Part 1 The False Self
I like me.
It wasn’t always this way. I was a people pleaser; a chameleon. I became who you wanted me to be.
I’d notice and meet your need. Never noticed my own. Didn’t know I had needs or that I should respond to them.
I worked and served and gave and rushed, and I hoped you’d like me because of all I did.
Enabler? Yes, thought it was Christlike. It always cost me but that didn’t matter as long as others benefitted.
I never shared an opinion much less had one. What should we do? Where should we go? I don’t care, you pick.
I was helpless, scared to be in the world because what if life hurt me?
And it had.
I didn’t venture too far. Was afraid of what the future might bring.
A walking ball of shame. Not ashamed of my deeds but of my very cells. I didn’t do bad, I was bad.
If you gave me a look, I attached that to myself. If you didn’t like something I said or did, I Velcro’d that to my soul and made it mean something about me.
Your views mattered more than my own.
I worked hard to make myself perfect. A perfectly pleasing pal so you’d like me.
A happy face hiding the pain.
Then one day I looked inside. I noticed a small girl in there, hiding, sometimes throwing a tantrum, hurting, needing attention. I hated her. Pushed her back down. Told her to be quiet. Told her she was messy. Tried to give her away.
A friend said horrified, “No, you don’t give her away. You hold, cherish, nurture, and protect her. If you walk away, one more person will have abandoned her.”
She needed to talk, tell how scary it had been. She needed to cry because she’d lost so much. She needed someone to notice her pain. She needed someone to untangle her story.
Oh, I’d tried asking for help a couple times: Someone told me there is no God. Another wanted to focus on today’s trouble but nothing else. Another talked in riddles.
I almost gave up.
Until the twinkly-eyed bearded man said, “Tell me about your life.” With a smile I told him it was pleasantly perfect. He laughed. Saw right through me. He slowed down and told me about the rocks on his bookshelf, Vermont, his kids, his blunders.
I squeaked out a story. He cried. Helped me understand why I did what I did and thought how I thought. Told me it wasn’t true.
Said I mattered. Said I made a diffence. Told me the world wasn’t out to hurt me.
I shared more until the hurt was in a pile outside me. That made room for the little girl inside to leap and grow and dance and spin with laugher.
And then, after all the stories and tears, the little girl grew up. She was me. We were us.
Part 2 The True Self
I started to tell the truth.
When people asked what it was like, I told them, even if they didn’t want to hear it.
When I was tired, I told people no, even if they got mad.
When people were cruel, I set limits. Chose friends wisely.
When they said, “Don’t talk about politics” I said, “I’m not just selfcare girl.”
When they said hush, you’re upsetting us. I said, “I can’t.”
When they said, “Lucille, this is not who you are,” I said, “Yes it is.”
Some people liked it.
Like the time I told two Christian colleagues it was wrong to have an affair. Their anger scared me. A nice man said, “That’s okay. You confronted them. The world didn’t fall apart did it?”
I looked around and noticed it hadn’t.
A man yelled at me on the running track. I almost made it mean something about me but instead I called his boss. I don’t think he works there anymore.
One time I told a counselor what I was feeling. “How selfish!” she said. My supervisor told me, “That’s abuse. She hasn’t done her own work.”
Integrity. The outside of the apple matches the inside. When I’m mad I’m mad, sad I’m sad, glad I’m glad.
No more masks.
I don’t always get it right.
I’m not perfect. And that’s okay.
I like me.
How did you find your true self?
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.
Lucille Zimmerman is a Licensed Professional Counselor with a private practice in Littleton, CO and an affiliate faculty professor at Colorado Christian University.
She is also the author of Renewed: Finding Your Inner Happy in an Overwhelmed World. Through practical ideas and relatable anecdotes, readers can better understand their strengths and their passions—and address some of the underlying struggles or hurts that make them want to keep busy or minister to others to the detriment of themselves. Renewed can help nurture those areas of women’s lives to use them better for work, family, and service. It gives readers permission to examine where they spend their energy and time, and learn to set limits and listen to “that inner voice."