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Put The Mask Away

I really hated who I was.

My mask was slipping and I spent every waking moment trying to keep it snug.

My “perfect” mask.

My “good person” mask.

My “achiever” mask.

My “intelligent” mask.

I needed to embody everything good, or… or… I didn’t really know what would happen… it just felt like things would fall apart.
I just knew that people loved me for my perfect. They didn’t love my weakness. They didn’t love my stupid. They didn’t love my insecure. Really, they didn’t love… me…

I slipped through every University class with my mask held snug. Answer all the questions to prove your intelligence, ingratiate yourself with each professor, be friendly and kind with each classmate, be holy and righteous and be a good example of your faith.

Oh and let’s not forget that I was swimming four hours a day to maintain my nearly full ride scholarship… and having to prove to myself and to everyone around me that I was worth the financial investment my coach had made in me. I was to be the “foundation” of this brand new team, he had said. Sounded great at the time. But the weight of that expectation bore down on my shoulders like a wet, sticky cloak.

And all the while the depression encroached, because I simply was exhausted.

The smallest sign of failure would send me reeling.

I got a C on an assignment. A single C. Because I didn’t understand directions. My GPA was a 4.0, but that single C threatened everything I knew about myself.

Control was the name of the game, and I had to master it. I needed to beat myself into submission. Physically, emotionally, spiritually… I needed to suppress any sign that I didn’t have what it took to maintain this lifestyle I’d crafted for myself.
I’d like to say this ended in college. I’d like to say this ended with my eating disorder, or my failed marriage, or one of my many health issues born of intense stress… but it didn’t.

Friends, this didn’t end until very recently. I mean… VERY recently. Like… within this last month recently.

I had broken many times, but always used the break to keep up the illusion. I used the brokenness to convince myself that my weakness was out of my control, and that I could give into it for a moment.

But all this time I’d been running from who I was. Allowing myself to only step into it when my body totally broke down (or my marriage, or business, or a friendship for that matter).

Under the mask that I’ve created for myself, I am a person of deep rest. I am a person who needs more time than I’d like to acknowledge to create, and to play, and to sleep. I love to create successful things, but that success can no longer come at the expense of my health and heart. That message I received as a child, that only perfection and success was loveable, is simply not true.

My need to sit alone and rest, with no expectations on me is not weakness. My love of reading, and writing, and painting, and video games, and movies… it’s not bad. My need for eight hours of sleep a night, that I’ve been fighting my ENTIRE life, is not a character flaw. My mind, body and heart have been telling me what I’ve needed for years now, and I was so afraid to acknowledge it.

I was so afraid that to take care of myself or have fun instead of perform meant that I was lazy.

Friends, hear the recognition of my heart loud and clear… doing things that bring you joy is NOT LAZY. Doing things that fill you up inside is NOT LAZY. Resting when your body says you are burning out is NOT LAZY.

You can be abundantly creative, successful and hard working, while also prioritizing fun and rest. Don’t listen to the self help guru that says 4am wakeups and 12 hour days are the only key to success. Everyone is different, and you are built with a very unique set of gifts and needs. Make life work FOR you, not against you!

I will no longer believe the lies that say rest, joy and play is laziness. I will hold tight to the truth that I am enough, no matter what “work” I manage to churn out.

What lie do you need to rewrite in your life? How can I cheer you on this week?