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To think that I am not me?

(22 Posts)
Livingtothefull Sun 29-Sep-13 20:36:07

I am so used to saying - acting out - what people want of me that I lose sight of who I actually am. Tomorrow I have to go to work and act out the part of a devoted, committed and motivated team member. It is not that I don't care - I do want to earn my money & do the right thing by the company - but I only care so much. The job is a temporary one which ends in a month so I am already thinking about the next thing ie finding another job by Christmas.

In the personal sphere I am used to saying the right kind of things that i think people want me to say. I am always careful to avoid anything controversial, of putting myself on the line by saying what I really think. I am always the one being circumspect, diplomatic, endlessly understanding. I would say that there are barely a handful of people whom I can really be myself with (though not sure who that 'self' is).

It is dawning on me that I spend the greater part of my life acting out and giving people what I think they want me to be. I act out a bland, sanitised version of me. I think it is down to the way I was brought up.

I am a people pleaser, an appeaser, a kind of coward. I am cowardly because I fear that my real self is so inferior, nobody would like it if I displayed it. I would rather keep silent and fear that i am inferior, than speak out and risk having it proved beyond doubt.

Has anyone else been in such a situation and how did you break out of it?

mmmdonuts Sun 29-Sep-13 20:37:58

fluffyduckie Sun 29-Sep-13 20:41:58

I do that. I see all my flaws so clearly and am convinced that if anyone knew what I was like on the inside they would run a mile.

If someone says "oh you are really nice" I am thinking "well you wouldn't think that if you knew x y z" and just can't believe what they say.

I feel bad for being a fake with people but I am scared of being alone.

Teapigging Sun 29-Sep-13 20:44:27

This was me in my teens, because it's what my mother had instilled in me. It's no way to live, as you're discovering. It was probably easier to allow my real self to surface because I was younger when I realised I was sick of being wallpaper to myself and others, beige, inoffensive and anonymous.

The world will not fall apart if you stop tiptoeing around, afraid of others' reactions. You are the most important person, and the only constant, in your own life, so start acting like it. Give yourself the level of kindness and consideration you usually give others. Prioritise your own happiness.

bigknickersforthepicker Sun 29-Sep-13 20:44:48

fluffyduckie you've just described how I see myself.

Someone recently said 'oh no one deserves this more than you' ..and my inward kneejerk reaction was. .'me? no I don't deserve anything'

GrendelsMum Sun 29-Sep-13 20:45:25

I think that our world doesn't value the skills and qualities of being understanding, thoughtful and diplomatic nearly enough.

We have newspaper columns specifically for people to be controversial, to state extreme opinions, and to fail to consider the alternative point of view.

Being extreme, upsetting people, and being thoughtless is portrayed as edgy, exciting and honest.

My gran told me, towards the end of her life, that shed always imagined her younger sister was more popular than her. My gran was a quiet, thoughtful person who would never spread gossip, and who tried to get people to work well together. Her sister was very lively, a real gossip, always stirring, always out to make things more exciting. And it turned out that actually, people knew that they could trust my gran, wanted to work with her, went to her with a problem. Her sister was great fun for the occasional night out, but you'd never tell her a secret and you'd never expect her to put herself out for you.

ELR Sun 29-Sep-13 21:03:35

I think this is more common than you think and a lot of people feel thus way. Parts of your post remind me of myself but as I get older I have began to realise and accept the way I am and also that actually nobody cares what I do. Sorry it doesn't really help you much but just wanted to let you know you aren't alone.

Livingtothefull Sun 29-Sep-13 21:04:14

Wow, thanks for all your responses - all appreciated very much.

Yes, I was brought up to believe that the worst thing I could do was offend anyone. In many authoritarian families/setups, children are at the bottom of the pecking order and their very survival depends on pleasing those around them. It becomes a habit.

GrendelsMum - I think that you are spot on about the virtues of diplomatic, thoughtful, supportive people not being widely appreciated. And I suppose that I do have the ability to see all sides of a situation & understand multiple viewpoints, which is not a bad thing. The problem is that I find I get so caught up in other peoples views/feelings/rights that I lose sight of my own. The reality of balancing other peoples'needs against mine - of prioritising my own interests in the face of others' claims - I find really hard.

I also find that whenever I try to 'put myself first' I find myself wanting to assert myself really crudely/aggressively - there is a lot of suppressed anger there. I just don't have the 'vocabulary' of self assertiveness. It also makes me fear that the 'real me' is a very unpleasant person - best put her under wraps again.

GrendelsMum Sun 29-Sep-13 21:10:23

I wonder if you could start treasuring yourself a bit more, acting more towards yourself as someone you value and who deserves to be looked after and heard?

I'd recommend Gretchen Rubin's books The Happiness Project and Happier at Home. Not self help books, but a set of reflections on how she tried to make herself happier.

Livingtothefull Sun 29-Sep-13 21:19:51

Yes I need to make a shift somehow and operate from the assumption that I am a person of value. I think I have done some things to be proud of - but it never translates into that real knowing-in-my-bones that I am a person worthy of respect. I know where I want to get to (I think) but need to find the way there.

Livingtothefull Sun 29-Sep-13 21:24:04

I don't feel that there is a 'me' really. There is no 'self', just a random constellation of qualities. Principally, a dreadful, knee-jerk fear of what people really think of me deep down. Whenever I hear about somebody bad mouthing me, it feels as though my worst fears about myself are confirmed.

GrendelsMum Sun 29-Sep-13 21:25:21

I think you may be starting in the wrong place - it sounds like you're thinking that if you do enough of the right things, then you would be a person of value, but you never succeed in doing the right things. I think the key is that you are a person of value now, just as every person is, whatever you do or don't do, or do or don't achieve.

