“Lies may make people feel better, but they do not help them to know love.” ~Bell Hooks
I was once a liar. I didn’t know I was a liar at the time. I didn’t consciously tell an untruth. Instead, my entire being did.
Lying isn’t just something that is done with words. We can lie with our actions. We can lie with our silence. We can lie with our complicity. We can lie by pretending to be who we aren’t.
I was the lie.
I played dress up for most of my life. It didn’t happen all at once. I didn’t walk into someone else’s closet and come out with a new wardrobe. It happened slowly, over time.
Each time I said or did something that didn’t get approval from the world around me, I chose to pull a garment from the imaginary closet of people who are lovable. By the time I was twenty, my true self was so far hidden that even I didn’t know where she was.
It first began by disappearing. I felt rejected by my peers in grade school. It felt like so much work to be liked and popular. So I decided to give up trying. But instead of just being myself, I decided to hide away. Being unnoticed seemed easier than being seen for who I was.
College was my opportunity to reinvent myself. But when I got there I found out I couldn’t force myself into being outgoing or easily likable. So I turned awkward. I was hyper self-conscious that I was not being myself, but I didn’t know how to let myself just be. So my body got stiff, my movements fidgety, and my voice uncertain.
I began to watch other people and would, in the slightest ways, begin to mimic them. I’d adopt someone’s laugh, another person’s style, and someone else’s slang. This mishmash of what I thought it meant to be likable only kept me further away from the truth of who I really was.
I had friends, but no one really knew me. I was lost and lying about who I was. I pretended like I had it all figured out because admitting that I was clueless would mean my world would come crashing down.
When we build identities for ourselves we can’t risk allowing them to crumble. So we lie. We create more masks to wear and keep ourselves further from the truth. Our egos know that if one brick loosens, everything we’ve worked so hard for will be ruined.
When we choose to deny who we truly are, we are lying. Lying is a choice, one that deeply harms ourselves and oftentimes, those around us. And even though it is a choice, it’s one that is very easy to hide from. In our search for love we will do almost anything to attain our goal even if it means denying ourselves the truth.
The irony, though, is that love itself is impossible without honesty. If you find yourself desperate to know what love really is, take a deep breath and look at how honest you are about you.
Do you really know yourself? Do you share who you are with the world? Are you overly concerned with what other people think about you? Will you change yourself to be accepted by others? These are all great questions to help you recognize how comfortable you are with your true self.
Uncovering yourself is part of the path. It’s okay to share with people that you don’t know. That you’re confused. That you’re lost. That you feel pain. That you’re in the process of getting to know yourself.
You don’t have to use all your energy to put on the facade that you’ve got it all figured out. It’s okay to not have it all together. When you begin to open up and communicate with others about who you truly are, you begin the opportunity to discover what love is.
The people who open their hearts to you will create a beautiful container for love to grow. Those who are triggered by who you are will move their own way. Let them go. Stay connected to your truth and keep sharing with the people in your life.
As I began to test the waters in my friendships I started to open up about my feelings of shame and guilt.
I have one memory of sitting at the kitchen table with a girlfriend and telling her something I had never told anyone. I could feel the space opening between us as she acknowledged my feelings and matched them with her own experiences of similar feelings.
Sharing ourselves allows us to know love. Love makes us feel safe and wanted. It makes us feel connected and like we belong.
We often lie when we’re afraid of the truth. When we lie about who we are, we tend to be afraid that who we are isn’t lovable. If we show our true selves and we aren’t loved and accepted, we don’t know how we’ll recover.
We recover by loving ourselves. But you can’t love yourself if you don’t know who you are. You can’t love yourself if you’re using all your energy to put on an act for everyone else. And other people can’t love you when they don’t know who you are.
So if you want to know love, show yourself. Take off the mask. Let go of all the energy it takes to be someone else and use it to discover who it is you truly are. Love that person up and watch as the world loves you back.