For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a strong desire to be liked. Is this universal? I keep thinking I’m tricking myself into believing we all want to be liked. In our ancestral tribal past, fitting in meant survival (unless you were the leader, in which case you’d better have other qualities like spear-throwing or mastodon-chucking to compensate for being a dick). But I suspect it goes deeper than simple hardwiring for me. I’ve concocted a cape of elaborate chameleon qualities over the years in an effort to be liked. Do you like ice cream? Hey, I like ice cream too! Even if I don’t really. I’d throw on my Chameleon Cape and convince myself that ice cream was awesome, and pretty soon — ta da! — I liked ice cream. Just as much as if it came from somewhere Deep and True inside me.
Wait! What about the people who don’t have Chameleon Capes and who don’t care about being liked? Are they fooling themselves? Or are they unicorns wielding Holy Grails of Awesome, impervious to slings and arrows and honestly grooving so much on their own inner song that it just doesn’t matter if anyone else hates the song, let alone sings along? Do these unicorns exist? Or are they part of my elaborate labyrinthine mindfuck that slots so neatly into the moat of self loathing I’ve constructed around my inner castle?
I didn’t become a chameleon consciously, just like I didn’t set out to consciously lie to myself about ice cream. But what I did was just as powerful. I believed my Chameleon Cape so much. I wanted to fit in so badly. I was willing to lose myself to be liked. Whoa, how damaging. The real Me hid deep inside layers upon layers of not-Me. Seething. Waiting.
1. Some of the layers have melted away. Burned in the fires of cancer. What’s underneath is raw. Unformed. Scared. My words come out too harshly. Disconnected from my heart, which is also scared. Vulnerability scares me. Being Real scares me. It’s windy and cold without that cape.
2. My real wants, hidden for decades under the charade of the Chameleon Cape, scream for attention. I’m battling with the two-year old inside me who was never listened to. Sometimes she takes the reins. The rest of me goes deaf and blind when that happens, stuck inside an endless loop of old trauma. What triggers my Inner Two tantrums? Being yelled at. Feeling unheard, disregarded, invisible.
(Funny that last, because for years I convinced myself that Invisibility was my superpower. But I HATED the feeling of invisibility. Turns out I am anything but invisible…)
3. I suspect that I’d care a lot less about whether people liked me if I liked myself more. I’m working on this but it’s not coming fast enough, not in enough ways. Like water seeping into porous rock, my self-hatred is eroding the one Very Precious Thing I hold dearest — the love for my soulmate. I can’t seem to change fast enough. There is SO much self hatred to unravel, expose, and shine light on. It’s easier sometimes to keep the band-aid on til it rots than to rip it off.
But I’m going to find a way.