Hassled Sun 29-Sep-13 21:27:02

I had a bit of a revelation a few years ago - felt very much the way you described in your OP, but then it occurred to me - so what? It wasn't that I was pretending to be a diplomatic facilitator, I AM a diplomatic facilitator. I don't like conflict and actively avoid it - and that's fine. Realising that I wasn't surpressing some inner firebrand, that I really am quite bland, was actually very helpful. I can be feisty when I need to be, but it's not really in my nature.

Being an understanding diplomat, as you describe yourself, is actually a really great thing to be - certainly worthy of respect. How would you like to be different? What do you think your inner self is like? Wouldn't it have shown itself by now?

GrendelsMum Sun 29-Sep-13 21:27:23

But why do you hear about people bad-mouthing you?

Do you have someone in your life who likes to tell you other people think you're no good?

Livingtothefull Sun 29-Sep-13 21:51:23

Yes maybe I am a diplomatic facilitator by nature, I do seem to have a talent for it. But why the dreadful anger when I try to assert myself? I don't know where that comes from.....instinctively I feel that I have lost sight of a part of myself & that is what is making me angry. Or maybe it is just that I feel overlooked and my contributions not respected?

There is also the fact that life makes demands & I have to have the skills to respond to these. I have posted previously about my severely disabled DS.....believe me, a sizeable minority of people have an atrocious attitude to the disabled & assertiveness is a skill I absolutely have to have, in order to face them down. I just don't have room for self doubt, I need to be free of it but it won't go.

Yes there are several people who tell me whenever a third party has criticised me. Eg recently my DH told me that SIL had complained I hadn't helped her clear out their DM's house when she moved out recently...I had left it all for SIL to do which was selfish, apparently (she may be to judge? I felt it was her place, not mine, to go through DM's stuff....I also have DS to care for plus a full time job).

But feeling is inferior is so ingrained that part of me assumes that she must be right. When I was growing up, people told me to my face that I was inferior, over and over again. I honestly think that the damage is done now and it is permanent. I am convinced I am on a lower footing in relation to most other people. I have no defence against criticism like this, it goes right to my heart.

GrendelsMum Sun 29-Sep-13 21:56:41

Okay, I thought that might be the problem. I think you might benefit from going to
A) assertiveness training. You might have access to this through your job. Be prepared to discover that you are actually much more assertive than you think you are if you attend a course - I did.
B) counselling to address the way that you were spoken to growing up, and your low self esteem as a result.

And your SiL was downright odd to expect you to go through your MiLs things - your DH should have done that. I wonder if that's why he told you that you should have done that?

Livingtothefull Sun 29-Sep-13 22:06:51

Thanks Grendelsmum, I have looked at counselling...have had a few unfortunate experiences but am looking for someone I think will help me.

My DH is actually supportive of me. What actually happened was that DH was being critical of some of his DSis behaviour, I was being understanding of her, encouraging DH to see her point of view (as per normal). DH then decided to put me in the picture as to what she had been saying about me.

GrendelsMum Sun 29-Sep-13 22:18:18

Ah, I see. That makes more sense!
Looking for counselling sounds sensible, but meanwhile, How about starting small, taking a look at the books I suggested, and seeing what you think?

Livingtothefull Sun 29-Sep-13 22:44:45

Thanks, I will read those books. I do a lot of reading. Time is precious so any counsellor I find has to be effective. I have approached a couple which really did not work for me...don't want to endlessly rake over the past, neither do I need to have someone sitting looking sympathetic while I moan about my problems, how hard it all is etc. I just need some strategies that really work for me.

It makes no sense. As I am 'acting a part' anyway, I may as well 'act out' the person I would actually like to be. I want to stop sabotaging myself.

puntasticusername Sun 29-Sep-13 23:13:07

1) I would look into cognitive behaviour therapy - it involves only a minimal amount of delving into the past, focusing instead on developing strategies to change how you think and feel about yourself in the present. Changing the record on the inner monologue, sort of thing.

2) I can't remember its right name but it's something like internal versus external validation - basically, how much weight you give to what you think about yourself, versus how much you give to what others think of you (or what you think they think of you etc etc). You need an appropriate balance, a lot of people have it tipped too far one way or the other. Articles such as this may be helpful:

Good luck, I feel for you, I suffer with the same issues!

Donkeyok Sun 29-Sep-13 23:38:56

I will be watching this with great interest as ' a good little girl' I've always felt like a chameleon, people pleaser or what dh calls diplomatic skills. Perhaps we could shed our skins and emerge as new creatures?

Livingtothefull Sat 05-Oct-13 18:25:03

I have this dreadful, dreadful fear of being me. I don't know where it came from, why it is here and why it doesn't just go. I just want to strangle it, it won't spontaneously die.

This must sound terribly self-obsessed....but I really so want to be free of this fear so that I can make more of a contribution and, maybe, benefit others more. I will be better able to stand up for DS (and also others who may need me to stand up for them). The worst thing about a fear like this is that it keeps my attention firmly focused on myself.

There are times when, temporarily, the fear has just seemed to spontaneously roll away, when I can just get on with doing what I have to those times I have been able to forget myself altogether and just get on with doing what has to be done. I have just felt the 'flow' is tantalising because these are glimpses of where I want to be. But the fear always comes back.

I want to find the key to dissolving the fear at will, that is my Holy Grail.

At work yesterday I was aware of how false I am, I spend most of my time acting. I do/say all the things I think appropriate, I smile and even laugh on cue. I am sure at some level others know it is false; they must know I am not genuine. It is insulting to them really. I don't know how I got into this state; where I am languishing over here while this false self is acting out an approximation of 'me' out there. WHERE did I get this assumption that the real me is so unacceptable, it has to be hidden/glossed over/misrepresented at all costs?

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