I’ve noticed recently that whenever someone who knows me finds out about my body positive journey and the fact that I am not as confident as I appear, I get the same response…
“But you’ve always been so confident since I’ve known you!”
I’m never always sure how to take this. Have I been able to cover up my many insecurities so well that they are complementing me. Or are they calling me a liar?
My response, well I tell them that I am a swan. I am calm and confident on the surface… but this is not always a true reflection of what is going on below the surface.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am not a person who fades into the background. I’m not even a person who hides from a challenge. My mum raised me to be strong, to show the world that I am confident and never to back down from a fight.
For this reason, to most people I appear fine, but below the surface the internal battle rages on. My Nan always used to say that she could tell how I was feeling because I wear my emotions in my eyes. She would always know whenever I was feeling down about something. It took me years to realise that my eyes actually change colour a little depending on how I feel. Yep, forget mood rings, I have mood eyes (if you are too young to know what mood rings are, you missed a treat there).
Every day I wear a mask that lets you see exactly what I want you to see. I internalise more than is healthy and it’s often difficult for even those close to me to see my true emotions. I guess I have been doing it for so long that I don’t even have to try that hard any more.
The problem with all this internalisation is that it takes a toll on both mind and body. If you’re not careful it can escalate and begin to affect your mental health. That is exactly what happened to me this past year, and about fifteen years ago.
I’ll let you in on a little secret that not even some of those closest to me know. I actually went to see a psychiatrist when I was eighteen years old. I had left home, joined the Royal Air Force and my parents had moved to Germany. I was at University, studying to be an Operating Department Practitioner and struggling. I was struggling with a lot of things, but generally, I was struggling with life.
I was angry with the world and even more angry with myself. More specifically, I was angry that I couldn’t be the perfect person that everyone expected me to be… the person I thought I wanted myself to be!
I’m not exactly sure if the therapy actually worked or not but after years of struggle, I finally feel like I’m getting there. I decided to do something that I had never tried before. I began to get to know myself and shocker, I actually like the person I am. It has took me a long time but I finally accept the person I have become, warts and all. I used to see a lot of weaknesses that I can now see as strength. My life and experiences have moulded me into the person I am today and you know what? I’m not mad about it!
Do I have bad days? Of course, nobody’s perfect. There are some days where I don’t even want to get out of bed because I know it’s going to be a shit day before it’s even begun. There are days where I cannot stop crying, even though I have no idea what is causing the tears. There are days where I just feel like crap and the thought of seeing anyone is enough to cause a panic attack. Of course, these are usually the days where I have to drag myself ass out of bed, go to work, smile and pretend everything is fabulous. All while some idiots shout at me down the phone because they have a problem that I can’t solve… Oh the joy! These are the days where I most want to give up and my mask is even more necessary because without it I would be a hot mess.
In a nutshell, yeah I have always been confident…but only because that is how I want the world to see me. Wearing that mask is better than having everyone asking if I am okay, only to respond with floods of tears. The only difference is, I now realise how important it is to not bottle everything up. You need to find a release for all those emotions that bubble beneath the surface and that is where self-care comes into play.
The struggle is real and there is no shame in admitting you need some help, it could be you need a new coping strategy. Know that you are definitely not alone in your fight and as we are friends now, I am always here if you need me. As good as I am though, I am no expert so if you need support, please seek help from a professional.
Just to let you know, I post inspirational quotes once a day on my Instagram page, as well as other bits and bobs. If this sounds like something you’d be into, please follow me @haleyryancouk.