putting on a big smile to conceal an aching sorrow and/or pain. Or maybe we wear a mask to clothe ourselves with a costume of competence, as a way to hide our insecurities. Regrettably, I knew all too well about wearing masks at an early age. From a child and far into my adulthood, I was extremely insecure because I felt unloved and uncomfortable in my skin. In my I was ugly and damaged goods, unworthy of receiving or even deserving love. This was as a result of my scarlet letter — abuse! I experienced physical, verbal, and emotional abuse from my parent; and sexual abuse by a male neighbor by the age of 5. While the physical, verbal and emotional abuse lasted until adulthood, the sexual abuse was short-term. Regardless, of the length of time, the abuse I endured had a huge effect and impact on my life! Abuse places a heavy burden on the person, because of feelings of guilt and shame due to the need to maintain this deep dark secret. For years I carried this burden, as a coping mechanism, I learned to wear various types of masks. Each of my masks provided me with a sense of protection. However, I would come to realize that my masks were a self-imposed prison, because they held me captive from being my true authentic self.
So, why do we wear masks most of the time? Well, I wore mine to hide the fear of others recognizing my guilt and shame from the abuse. More often than not, I used smiles and laughter to conceal the pain of my past. This was accomplished by being the life of the party, in the limelight. Yet, truth be told, I was crying inside from all the pain. I’m reminded of the lyrics from the song, “Tears of a clown.” The verse starts out, “Now if there’s a smile on my face, it’s only there trying to fool the public….” No truer words have ever been spoken, because that’s exactly what my masks accomplished.
On the other hand, I used perfection to hide my insecurities I incurred from the verbal abuse. In addition, I had a need to control things and situations, this way I could shield others from knowing my true feelings. And if that wasn’t enough, I became a “people pleaser” and wore this mask because I wanted people to accept me. Wearing the various masks became overwhelming and tiring.
Unfortunately, people tend to judge us by our outward appearances; and thus can be easily fooled. Hence why masks are so effective, because they allow us to hide who we truly are. So why do we wear masks most of the time? The reasons are many and varied. For instance, we wear a mask because we are hiding behind a brave face when actually we are trembling with fear inside. Another possible use of a mask is putting on a big smile to conceal an aching sorrow and/or pain. Or maybe we wear a mask to clothe ourselves with a costume of competence, as a way to hide our insecurities.
Finally, I came to the conclusion that I was no longer willing to deny who I truly was. It was at this moment, the healing process began. And through my healing I became aware that people wear masks of anger, bitterness, jealousy, violence, hoarding, over-eating, excessive shopping, etc. Therefore, a mask is anything that you use to hide your true authentic self! You need to realize that masks are a lie, and they will eat you alive! Even though my numerous masks provided me emotional protection, it was only temporary. The costs are high when we put on our masks, because they imprison you. As humans, we have a real need to feel connected to others. But when we wear masks, we don’t get the experience to feel the warmth of belonging because others don’t know our real authentic self.
As I continued on my healing journey, I began to realize that I was created for a divine purpose; and, no longer did I have a need to be afraid of being my true authentic self. So, I began the process to remove my masks. Besides, what I tried so hard to hide while wearing my masks was actually seeping out through my behaviors and attitudes. Yes, my masks had cracks and gashes.
Finally, I learned to fall madly and deeply in love with myself. Self-love is a powerful feeling because it frees you from bondage. When I learned to truly and unconditionally love myself, I began to love ALL of me — the good, the bad and the ugly unapologetically. Now, I no longer feel the need to seek others approval or acceptance! I came to the realization that no matter what, there will be those who will either like e, love me or hate me; and I’m okay with whichever one a person chooses.
Today, I share my story in hopes that others will find the courage to let go of their masks and allow their true selves to shine. Do not allow F.E.A.R. (False Evidence Appearing Real) to hold you hostage. Allow others to see the real you — the authentic you, the one who is divinely designed with a purpose! My hope is that you too begin the process of “Learning to Be Your Authentic Self.”
Yolanda Stephens, a Detroit native, is a resident of Lansing, MI. She is a minister, teacher, and works in an administrative support capacity for the State of Michigan. Currently, Yolanda is working with women and girls in her ministry and community work. Whether preaching, teaching, or hosting seminars and conferences, Yolanda believes her mission is to support women and girls on their healing journeys so that our communities will be made whole.